Though the snow hasn't yet stopped flying yet this season, ski areas in the Twin Cities are already selling passes for the 2014-2015 season.
A season pass is a great way to save money and get out on the hill more often, but which pass should you buy? The answer depends on a number of factors, including your location, the number of people in your family, when you plan to ski, and even if you already have a pass.
Each ski area uses pricing options as a way to set it aside from its competitors, so a strict apples-to-apples comparison isn't always available. But it's close, and the following information can help you come up with a decision. The prices mentioned here do not include tax, and many of them are available for the next month or so, after which they will go up.
There's also one important caveat in this comparison. It does not include information from Afton Alps, the largest ski area around. It has yet to release details of its plans for the next season.
A season pass for adults at Buck Hill will set you back $335. If you buy one now, you'll get a voucher for one free lift ticket for someone else. The voucher must be used this season.
If you already have a pass at Welch Village, you're in luck. You can renew your pass for $179, a 28 percent discount from the "new member" price of $249. Buy a pass today and ride free for the rest of the season. It's the only ski area to offer a discount for season-to-season purchases.
A single, adult season pass at Hyland Ski & Snowboard Area is $299.
At the two most northern ski areas in the Twin Cities, you can add the rest of this season to your purchase, for another $50.
Wild Mountain offers an adult season pass for $234.99, and at Trollhaugen, the cost is $199. Both resorts also let customers purchase passes that are good only during the week, good only during Saturday, or good only on Sunday.
Resorts also have different ways of treating family passes. Though all family passes are for parents and minor children, the cut-off age is not the same. (At Welch Village, for example, it's 21; at Trollhaugen, it's 17.) Also, Welch Village and Trollhaugen offer a flat-rate price, regardless of the number of children, while others vary their price by the number of children. Buck Hill and Hyland base their family rate on a four-person family, with each additional member costing $150 at Buck and $159 at Hyland. Wild Mountain does not offer a family pass as part of its Spring sale, though it will have one later in the year.
For comparison's sake, here are the prices you'll pay in March for a season pass (good for four people) at each area. Buck Hill: $1,010; Welch Village, $899.99; Wild Mountain: $869.66; Hyland: $799; Trollhaugen: $599.99.
If you're looking for a senior pass, meanwhile, Hyland offers the cheapest one, at $99. It also sweetens the deal by lowering the eligibility age from the standard of 62 to 60. Wild Mountain sells a senior pass at $144.99 (weekdays only), while at Buck Hill the rate is $197.50. Welch Village does not state a senior price. At the moment, prices at Trollhaugen are discounted across the board, so while you might be able to buy a season pass now, it doesn't make sense.
Prices and pricing practices are always changing, so if you don't buy a season pass until the summer or fall, check back here for details.