The leaves are turning, the kids are back at school, and the restaurant deals are in full effect.
It's shoulder season in Whistler, a time when the locals begin to look toward the epic winter ahead. It's also a time when many are nervously checking their bank balance, figuring out ways to budget for the expense of a ski pass.
But with Vail Resorts ushering in its own pass structure for the season, it can be difficult to sift through all the changes afoot — and there are plenty. Early-bird pricing is already closed and pre-season deadlines are looming — though little information is available about the increases pass prices will see for those who wait to buy.
So, with that in mind, here's a rundown of Whistler Blackcomb (WB) pass options for winter 2017-18.
The highly touted Epic Pass, which grants unlimited access to WB as well a dozen other Vail resorts, is priced at $1,143 for adults until Oct. 8. (It should be noted that GST-free Epic Passes are transacted in U.S. funds and are subject to standard exchange rates.)
Meanwhile, a WB season's pass will cost you slightly more — $1,279 for adults — but comes with a range of other perks, such as half-off tickets at Vail's roster of resorts, as well as Sun Peaks. It also comes with discounts on food and hot drinks, shopping, and select lessons, heli-skiing and more.
It's unclear at this point just how much those passes will increase in price after Oct. 8, as Vail has yet to announce the details.
Perhaps the biggest change to WB's pass structure this year is that sales for Edge Cards and nearly all unlimited passes will be cut off early in the season.
"Historically, the end of pass sales at other Vail Resorts has been early December," said a WB spokesperson in an email to
Pique. "While the exact deadline can't be confirmed for Whistler Blackcomb at this time, guests receive the best-available rates and value by purchasing early."
This means that, following the unlimited pass deadline, only day passes will be available for purchase. Again, no pricing details have been released, but a lift ticket purchased at Vail Resort's ticket window in Colorado last season cost a whopping US$189 — a 47-per-cent increase since 2013.
The Spirit Pass
The good news for local businesses and employees is that the Spirit Pass isn't going anywhere — for now. The Whistler Chamber of Commerce's reduced rate season's pass offered in partnership with WB to those registered for the Whistler Experience training program, dropped from $1,439 last year to $1,229 this season.
While that's still less than a WB season's pass, the Epic Pass comes in $86 cheaper, which has stoked fears that incoming staff may forego the Spirit Pass in lieu of the less expensive option.
"Disappointed in the Spirit Pass (costing) $50 less than a regular (WB) pass," commented resident Andrea Robson on a Pique Facebook post. "Not a great way to show appreciation for our locals."
But with the Spirit Pass being the only mid- to late-season unlimited pass option this winter, the Chamber is banking on a bump in sales.
"The majority of our seasonal workers tend to come into our community Nov. 1, and start looking for employment between then and the end of the month. So we'll definitely see a spike in Spirit Pass sales in December," said Chamber CEO Melissa Pace.
Whistler Blackcomb has committed to keeping the Spirit Pass in place at least until April 2018, though its future beyond that is still up in the air.
Offered exclusively to residents of Canada and Washington State, preloaded Edge Cards have been the go-to option for those looking to ski a limited number of days a year.
While the five- and 10-day Edge Cards will still be offered for part of the winter, the one- and three-day options have been eliminated entirely.
"It would be nice to still have the option of a 3-Day Edge," wrote Angus Forsythe. "As a non-Lower Mainlander, I find that 5 days is a bit much of a commitment."
The idea behind slashing the one- and three-day Edge Cards, according to WB, was to encourage pre-booking.
"We want to offer our guests the best value while also rewarding early purchasing, which is the reason why those options are no longer available," wrote a spokesperson.
Until Oct. 8, five-day Edge Cards with no date restrictions are priced at $449, and $409 with some restrictions, while unrestricted 10-day cards come in at $779 and $709 with some blackout dates.
Parent and student passes
In March, Vail reversed course on its decision to slash the parent pass, keeping it in place for former passholders this winter.
While this came as good news to local parents, there was some question as to whether the pass would be offered again in 2018. Six months later, that question remains unanswered.
"A decision has not been made as to whether or not the parent pass will be available after this winter season as we are focused on this season's pass product lineup right now," wrote the spokesperson.
The fates of the Midweek Pass, 15-Day Pass and Graduate Pass are clearer: they've all been axed.
However, the Student Pass, priced at $589 for post-secondary students at select B.C. and Washington schools, will continue being offered. Same goes for the Sea to Sky pass, available to grade-school students in the corridor. It's priced at $429 for youth ages seven to 12, and $449 for ages 13 to 18.
For more info, visit whistlerblackcomb.com.