The Epic Pass empire and what the Whistler Blackcomb purchase means for me… And maybe you!

I woke up in Vancouver on Monday morning already thinking about the coffee downstairs. My flight to Australia was that night and I had planned to spend the day enjoying an uncommonly sunny day in the city. It took approximately 1 minute and  7 seconds of social media scrolling to change my day. To be honest it didn’t change just my day, but my entire plans for winters to come.

“Vail Resorts buys Whistler Blackcomb for 1.39 Billion” reported Unofficial Networks 

Is it April 1st? Surely this is a joke.

I ran down stairs and shook my friend Racz awake.
“Bro get up! Vail bought Whis! We have to go to Whistler today!”

We had been whimsically planning the epic 2017 spring we were going to have skiing there because I didn’t want to spend another shoulder season miserable in the interior of BC. I didn’t realise at the time how ‘epic’ it was about to become.


The thing about being a skier is, other than destroying your career and your liver, it will drain your bank account dry. I was flying back to Australia to take advantage of the high wages and home living to save up for all the trips I wanted to do this winter. Even on no rent and a wage big enough to make my Canadian jobs laughable, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to do everything without developing an unhealthy relationship with a credit card. The Epic pass had been on my radar because it covers so many places and, with addition of Perisher last year, keeps you on snow all year at a very competitive price. But I live in Canada and I can’t justify buying a pass for a Canadian resort and then the Epic as well. #skibumlife

stop skiing
Photo Credit: Tall T Dan @stopskiing

And then BOOM! Vail flexes it’s increasingly monopolistic muscles and takes down Whistler. I have no option. I have to become Epic.

Whether you like it or you are a die hard Vail anarchist, like my friend Troy Haas, this is a game changer.

Vail’s acquisition of Whistler Blackcomb is disappointing, upsetting, and predictable all at once. The way Vail treats employees and locals is abhorrent – from exponentially increasing rent on properties they rent to employees in Colorado to trying to trademark the term “Park City” to allow them to sue long standing small business owners. – Troy Haas, Telemarker babe and Windells Ski Camp Medic

I’m not on the hating band wagon as much. I see an opportunity for cheap skiing – something I will always take advantage of.
The purchase of Whistler had questions racing through my head. After snooping around Whistler and sifting through the ski industry whispers, this is the information I could find out.

Wait, so I can ski Whistler, plus do my US road trip across the the whole of the Vail empire, then ski the spring at Whistler and then go ski at Perisher. Really?

This was what I was thinking. $806 USD or $1000 ish CAD and I get to do that. Every month of the year with a rest period in mid October to mid November.
Unfortunately no. Not yet anyway

For the full 2016-17 winter season, Whistler Blackcomb will continue to honor the resort’s existing season pass products. Vail Resorts looks forward to integrating Whistler Blackcomb into its Epic Season Pass and other season pass products for the 2017-18 winter season.

You can read the full statement here
I was obviously upset with this news. I can’t ski Whistler this coming winter or spring on the Epic pass. But on a fun note, this aligns perfectly with my existing plan of having my quarter life crisis 2017-18  winter at Whistler!
I am concerned about this statement however –

If I live in Australia and purchase the 2017 Epic Australia Pass for the 2017 Perisher ski season and 2017/18 North American ski season, will I get access to Whistler Blackcomb?

Details regarding the 2017 Epic Australia Pass will be announced at a later date

After working for ski resorts for my entire working life this is a classic example of “We will probably change everything at last minute and ruin your plans.” I have a funny feeling the Epic Australia pass will not include WBC. We will have to wait and see what the suits in the big Vail Resorts tower decide. You can read all the FAQs here

Despite my single pass dream being shattered, I am still thinking Epic. I’ve heard a couple of other questions floating around so perhaps the following may give some clarity if you’re facing the same question – Should I buy the Epic Pass?

Does the purchase mean the price of the Epic pass will increase?

This was my biggest question. At the sale price (purchase before September 5) of $809 USD I figured you can’t add the two thousand ish dollar pass of Whistler and still sell the Epic pass for roughly $1000 CAD. I went straight to ticketing to find out. My ticketing girl had never heard of the words Epic or Vail before but after a quick chat to her supervisor I was told that everything would stay the same for this winter. We will have to wait for the next winter when WBC is added to see if the competitive price will sky rocket.

Will this make it easier for people to get jobs and visas? There are thousands of Aussies in Whistler, has this opened the gate to the USA?

Simply, no. I worked for Perisher last winter, it’s first on the Epic pass. I signed my contract of work before the announcement came out. I was pretty pissed off to find out that a) I couldn’t go and work in the US and b) my staff pass wouldn’t work there. Of course I would have preferred to buy the pass and get some job pouring beers in Jindabyne instead of working in the rain pulling tee bars and coming out pass-less.
However, it DOES make it easier to get a job with Vail. If you are able to, somehow, weasel yourself a US work visa or are one of those lucky kids with dual citizenship/passports, being a previous employee of Vail makes it easier for you to skip over the Pacific. Same goes the other way. People from Epic resorts in North America will have an easier time being employed at Perisher if they are already a stellar employee of an Epic resort.

So yes, Vail likes to retain it’s employees but the visa duty is still on you!

… However, with its ever growing empire maybe they can swoon The US Government. Trumps Immigration Wall VS Vail Resorts, the ultimate show down!


The rumours spread like wildfire through Australian resorts.

If I was to think like a business man, I did get a Bachelors degree in business after all, Niseko makes sense as the next Vail purchase.
The North American wing continues to operate as per usual with the added bonus of Whistler. But the purchase of Niseko would keep the Aussies circulating from Perisher to Japan. Australian’s already flock to Niseko so it would be an easy resort for Vail to add to it’s quiver. The entire Pacific rim becomes Vail. Holy shit.
However this is all resort whispers and my business speculation. I know nothing…

So what does my 2016-17 winter look like?

At this stage I am heading back to Revelstoke. The same day Vail took Whistler, Revelstoke was added to the Mountain Collective pass. Awesome!

I am also buying the Epic pass.
I want to go to Colorado again and I want to go to SIA and I want to see my friends in Park City and Tahoe. Fuck it. The US, I am coming for you!

I just have to make the most of my Aussie wage but I’ll probably be getting that credit card. Skiing ruins your life, maybe I should #stopskiing  as Tall T Dan recommends but at this stage I am accepting all information on which credit card gets you the most frequent flyer points on sign up!




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