Ski Resorts Near Denver Offer Dirt Cheap Season Passes | UNITED STATES, COLORADO | 04/13/2008, by HotChocolate

Ski Pass

How much will you pay for a season pass at your local ski resort? Or will you just earn your turns in the backcountry?

Here in Jackson Hole, the mountain management seems to think that I can afford $1625 (2007) for an unlimited season pass. As a social worker for the past 5 years, there is essentially no chance that I would ever have that kind of money. I've thought about this a lot, and am very frustrated with the way that the resort treats local skiers.

The only justification that makes sense to me is that the resort needs to provide an incentive for people to actually work at the mountain. Since they pay all of $7/hour, there is no financial incentive to bump chairs or sell tickets. The first year that I worked at the mountain, I had to borrow several thousand dollars from my parents just to make rent and feed myself. (Luckily my parents were supportive and that was an option! Thanks M and D) This sort of compensation doesn't exactly make for loyal employees. So anyway, the mountain tries to convince newbies and foreigners that working at the mountain is the only way that they will be able to have a full season pass.

It still doesn't fully make sense to me though. How can little mom and pop resorts all over the country find workers, pay them well and still offer dirt cheap passes/lift tickets?

Have you heard about the new Epic Pass for Vail Resorts? It makes me pretty jealous and I wish that resorts like Aspen and Jackson could follow suite. Read below for info. If anyone has insight into the economics of ski resorts, please comment below! I also would be interested to know how much you pay and if you think it's a good value...

Pass wars
by Damien Williamson, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 9, 2008

As snow continues to pile up on soon-to-be-closed ski resorts throughout the nation and the end of a record-breaking season looms ever closer, several ski areas across the state are preparing to set new records next year by introducing season passes that not only offer unparalleled access to multiple mountains, but are doing so with increasingly cheaper price tags.

Vail Resorts announced in March that it will offer the new Epic Pass next season, which will provide unrestricted access to all five of its mountains - Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly Mountain on the California-Nevada border - for $579, a significant savings over the 2007-2008 season's $1,849 unrestricted pass price. And Intrawest, which owns Copper Mountain, Winter Park Ski Resort and officially acquired Steamboat Springs Ski Resort in early 2007, recently announced a nearly 10 percent price drop on its Rocky Mountain Super Pass, offering unlimited access to Copper and Winter Park, as well as six unrestricted days at Steamboat.

Meanwhile, Aspen Skiing Co. officials don't anticipate any significant changes to its pass pricing structure, adding that while these passes are an "interesting business plan," it's not "something we're interested in doing."

But for Vail Resorts and Intrawest, the new passes and reduced prices stem from a desire to both get skiers already skiing at their resorts to ski more often, and to provide increased flexibility to those interested in skiing at the company's sister mountains.

"We really looked at the success of the Colorado Pass and the Summit Pass and saw just how much our Front Range skiers love the ability to buy those products," said Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz. "So we really wanted to offer something similar for our destination market to really get people to think of skiing as a season-long activity."

Katz said that lots of skiers head to Vail around the holidays, and that this new pass will hopefully encourage them to come back to Vail for another trip later in the year.

"The point of the pass isn't just to grab new skiers," he added. "We're trying to take our existing loyal customer base and get them to both commit to our resort earlier, and to come back multiple times."

Heidi Thomsen, communications director for Steamboat Springs, said that once Intrawest acquired Steamboat in March 2007, it was "natural for the company to come up with some type of pass that would connect Steamboat with the two Summit County ski resorts."

"It's just an amazing advantage for the customers at all three resorts to have access to three world-class mountains within a few hours of each other," she said of the $439 Rocky Mountain Super Pass Plus. "Overall, we're just excited to be a part of a company that can offer so many options to its customers."

In addition to the Super Pass Plus, Intrawest will also offer a Rocky Mountain Ultimate Pass for $1,054, giving unrestricted access to all 8,493 acres of the three mountains, as well as a free child (for those between the ages of 6 and 12) ultimate pass with the purchase of every adult pass.

"Each of the resorts offers something different," said Lauren Pelletreau, Copper Mountain's spokesperson. "Steamboat has the champagne powder, Winter Park is a true family resort with great bump skiing and they're building up their base village, and Copper has terrain parks and 2,400 acres of naturally divided terrain. So with these passes, we're really trying to make sure our guests are getting the type of skiing they are looking for, when they're looking for it."

Each of the three companies - SkiCo, Vail Resorts and Intrawest - say they look at national trends, but are hesitant to look directly at what other resorts are doing when determining pass and lift ticket prices.

"We look at the overall market place," said Copper's Pelletreau. "We try to make products and passes available to our skiers and riders that we think they'll use at a price we think they'll buy. So I'd say we listen to our guests more than we listen to other resorts."

"We think we offer a really great product," said SkiCo spokesman Jeff Hanle, "and we're not trying to do what anyone else is doing. We don't model ourselves after Vail Resorts or Intrawest or any of the resorts under those companies."

Vail Resorts and Intrawest announced their new passes and reduced prices less than two months after independent ski area research company, Snow24, released its 2008 World Lift Ticket Price Report, which once again identified the United States as having the most expensive high season, non-discounted lift tickets in the world. The survey looked at more than 550 ski areas in 40 countries and found that the average U.S. six-day lift ticket price was $365.73, while the average price for a six-day ticket for the rest of the world was $258.

Vail was singled out as having the most expensive peak season six-day lift ticket at $552.

But, according to report editor Patrick Thorne, it is important to note that few people actually pay these maximum prices.

"While the U.S. resort come out as the world's most expensive on paper," he said, "the reality is that resorts like Vail have the most sophisticated pricing models with dozens of price combinations and many ways to pay much less. A recent report in the Vail Daily News said that whilst Vail had the most expensive day ticket of $92, in reality last winter it averaged $47 per day ticket sold. In other parts of the world prices are often set at one rate all winter, so though you may get a better price at the ticket window in high season, you're less likely to make much of a saving any time."

And passes like Vail's Epic Pass and Intrawest's Rocky Mountain Super Pass Plus are perfect examples of this.

Both SkiCo and Intrawest are privately held companies and, as such, do not release specific information on the number of passes purchased or the percentage of revenue brought in from season passes versus that of single- and multi-day lift tickets. While Vail Mountain is publicly held, Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kelly Ladyga said that information had yet to be compiled for the season.

Now's the time to get a ski pass

This year's incredible ski season isn't even over and already it's time to start thinking of next season.

Here's a look at some of the preseason pass bargains for next season:

> Arapahoe Basin Bonus Pass: $379 for season pass to A-Basin the rest of this year and next plus five non-transferable ski days at Keystone or Breckenridge. One of those five ski days can be used at Vail or Beaver Creek. Information:

> Summit Pass: $399 for unlimited skiing/riding at Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin. Deadline is May 4. Passes available at REI, 4025 S. College Ave. Information:

> Colorado Pass: $439 for unlimited skiing/riding at Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin and 10 days at Vail and Beaver Creek. Deadline is May 4. Passes available at REI, 4025 S. College Ave. Information:

> Epic Season Pass: $579 for unlimited skiing/riding at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin. Passes available at REI, 4025 S. College Ave. Deadline is May 4. Information:

> The Rocky Mountain Super Pass: $399 for unlimited skiing/riding at Winter Park and Copper Mountain. Information

> Rocky Mountain Super Pass Plus: $439 for unlimited skiing/riding to Winter Park and Copper Mountain and six days at Steamboat. Information:

> Rocky Mountain Ultimate Pass: $1,054 for unlimited skiing/riding at Steamboat, Winter Park and Copper Mountain, plus a free child (ages 6-12) Ultimate Pass with each adult Rocky Mountain Ultimate Pass purchase. Information:

That's Our Opinion. What's Yours?

kevin brady wrote on 12/19/11 at 07:34:23 am pst:

My son is flying out tyo meet friends and ski Breck or Keystone...not sure of the mountain yet. Is there a one day or two day that we can buy that would cover both mountains of choice? If so, I would like to buy him a gift card or pass? Please advise

Steve wrote on 12/19/11 at 4:02:58 pm pst:

Call up the either breck or keystone, they would be able to help you out.

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