The Ultimate Guide to Ski Passes: How Do They Work?


As a skier going to a new ski resort or slope for the first time, one of my main questions was about lift passes. No doubt you don’t want to get to the slopes and be held up by not knowing where and how to buy your ski pass and how to properly use it!

If you are new to skiing or are simply going to a new resort, keep reading to make sure you know everything you need to about ski passes and how they work before you get to the slopes so nothing stops you having the best day skiing possible!

Ski/Lift Passes and How They Work

Ski lift passes are tickets which allow you to use ski lifts and ski down runs at a ski resort. They are usually electronic cards which can be purchased as day passes or for the week. Ski passes normally must be scanned to pass through an electronic barrier leading to ski lifts.

But how exactly do you get a ski pass? And how to you use it on the slopes when you have bought the right one? Lots of new skiers might wonder the exact same questions. So, lets jump straight in to everything you need to know about buying and using ski passes.

What is a Ski Pass

This is often the first question any new skier at a ski resort needs to know! Ski passes are simply an electronic ticket or card which you need to buy to give you access to ski lifts and therefore runs at a ski resort.

Ski passes are often specific to certain resorts, meaning you need to make sure you buy one for the resort(s) you want to ski in!

These tickets are usually scanned at electronic barriers approaching ski lifts which allow you to use them.

How to Use a Ski Pass

Ski passes usually need to be used to pass through some kind of barrier when in line for a ski lift. In most cases, you will not be allowed onto a ski lift without the relevant ski pass, so make sure to carry this with you at all times.

You will first need to buy a ski pass, usually from the resort where you plan to ski.

When approaching a ski lift, you will usually see some kind of electronic barriers you must pass through to reach the lift. For chairlifts, you are able to keep your skis on while you go through these barriers. For some cable cars and gondolas, you may have to remove your skis first if they need to be stored separately.

When you reach the barrier, there will be a scanner to your side at about elbow height. In order to scan your ski pass, simply hold the pass slightly in front of the scanner. This will allow the electronic barrier to open and you to enter the ski lift.

  1. Buy ski pass
  2. Keep ski pass with you all day and easily accessible
  3. Approach electronic barrier for ski lift
  4. Locate scanner
  5. Hold ski pass slightly in front of scanner
  6. Go through electronic barrier when it opens

Where Should I Keep My Ski Pass

Sometimes, I have found that ski passes still scan effectively even through a ski jacket pocket, meaning you may not always have to take it of your jacket to scan it. This may or may not work depending on the ski resort and pass so don’t rely on this.

Some skiers choose to secure their ski pass by clipping it to the outside of their jacket to make sure it scans easily and doesn’t delay them when in line for a ski lift. Some may choose to use plastic wallets clipped to the side of their jacket, or some ski passes may even come with the ability to clip it to your jacket as it is.

However, make sure your pass is safely and securely fastened to your jacket to make sure you don’t lose it on the slopes.

If you don’t want to clip your pass to the outside of your jacket and your pass won’t reliably scan while in your pocket, you might have to manually take out your pass to scan it. If you opt for this, make sure your pass is easily accessible in a pocket where it won’t take you too long to search for it.

If you plan to be out on the slopes all day, you will most likely be using your ski pass pretty regularly!

Many ski jackets have convenient pockets at the sides when you could store your ski pass. Just make sure to remember to zip these up to stop your ski pass falling out on the slopes!

Which Ski Pass Should I Choose

Lots of people find themselves wondering about the different types of ski pass and how to know which one is right for them. This largely depends on how long you are staying or want to ski at a resort for.

Many resorts offer day passes, perfect for those who just want to ski for one day. There are also often deals available for week passes or even season passes. These may be a cost-effective option if you plan to do lots of skiing during this time frame.

Some resorts may also offer half day passes if you are only having a ski lesson in the morning for example. You may also be able to purchase family passes at a lower price than buying passes for your group individually depending on the specific ski resort, so be sure to check out any special deals which might mean you can save some money on your ski passes!

You may also be able to get passes which allow you to ski at multiple resorts in the area. This will give you even more flexibility to explore different ski runs and resorts and are normally cheaper than buying individual ski passes for each resort.

Here is a general idea of the sorts of prices you can expect to pay for single day or 6-day passes for children and adults.

Remember, different ski resorts offer different prices and package deals, so make sure to check the prices at your ski resort of choice.

LocationChild Day PassAdult Day PassChild 6-day PassAdult 6-day Pass
Europe~€30~€40~€170~€280
USAUS$ 40-50US$ 80US$ 200US$ 310

Common Questions

Are Ski Passes and Lift Passes Different?

The terms ski pass and lift pass are generally interchangeable and tend to mean the same thing, so don’t be too worried about this lingo!

Is it cheaper to buy ski passes in advance?

It largely depends on the specific ski resort as to if it is cheaper to buy ski passes in advance. Many resorts will offer discounts for this, but some only offer a fixed price. However, looking at ticket options in advance will mean you have more time to search for the most cost-effective option for you, so if definitely worthwhile!

What if I get to a ski resort and don’t have a ski pass?

You will not be able to use ski lifts without a ski pass. However, you can usually buy ski passes on the day at the resort itself, where you can usually find a customer service, information, or ski pass sales area.

Final Thoughts

Ski passes are a really important part of any ski trip, and understanding exactly what they are and how to use them will make sure you are confident when you get to the slopes that you know what to do with them!

It is a great idea to look up deals and the most cost-effective option when buying a ski pass. There are lots of different options available, but make sure you get the right ski pass for your chosen ski slope or resort as passes are normally resort specific.

Rosie

I have been a keen skier for a number of years, skiing in different locations around the world, and have a real passion for snow sports. My favourite skiing resort is in Banff, Canada!

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