Late last week, Vail Resorts launched its sale of the 2021 Epic Australia Pass, which among other things, includes five consecutive days at both Hakuba Valley and Rusutsu for the 2021/22 season. It seems an enticing prospect for any Aussie skier with Japan travel aspirations, but the question people will inevitably be asking is: is it worth it?
Firstly, let’s have a look at exactly what you get with an Epic Australia Pass.
2021 Epic Australia Pass inclusions
- Access to Perisher, Falls Creek and Hotham for the 2021 season.
- Five consecutive days with no blackout dates at both Hakuba Valley and Rusutsu, Japan for the 2021/22 season.
- 10 days combined at Whistler Blackcomb, Vail and Beaver Creek in the 2021/22 season (holiday restrictions apply; days do not have to be consecutive).
- Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in Lake Tahoe, California and Stowe in Vermont in the 2021/22 season (holiday restrictions apply).
- Access to Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Crested Butte and Stevens Pass in the 2021/22 season.
The 17 Peak Resorts ski areas; Mount Snow, Attitash Mountain Resort, Wildcat Mountain, Hunter Mountain, Crotched Mountain, Roundtop Mountain, Liberty Mountain, Big Boulder, Whitetail Resort, Boston Mills, Jack Frost, Mad River Mountain, Alpine Valley, Paoli Peaks, Brandywine, Hidden Valley, Snow Creek in the 2021/22 season.
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Is the Epic Australia Pass worth it?
Let’s first make the assumption that you’re only going to be making one international trip during the 2021/22 season – so we’ll forget the North American resorts – and also assume that you’ll be visiting Hakuba Valley or Rusutsu, but not both. Yes, it’s possible to to both in the same trip (and plenty do), but given the distance between them – Rusutsu in Hokkaido, Hakuba Valley in Nagano – it’s not an obvious choice and will likely require an additional flight.
These resorts haven’t released their 2021/22 pricing as yet, but it will likely be similar to this year’s model, in which a 5-day Rusutsu pass costs JPY29,100 (AU$376) and a Hakuba Valley equivalent costs JPY27,100 (AU$350). Note that a standard Hakuba Valley 5-day pass affords the holder nine days in which to use it (i.e. an optional four rest days), while the Epic Australia Pass does not.
So, if you were to deduct the value of these tickets from the AU$859 Epic Australia Pass, you’re left with AU$483 (Rusutsu travellers) or AU$509 (Hakuba travellers) that you’d need to spend at either Perisher, Falls Creek or Hotham to break even.
Again, we don’t yet know pricing for the 2021 Australian season, but let’s look at this year for comparison. According to Ski Cheap, Perisher’s 4-day adult pass during peak season cost AU$506, while its 5-day pass was AU$574. An equivalent 4-day pass at Hotham was AU$549, with the 5-day pass coming in at AU$636.
On that basis, you’d be breaking even or coming very close to it with four days of peak season skiing in Australia, and with five days or more you’d very much be getting value for money.
But do I really want to ski Hakuba Valley or Rusutsu?
With more than 500 ski resorts, visitors to Japan are spoilt for choice, so we’d recommend considering your options before purchasing your Epic Pass – which effectively commits you to one of these two resorts. That said, if you were ever forced to limit yourself to two resorts in the country, Hakuba and Rusutsu would be very worthy selections.
Rusutsu is known as a powder paradise and has been recognised as Japan’s best resort at the World Ski Awards for two years running, while Hakuba Valley is Japan’s largest ski resort (or more accurately, 10 ski resorts linked by a single lift ticket).
For a better look at each resort, we’d highly recommend checking out our comprehensive guides:
What about COVID?
We’re hoping – like most of the world – that by the time the 2021/22 season rolls around, COVID-19 will be nothing more than an uncomfortable memory. Wishful thinking, maybe!
Regardless, the Epic Australia Pass team appear to have you reasonably well covered, and state the following on their website:
“The EPIC Coverage – Australia refund policy will provide you with a partial or full refund for your pass purchase in certain circumstances, including in the event of certain resort closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also may provide you with a partial or full refund for your pass in certain circumstances specific to you, like if you are subject to a mandatory stay-at-home order or suffer a qualifying injury that prevents you from skiing or riding.”
As always, check the website for the fine print and make your decisions accordingly.