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Comparing North America’s four ski passes is like comparing a pair of apples – say, a McIntosh and a Northern Spy – with an orange and a pineapple.

One of the two outliers is the US$449 Mountain Collective (all amounts are for adults in U.S. dollars except where noted). It offers two days of unrestricted lift access to 14 North American resorts, two in Australia and one in Japan. In short, it is geared toward road-trippers.

Powder Alliance is more of a home-and-away option designed to be purchased as a local pass that tacks on three days at 17 other mountains in Japan, Chile and across North America. For example, if you buy an $879 (Canadian) season pass to British Columbia’s Silver Star Mountain Resort, as many as 51 Powder Alliance days elsewhere are included for free.

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Then there’s Epic and Ikon – the two unlimited-access players – which are similar enough to give snow-seekers pause.

Ikon Pass

Passes and pricing: Full pass is $999, “Base Pass” is $699. The latter has 10 blackout days and offers unlimited access at slightly fewer resorts than the full pass.

Resorts with unlimited access: 14, including Mont Tremblant, Que.; Blue Mountain, Ont.; four resorts in Colorado; four in California; Stratton, Vt.; Snowshoe, W.V.; Crystal Mountain Resort, Wash.; and Solitude Mountain Resort, Utah.

Ski areas with limited access: 23 total. Ikon holders get up to seven days each at 21 resorts across the United States and Western Canada, including all three Banff mountains, Revelstoke, B.C., and Aspen Snowmass, Colo.; Japan’s Niseko United and Australia’s Thredbo are also included.

Extras: 10 days of 25-per-cent-discounted lift passes for companions; summer lift access and 15 per cent off shopping, food and drinks in certain locations; and early-booking privileges for B.C.-based CMH Heli-Skiing.

Bottom line: If the mountains you’ll visit most are on the Ikon Pass – and given the breadth of Canadian options, that’s entirely possible – then it offers an appealing mix of the familiar and the faraway. The Base Pass, meanwhile, offers a pleasingly straightforward compromise between choice and cost.

Epic Pass

Passes and pricing: 19 different versions range from the full Epic Pass ($929 at press time) to a four-day pass ($479), and from regional passes to those for specific resorts.

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Resorts with unlimited access: 19, including Whistler Blackcomb, B.C.; five resorts in Colorado; three in California; Park City, Utah; three in the U.S. Midwest; three in the U.S. Northeast; Stevens Pass, Wash.; and Perisher, Australia.

Resorts with limited access: 47, including seven days combined at the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies’ six operations in B.C., Quebec and Alberta; seven days at Telluride, Colo.; five days at Hakuba Valley, Japan; and various access options at 30 resorts across Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland.

Extras: Full Epic Pass holders get six “Ski-With-A-Friend” tickets, discounted lodging at Vail Resorts properties and summer lift access.

Bottom line: If you’re schussing far, wide and often, it doesn’t get much better than the full Epic Pass. Don’t overlook the other Epic options, through, as they cover a practical range of skiing scenarios.

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