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Perisher Resort - ©Perisher Resort

The Epic Pass goes international by adding Perisher, Australia's largest ski resort.

Copyright: Perisher Resort

Canada and Australia as Commonwealth countries have always had a strong ski connection. In fact, British Columbia tallies more skiing visitors from Australia and New Zealand than its neighboring U.S. But now the ski link between the U.S. and Australia has taken a leap forward with Epic and Mountain Collective passes going international.

Said passes will now allow skiers from the U.S. and Australia to visit the other during their home country’s off season. The Epic Pass has added Perisher Resort, and the Mountain Collective pass now includes Thredbo Alpine Village. So what does this mean for skiers in both hemispheres? In short, everyone benefits, and the skiing goes year round.

Vail Resorts purchased Perisher Resort this spring. The addition to the Vail family of the largest ski resort in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere means that Perisher has been added into the Epic Pass. “Australia is one of Vail Resorts’ top three international markets,” says May Lilley, senior manager for international communications for Vail Resorts.

Perisher Resort sits in the Australian Alps. - ©Perisher Resort

Perisher Resort sits in the Australian Alps.

Copyright: Perisher Resort

When Vail Resorts made the announcement earlier this spring about acquiring Perisher, CEO Rob Katz explained the rationale: 1 million Aussies travel abroad to ski. Vail Resorts hopes to cash in on that 1 million and up the numbers visiting the U.S. with the lure of the Epic Pass. For skiers from down under, the pass means unlimited free skiing at the 12 U.S. ski resorts next winter after the Perisher sale closes. Epic Passholders now get access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Park City, Canyons, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton and Perisher.

Epic Passholders get access to Park City and Canyons, the largest ski resort in the U.S. for winter 2015-16. - ©Liam Doran

Epic Passholders get access to Park City and Canyons, the largest ski resort in the U.S. for winter 2015-16.

Copyright: Liam Doran

For U.S. skiers, the Epic Pass adds the opportunity to ski the Southern Hemisphere at Perisher during summer 2016. The pass could change the number of international skiers in Australia. According to Laurent Vanat’s International Report on Snow and Mountain Tourism (April 2014), foreign skier visits to Australia represent less than 2 percent of the country’s annual 2 million skier visits. That 2 percent equates to less than 40,000 skier days. Perisher, as the largest ski resort in the country, draws many of them.

This spring, the Mountain Collective Pass beefed up the number of its ski areas, plus added on a full international partnering with Thredbo Alpine Resort in Australia. The pass now includes 18 days of skiing or riding split at two days a piece between nine North American destinations: Alta-Snowbird, Aspen-Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Mammoth, Lake Louise-Sunshine-Norquay, Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows, Sun Valley, Whistler Blackcomb and Thredbo Alpine Resort. Other affiliations allow passholders to ski two days at Hakuba Valley in Japan or Valle Nevado in Chile. Passholders also get 50 percent discounts on lift tickets after the first two days.

The Mountain Collective pass has added Thredbo, Australia's highest ski resort. - ©Thredbo Alpine Resort

The Mountain Collective pass has added Thredbo, Australia's highest ski resort.

Copyright: Thredbo Alpine Resort

For North American skiers and riders, the lure now is new mountains to ski in Australia, accessible within a six-hour drive from Sydney. Both Perisher and Thredbo are in Kosciuszko National Park, which contains the highest mountains in Australia that have garnered a nickname as the Australian Alps. With four base villages, Perisher has 3,076 acres of terrain, 1,165 vertical drop and 47 lifts spread across seven peaks. With pockets of steeps, 60 percent of the terrain is intermediate. Thredbo has 1,186 acres of terrain with 2,205 vertical drop and 14 lifts, one of which stretches to 6,683 feet for the highest lift access in the country.

For Australian skiers and riders, U.S. ski resorts may be the next hot destination. Epic Pass skiers gain access to 258 lifts across 12 U.S. resorts in four states. Mountain Collective passholders get access to 233 lifts across eight North American resorts in five states and two Canadian provinces. The bigger factor comes in the vertical unavailable on home mountains in Australia. Many of the U.S. resorts in both pass types top 3,000 vertical feet and a few reach verticals higher than 4,000 feet.

The Jackson Hole Tram yields 4,139 vertical feet of skiing or riding. - ©Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

The Jackson Hole Tram yields 4,139 vertical feet of skiing or riding.

Copyright: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Between North America and Australian ski resorts, long flights link ski destinations. Flights from Sydney take about 15 hours to Los Angeles, 14-18 hours to Vancouver, B.C., and 20 hours to Denver. That’s plenty of time to dream about snowflakes before you land.

For skiers and riders from both hemispheres, the passes catapult the ski season to year round. With a normal snowfall, skiing runs in the U.S. from November through April. In Australia, the ski season runs June through October. You might want to take a year off from work just to use the passes to the max.

Want to check out how the ski area stats stack up for resorts included in the international passes? Go here for U.S. ski resorts, Canadian ski resorts and Australian ski resorts.


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