Jackson Hole, WY News

Ikon Pass

The Ikon Pass, a punching bag for local skiers, takes the heat for overcrowding at Jackson Hole this season.

Creeping traffic. Sprawling lift lines. Packed slopes.

This is Jackson Hole in the time of Ikon — or at least that’s the talk on the tram. The newest collective pass grants cheap access to resorts from Washington to Maine and Chile to Japan, but also takes the heat for a slew of problems that seem suddenly to have swelled.

“There are many people that feel it’s ruined the Jackson Hole skiing experience,” said 100 Club member Bill Maloney, who some dub the “unofficial mayor” of Teton Village.

“It’s difficult to sort out whether the problem is the Ikon Pass or whether it’s just become so popular,” he said. “But there’s no question it’s more crowded, and there are a lot more skiers who are not good skiers out there.”

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort officials initially declined the News&Guide’s interview request for this article, and declined to give statistics on how many visitors come bearing Ikon passes.

Spokeswoman Anna Cole said Ikon passholders account for 14 percent of skier days so far this season. Sometimes that figure is much lower, like on blackout days, so other times it must be higher. Resort officials declined to provide data for specific dates.

Skier days overall are up 8 percent over last year. If the trends holds, Jackson Hole will end the season with a record of nearly 700,000 skier days, just under 100,000 of them with an Ikon Pass. For comparison, passes used by locals make up 42 percent of skier days, just under 300,000.

Cole noted that purchases of walk-up tickets and other combo passes are down, meaning the net increase of Ikon is effectively lower than 14 percent. That muddies the water, making it difficult to draw precise conclusions.

Whatever its impact, “Ikon” is the buzzword of the season. It fills the snowy air on powder days — slipping with glee from the lips of passholders suddenly able to afford a week of skiing at one of America’s premier resorts, and with exasperation from those who ski Jackson Hole daily, watching a parade of out-of-towners clog the slopes.

For anyone able to swing extended trips to far-flung mountains the pass is a bargain hunter’s fantasy. The most expensive deal is just $899 for unlimited skiing at 14 resorts and up to seven days at each of another 17, including Jackson Hole. At Jackson Hole Mountain Resort it also comes with discounts on everything from waxes to lodging.

“The Ikon just made a lot of sense, with all the places you can go,” said Bobby Johnston, of Oakland, California, who skied Jackson on Tuesday. He and his girlfriend are midway through a trip that’s already taken them to Squaw Valley in California, along with Solitude, Snowbird and Deer Valley in Utah — all Ikon resorts.

Next it’s Big Sky, Revelstoke and Banff. At this point, they’re basically skiing for free.

The past two seasons Johnston opted for a different multiresort pass, but with the release of Ikon this year, one factor weighed in his decision.

“Jackson is definitely one of the big reasons why we went for it,” he said. “I think seeing that name on there kind of sealed the deal in my mind.”

It’s unclear how welcome he and his fellow passholders are, though. Everyone he encountered on the mountain was friendly, but on the bus back to Stilson he caught a snippet of conversation: “Tell everyone with an Ikon Pass they suck.”

The pass is not the first of its kind — it’s preceded a decade by Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass, which also covers dozens of locations for a similar price.

With the formation of resort conglomerate Alterra Mountain Company in 2017 and 2018, its leaders dreamed up Ikon as an answer to Vail’s popular offering. They included on the pass their own mountains, like Mammoth and Deer Valley, with a handful of independent resorts like Jackson Hole.

And as the narrative goes, the pass has drawn hordes of “Ikoneers” to this corner of Wyoming.

Other variables could play a part, too. Spokeswoman Cole noted a 10-percent increase in snowfall at the summit could attract local skiers to the tram. Maloney suggested dangerous backcountry conditions could push people in-bounds. But most agree you can’t throw a snowball without hitting an Ikon passholder.

“I see a lot of them here, they’re not hard to spot,” said Nick Londy (aka DJ Londo), a Jackson native and member of the 100 Club. “They’re definitely a piece of this puzzle.”

It’s not unusual for Teton Village to be at capacity. It’s even expected at times, like during Rendezvous Festival. But this year seems to many an anomaly, the resort frequently strained to the breaking point.

“That basically just puts tremendous stress on the entire system,” Maloney said.

Cole said growth in skier visits supports the local economy, creates jobs in the community and supports infrastructure through tax collection.

It seems many Ikon passholders are driving from places where they have unlimited skiing, crowding roads and parking lots in addition to the mountain.

Londy noted it isn’t only the locals griping.

“When I’m in these tram lines,” he said, “I’m hearing many visitors lament their own experience.”

Fred Bowditch, who moved here in the 1980s and skied 131 days last year, agreed the parking lots and roads are bursting like never before.

“It’s even up over last year,” he said, when Jackson Hole tallied 634,500 skier days, eclipsing the 2013-2014 record by 70,000. Then, though, Wyoming had the best snow of the major ski destinations. “Now,” Bowditch said, “everybody has snow and they’re still here.”

He guessed Ikon is a significant culprit in the phenomenon, making multiresort trips more financially viable. If skiers can buy a season pass to their home mountain but also hit resorts across the West at no extra cost, they’re far more likely to take advantage of the possibilities.

“Would people still be coming here? Absolutely,” Bowditch said. “It just makes it a little more convenient for them.”

And he doesn’t blame the Ikoneers. In fact, he suggested to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort that it offer the Ikon Pass for a bit more money on top of season passes. That way, local skiers could reap some of the benefits of Ikon themselves.

When the Ikon Pass was announced in 2018, the resort posted a press release on its website. It quotes Erik Forsell, marketing officer for Alterra Mountain Company.

“The Ikon Pass is a collaboration of like-minded mountain destinations across North America,” he said, “where incredible terrain, unique character and local traditions are celebrated.”

With glorious powder dumps for Kings and Queens of Corbet’s this week, terrain and traditions are secure. But some fear the “unique character” of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort may be at risk.

“I’m grateful for this special place,” Londy said. “But the thing that made Jackson so special to me was that we didn’t have lift lines, and it seems like there’s been a shift in goals in recent years.

“I haven’t seen it this busy in 30-plus years of skiing this mountain. There’s no doubt that the Ikon is part of that.”

And if that’s the case, Maloney wondered, “Is the Ikon Pass worth it?”

Contact Cody Cottier at 732-5911, town@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGtown.

Cody Cottier covers town and state government. He grew up with a view of the Olympic Mountains, and after graduating Washington State University he traded it for a view of the Tetons. Odds are the mountains are where you’ll find him when not on deadline.

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(37) comments

Ian Hamilton

I will ski almost 100 days on my IKON pass this year at 10 different resorts. All this wining about IKON passes has me cringing. Not everyone who has an IKON pass can’t ski. I’m have no doubt that most of the people I ski with on a regular basis (all IKON pass holders) can out ski 99% of Jackson locals. In fact, it always amazes me when I’m skiing on western slopes (or the slack country around western resorts) how poorly most people ski. Yeah there are the crazies traversing a super exposed and unstable slope to get to a butt clenching couloir, but those folks seem to be more skilled at mountaineering than skiing.

At our local resort the IKON pass has resulted in an uptick in traffic. In fact, president’s day weekend set an all-time skier visit record, or so I’ve heard. There was even a rumor they stopped selling passes, but I can’t ever see that happening. I think people just couldn’t physically get to the ticket office due to skier traffic. The solution for me is multiple pricing tiers. We pay a substantial uplift (about double) to cut the lines. If ski resorts are going to water down the mass market product, they need a premium product, just like airlines. Unfortunately, this only works for lifts and not terrain although access to terrain is really only limited by lift capacity.

I wasn’t actually skiing at our home mountain on the record day because I was out west, but given it was an IKON-base blackout day, we were ski touring in Rogers Pass on our way to Revelstoke. The grand total price of a Glacier National park day pass was $7 CDN. In the end I guess this is about what IKON resorts get for my visits too. I’ve heard proceeds are apportioned based on skier days at each mountain, but that was from someone who works for Vail Resorts and perhaps EPIC passes are different. If that is how it works, resorts get my $599 divided by 100 or about $6 for each of my days.

The only thing constant is change. If you’re not happy with the way things are, it’s on you. Stop complaining and looking backward and figure out how to get happy in the future. Hopefully I’ll be retiring next year, buying a VAN, buying both an EPIC and IKON pass and skiing every day of the season.

Heading out skiing now.

Joe Miller

What I can say is that with my Ikon pass I have skied 9 ski areas this winter. Hands down without a doubt the most unfriendly mountain towards out of towners was Jackson Hole. THE JACKSON MOUNTAIN IS FULLY TO BLAME. It comes down to not having enough uphill capacity translates to a fun time had by no one. If I were them I’d increase the price of season passes, daily passes AND ditch the Ikon their only other option. It’s literally Econ 101 demand goes up you either hike the price or expand the terrain which isn’t going to happen quick. Take a long hard look in the mirror before blaming the product of what your mountain put in place.

sean henry

the ikon pass just gets the same treatment as maga hat ..get used to it

Mark Baker

I’m a Snowbird/Alta passholder and we’re seeing the same garbage. Way too many people for the mountain and canyon. I’d love to know what the resort gets paid for each Ikon skier day. A friend who works at an Ikon resort says Ikon pays the other resorts $3 per day. That’s right, the Jerry that just sideslipoed your line because it was too steep did it for $3. I’d love to see the resorts refute my claim any tell us what they really get.

TERRENCE MILAN

If you are correct, Ikon is a scam. And the chumps are the largest ski operations in America.

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Maggie Pre

If this article is an attempt to dissuade people from visiting your town, it certainly has done so for me. Seems to me that the messaging promoted by this author is that out-of-town travelers are typecast, reduced to a sub-class of people, and not very welcome anymore. I can’t tell if it’s all tourists or just “Ikoneers” (derogatory and offensive in the context of this article by the way). And I’m not even an ikon pass holder or any multi resort pass holder. I certainly would not feel ashamed or that I was contributing to a problem at a ski resort...it is a management, resort and town problem to fix.

My brother from Cape Cod, NOT an Ikon pass holder by the way, skied 2 days at Jackson Hole recently. As a 2 day pass holder, where does he fit into this dilemma? And I watched several hours of GoPro footage from a sunny Saturday in February. There is wide open terrain with no one in sight too.

Wyoming is not easy to get to, nor cheap for a lot of people. My heart goes out to people who have been dreaming and saving for years for a family ski trip to JH. What a disappointment. according to these reports, it sounds like skiing there is a total debacle of an experience now. And people who live nowhere near Jackson Hole are to blame?

Most people live in a town or frequently travel to places where they consider themselves a “local,” so can easily grasp what being a local is all about. We get it, but this is over the top and weird. I’m sure in Jackson Hole, like everywhere else, locals are a diverse group of people from all over. So, the author is doing a disservice to both groups, by reducing all “locals” to appear obnoxious, rude, territorial, unfriendly, and clueless about recreational tourism, infrastructure, city planning, and good manners, which I’m sure there are some...And reducing non-Jackson Hole pass holders to be all of the things mentioned in the article and the comments throughout this feed.

It’s very sad to hear what is happening at Jackson hole and I hope the owners and town can figure this out so skiing is enjoyable again.

Lots of snow and increased visits to Ski resorts everywhere. This misdirected anger at skiers because they hold a certain pass is hurting the town’s reputation. I’ve always thought of Jackson Hole as a nice place to visit, but not after reading about how the people treat each other and non-Jackson pass holders. This is also a local ski culture thing. One mountain near me has a similar thing about people who buy day passes, opposed to season pass. So skiing at one mountain only has status to some people somewhere. For the rest of us, skiing makes us happy.

TERRENCE MILAN

You won me over in the first sentence. Remember, Killington LOVES you!

Tom Desmond

You mean all the "locals" who work 5 months a year and collect unemployment the other 7 are bitching about IKON pass holders? poor little babies.

Bryan Pressnall

I would be willing to bet that most "local skiers" are not from Jackson, but came here from Pennsylvania or some other eastern state. Now that they are "locals", they don't want anyone else to come. But, hey, I don't blame them one bit for being angry. I paid $600 for my Ikon pass and they paid around $1400 for their pass. I can ski Jackson, Snowbird, Alta, Squaw, Mammoth, Big Sky, and Revelstoke, to name a few. They can ski, well, just at Jackson. I'll be skiing through May and June at Squaw and Mammoth, while Jackson will close in early April. Icon Pass holders- let's try to be nice when visiting those poor folks at Jackson.

Thomas Barry

Today’s announcement that the 2019/20 IKON pass will include JHMR with no changes should come as no surprise to the local population who is paying dearly for this travesty. There is no question that JHMR’s decisions in this regard have contributed to a severe decline in the quality of the experience here. There is also no question that IKON is the difference between last year’s experience at the resort and this year. Their decisions have placed severe strains on parking, traffic, lift lines, and public safety. The negative vibe this has created is a disgrace. This company is operating on federal land under an agreement which is being totally abused. Each and every person who has a stake in this community deserves a detailed explanation from JHMR about what exactly they think they are doing and what specific measures are proposed to address a clearly out of control mess which our community is enduring. The utter silence of this corporation in the face of this debacle is a direct insult to each and every one of us who have a stake in this community and the activities which brought us here. People need to recognize that this corporation is making decisions about the exploitation of federal land without any apparent regard whatsoever for the consequences on this community. That is wrong in so many ways. While there may be some improvement in community revenues from the influx of these visitors, it must be evaluated in terms of the price being paid. I would also point out that many of these visitors hold passes which give them unlimited access at their home mountains for a fraction of what we pay for our season passes and we are standing in line behind them at the tram. This is a total financial grab by a corporation who is exhibiting no concern whatsoever. Their silence in this regard is the true indicator. Good citizen? Not.

Oh, i forgot, thanks for the free March concert on the square JHMR.That makes up for everything. Put an end to this madness for the good of all us. Please.

sean henry

the tva parking is overwhelmed really for the first time,start bus is overwhelmed on these big days,by their choice to not send additional buses contributing to the chaos. Mary Kate Buckley has some explaining to do
if they don't get this under control the backlash will be swift
https://www.jacksonhole.com/contact.html

Dan Lyons

I’m an Ikon pass holder and now feel incredibly guilty about it. My son (age 13) and I just spent a week at JH using the Ikon pass. We’ve skied here in the past, and it has been our favorite destination, far better than Utah, Colorado, Squaw and Whistler. But this year the crowds were awful. I totally get why the locals are pissed, and I feel crappy that I’m contributing to this. Everywhere we went we heard people griping about the Ikon pass holders. Several times on chairlifts, when people found out we are from Boston they then would ask if we had Ikon passes and would be a little obnoxious about it. This morning in the immense line at the delayed start for the Apres Vous chair some old guy local shouted out, “Hey all you Ikon pass people, welcome to Jackson Hole!” I tell you, as a visitor, we love your mountain, we respect it and we have cherished all the things that make it special and unique, including the friendly locals we have met in past trips. I feel like JH has lost that. I’m sorry to have contributed to making JH worse. We love your mountain but will go ski somewhere else. I hope the corporation finds a way to control the crowds. We would gladly pay a lot more if they did.

Vince Kash

Dan you shouldn't feel guilty. It's not your fault that the Ikon is a good deal. Unfortunately, for you and me, the JH experience has been replaced by overcapacity. If I was smart I'd forget about the village next year and get a pass at Snow King....

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jim spotswood

Jackson Hole was ruined by the ski-bros who didn't want a real job or hard job so they became Realtors and Developers and eagerly promoted Jackson for profit. Now they are crying because they ruined their own town. The Ski Bum is dead. Now Jackson is occupied by Trustafarians, Hipsters, Billionaires, and Kanye West. The people who actually work and keep JH semi-functioning are the slave-laborers: illegal immigrants, Mexicans and Eastern Europeans who are willing to live in terrible housing conditions.

allison levy

You speak the truth. Although I think the Eastern europeans probably stick together and have fun despite it all.

Steve Flanery

I am spending the winter in Wilson and am a JHMR pass holder. I, too, have encountered many IKON pass holders on the lifts and on the Stilson bus which I ride everyday. Being a native South Dakotan, I find the locals and visitors to be extremely friendly and courteous, just like my home in Rapid City. As a daily Stilson rider, I find the buses jammed only on powder days, which since February has been a record setting month, they have been packed almost daily. I have encountered people from all over the world that have come to JHMR in pursuit of skiing some of the best terrain in the world. I hope that people’s perspective does not get clouded when it comes to “overcrowding” and the root causes. What you all have here is wonderful and I have had the very best 2 months of my 64 years!

Henry Fowler

Nobody likes overcrowding, really nobody. It's unfortunate if anybody got bad vibes up there or around town. This is a hospitable place. JHMR is responsible here, nobody else. And it seems like they know it too. These are the people deserving of complaint, not itinerant skiers. The question is has JHMR learned from this or not? They are undercutting their own pricing metrics and the quality of their product.

john murray

I don’t think that Jackson residents are anti-tourist. Visitors are a fact of life. The issue is that the quality of the experience has declined, whether you are a local or not. The slopes are crowded, often with people who are stopped in groups in the middle of your line. The tram line is long, even on the coldest of week days. Parking lots and roads are full. I had a group of “IKONeers”, yes actually friends of mine, all ten of them crammed into a single hotel room. The Village is beginning to have the feel of Mammoth Mountain in California - complete with the crowds of F-bomb-dropping lift line crowds. BTW, the Mammoth riders pay half of what we do for unlimited days at Mammoth and the other base resorts. The crazy thing is that even if most of us “locals” were offered a chance to ski in the other IKON resorts, none of them are as awesome as ours. Regarding “tourist town complaining about tourists”, I don’t think it is “crying” to acknowledge that too much of any good thing can ruin that thing forever.

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Delaney Deli

You’re right and I apologize for earlier comments. As an IKON user who at least like to believe I am a decent person that respects where I go and the people I am around, coming to jackson hole has been a slap in the face and unfortunately, I am leaving with a sour taste in my mouth because of how horrible locals have been to us this whole time.

We bought passes like everyone else, have rented a condo on the mountain, have gone grocery shopping, have gone out to dinner ever night and gotten Durante and Apres drinks all day long. We were here to share an experience that so many others love and instead of being embraced for such a huge similarity, we’ve been treated like absolute junk the entire time we have been here.

Delaney Deli

2nd part as my post was marked as spam.

At the same time, I can understand the frustration of local season pass holders. With how much money IKON has brought it, it’s sad for us to see that the profit hasn’t trickled down to a dividend, discount, or even more black out dates for locals.

Unfortunately, I feel like the anger should be directed toward the corporation, but all the anger is directed toward the IKON user and it’s such a hostile environment, I truest have no desire to come back. So I guess it’s mission accomplished for the locals.

I will say though, even though our mountains on the east aren’t as good, I would never ever treat someone who visited out there the way we have been treated. We’re all here for the same reason, and it’s too bad we can’t all just be happy for one another.

As an additional note; we came here straight here from Big Sky. This was our second year at big sky, and the difference between the locals there has been night and day. We love big sky, and now our goal is to someday have a house there. I appreciate the openness of the locals there even more now after the experience we’ve had at Jackson. And the worst part about it is that I’m not even mad about it anymore. It’s just been sad.

Wyo Commie

You are right in most all of what you say. The passholders definitely are not to blame for taking advantage of a good deal. And as I said in another reply, YOU are not the kind of Ikon passholder that has angered so many locals. You have contributed to our economy in many ways and I appreciate you for that. I'm sorry that you have not had an enjoyable visit.

That said, I am very interested in hearing about what negative experiences you have had as an Ikon passholder. Specifically, can you pass on examples of what's happened during your stay here that has soured your opinion of this place? I ask because I personally have not heard any shade thrown to Ikon passholders themselves. I have heard (and participated in) a ton of complaining ABOUT the pass, but interactions with the actual passholders have been as friendly as always from what I've seen. Maybe you hit the mountain at a boil-over point or something. But I haven't experienced any negativity directed toward any tourists, really ever in this town. And trust me, living through tourist seasons is not an easy thing to do. But typically people here have a "they're the reason we get to live here" attitude about tourism. Knowing that, we're usually friendly and appreciative. Even when it gets super frustrating. So I'm a little shocked and saddened that anyone has been so rude to you that you don't want to come back. That sucks. Hope you give it another shot some time.

Thurs Darp

Forget 7 days, Ikoners should get 2-3 free days and need to purchase half price tickets after that. That's how it has been with the Mountain Collective pass for the past few years, and it hasn't ever been an issue. Making people have to shell out some cash will go a long way to reducing the number of brown-bagging, van-dwellers rolling in for powder weeks.

Deli Deli

That’s really interesting. We have the base ikon at 5 days and we rented a condo (read NOT van-dwelling) and are eating all our meals out or buying groceries at the bodega (which I believe means NOT brown bagging). We’ve shelled out plenty cash to be here and we’re not less of a person because of it.

If you are interested though, I can tell you who is less of a person. You. YOU. You are less of a person because you feel as though you have some sort of squatters rights. If you have a true problem with tourists coming into a tourist area, maybe you should get your cash together, buy the mountain, and make it private. A$$.

Wyo Commie

Okay, so YOU might not be like Thurs Darp described. YOU aren't the problem. But given the fact that vacation package sales are down this year while skier days are way up, it would seem that most Ikon passholders are NOT like you.

Deli Deli

That’s really interesting. We have the base 5 day Ikon at 5 days and we rented a condo (read as NOT can-dwelling) and our eating all of our meals out or buying groceries at the Bodega (which I believe means NOT brown bagging). We’ve shelled out plenty of cash to be here and we’re not less of a person because of it.

If you’re interested though, I can tell you who is less of a person. You. YOU. You are less of a person because you feel as though you have some sort of squatters rights.

Surprising that you’re a tourist area and you have such an issue with tourists. Here’s a thought; maybe you should get your cash together, buy the mountain, and make it private. A$$.

Roger Hayden

Like any business, I would expect the ski corporation to bring in as many skiers as possible and charge them as much as possible. I don't think the happiness of the local skiers is a concern unless they stop buying passes.

Vince Kash

Can't see how this is good for daily and 10-day ticket passes, although the Ikon may make up for that lost revenue. Why would I buy a JH 10-day pass when I can buy a Ikon 7-day at JH and go to 30 other resorts besides? Doesn't make sense. I am a season pass holder, and I agree w/some of the other posters here that my $1400/year isn't getting me anything additional other than unlimited skiing. I park at Stilson, which is free for me and Ikoners. The food discount at the ski area venues is paltry. I haven't been able to get on the tram much this year bec. it's packed w/Ikoners that want the novel experience - I get that, but my suggestion would be to charge anyone without some kind of JH issued pass (i.e., season, 10-day or daily) a nominal fee to ride the tram, say $5 or $10, and they HAVE to purchase the tram ticket at the JH ticket window. Would definitely cut down on 4+ box waits for the tram.

rich quinlan

Tourist town complains about tourists , call the wambulance

sean henry

rumor has it J.H.M.R. has a 3yr contract with the ikon
jhmr better kill this deal or it could kill jhmr
on the other hand now there is free parking along the roads on the weekend in the vill due to overflow
and i call them free grazers in tram line

allison levy

"unique character may be at risk"? As a former JHMR employee the character changed when the Teton Club was built...and when the hay meadow was no longer available for free parking. Ut oh. Change was coming! The best skiing is in Teton village hands down. Call me a soured former resident but times change and progress marches on. It's sort of painful to watch and read this. I am so thankful that I can remember walk on trams and the long Crystal Springs chair ride. My mountain now is Bridger Bowl - and while pass sales continue to increase year over year, free parking and no outside base development is a breath of fresh air. Hang in there JH. You can hope for an economic recession.

Susie Bouchard

Get on any chair and half the people you talk to are here because of the Ikon pass. 7 free days at Jackson is too much. What do season pass holders get out of this?

For the Ikoners it's cheaper to buy the Ikon pass than it would be to buy 6 lift tickets at JH. Then on top of that they get free skiing at lots of other resorts. It makes no sense and is further degrading the quality & reasoning for getting a season pass. Petition for change! Exit the Ikon!

Susie Bouchard

Plus season pass prices went up, Ranch Lot prices are now $15 every weekend, longer lift lines, more traffic...etc. When will it stop???

Cheri Domer

I couldn't agree more! Local pass holders are footing the bill for this Yukon pass while they clog the mountain, litter, and are rude!

bob smith

I have spoken with several people in the ticket office, the percent of skier days excluding blackout days with the Ikon pass has been quoted to me at 25%! That's 1 in 4 people, a quarter of the people in every line you are standing in are likely Ikon pass holders. Its hard to love that.

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