Tickets to Ride

The Indy Pass Is Basically a Skier’s Smorgasbord

In only its third year, an affordable pass option unlocks funky little ski hills around every bend.

By Allison Williams November 22, 2021 Published in the Winter 2021 issue of Seattle Met

49 Degrees North maintains an independent vibe despite having almost as many skiable acres as Crystal Mountain.

Could a ticket that offers only two days of skiing, rather than every day of skiing, ever outdo a season pass? Doug Fish thought so when he introduced the Indy Pass two seasons ago, offering a pair of days at independently owned resorts across the country for just $199. Two years in, the Indy Pass has proved so popular that the price jumped to $299 “and the market didn’t blink,” says Fish.

With 80 resorts on the Indy, the cheap pass is meant to send skiers to the mom-and-pop mountains that lack Aspen or Vail’s million-dollar marketing. While Fish notes that the pandemic has been, of course, mostly quite bad, “it turned out to be the best thing to happen to small ski resorts since snowmaking was invented,” he says. Skiers rediscovered the smaller hills where families plug in Crock-Pots in the base lodge before hitting the slopes, where lifties know regulars by name and some chairlifts still run at pre-express speeds.

In Western Washington, the Indy provides two days each at both White Pass near Yakima and Mission Ridge in Wenatchee, mid-size, independently owned mountains that sit just far enough from Seattle—two and a half to three hours—that they escape the crowds of Crystal or Stevens. It’s also good at Hurricane Ridge, a small set of surface lifts inside Olympic National Park, and at 49 Degrees North near Spokane, which opens a new express lift this season, the longest ride in the state.

Beyond state borders the weekend destinations pile up—the largest Nordic resort in North America, a cat skiing operator in British Columbia, and offbeat Hoodoo near Bend; Fish calls the long roster of Indy resorts “a West Coast string of pearls.” It may not be the all-you-can-eat version of a ski season, but the Indy Pass offers a tasting menu at what is, in the uber-expensive world of snow sports, a Happy Meal price.

Indy Road Trip

McCall, Idaho

Drive Time: 8 hours

Downtown McCall, Idaho.

The saving grace of Central Idaho’s quaint McCall may be that the town isn’t particularly on the way to anywhere else. Surrounded by the Payette National Forest in the wild landscape between Boise and Spokane, the town feels like a Bend or a Bozeman that hasn’t yet exploded in popularity. The Indy Pass works at two mid-size ski hills on either side of town, Tamarack Resort and Brundage Mountain Resort, each with enough acreage for two solid days of exploration. Lakeside McCall makes an ideal home base, and the region offers a particularly rich mix of other snow sports, like motorized snowbiking, snowshoeing, and tubing.

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