Brundage Mountain Resort in McCall, Idaho. Credit: Brundage Mountain Resort

In a day and age where corporate ski resorts dominate the industry with luxury villages and state-of-the-art chairlifts, the little guys are the ones that keep the spirit of the American skier alive. Mom-and-pop resorts help to break down the barriers into the sports we love the most, all while providing a friendly and welcoming experience that you might have a hard time finding elsewhere.

Independent ski resorts provide an access point into this sport that otherwise wouldn’t exist. With the price of lift tickets at the bigger mountains, in addition to the cost of gear (buying or rentals), transportation, food, and housing, skiing is left as a once-a-year, if that, vacation. As lifelong skiers and snowboarders, we have the gear, we have the skills, and we have the experience to know that it’s worth it for us to buy a full season pass. For those who just want to give the sport a shot, affordable tickets and gear are hard to come by outside of independent ski resorts.

Granite Peak Ski Resort in Wisconsin. Credit: Indy Pass via Facebook

Independent ski resorts also tend to feel a lot more personalized. Spend just a few days at one of these areas, and you might find staff members recognizing you, or you might notice how much more attentive they are to the people on the mountain. They seem to have more character, too, better reflecting the culture and atmosphere of the area. The people, the buildings, and even the food and gear for sale in the stores, all feel less corporate than the big resorts. Head to fifty big corporate resorts and there’s a good chance you’ll have a similar experience at each one. Head to any independent resort, and there’s a good chance it’ll be something you’ve never experienced.

I mean no offense to the bigger ski resorts. They provide their own experiences that are valuable in their own way. But the “theme park” experience that the bigger resorts seem to provide barely exists at the independent resorts. Lift lines are shorter, prices are better, and the experience is significantly more personal. While people might travel to a large ski resort for a weekend just to take some pictures, ski a run or two, and brag about having been there, people go to independent ski resorts to ski and snowboard. They aren’t tourist attractions, they’re someone’s actual home, and by visiting and spending money there, you’re supporting a small business/independent mountain with your wallet.

Skiwelt in Austria. Credit: Indy Pass via Facebook

The owner might live on the mountain, the owner might live near the mountain, or the owner might live somewhere entirely different, but there’s actually an owner, or at least a group of owners. The staff knows them, the locals know them, you might even have the opportunity to meet them. People love to claim that the ski industry was better 20, 30, or 40 years ago, but that spirit still exists at the independent resorts.

With over 200 resorts on its roster for the 2024/25, The Indy Pass is the largest independent ski area alliance out there. Providing skiers and snowboarders two days at each resort, their access is helping to keep the little guys going. With the Indy Pass, riders can take advantage of the ease of access, affordable prices, and local feel at independent resorts across three continents, all while helping to support small businesses. While the 24/25 Indy Pass is currently off-sale to preserve the uncrowded, independent ski experience found at its partner resorts, you can join the waitlist so you’re first in line if it goes back on sale. If the pass adds more ski areas and expands its capacity, more Indy Passes are expected to become available.

Magic Mountain in Vermont. Credit: Indy Pass via Facebook

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