I agree with what you have written Joe. Totally. People now expect the cheap pass and eternal upgrades and longer seasons at both ends at a discounted rate. Or for free. When they got rid of the lifetime passes, I wrote in another forum that I thought that was just a good business move. Well, you would think I had voted to legalize murder! One person accused me of being a schill for K and said the elimination of those lifetime passes was akin to manufacturers of drugs lying about the side effects and endangering the lives of people for profit. I call that hysterical entitlement.
This whole thing is going nuclear; check out this tidbit (warning, a long and rambling tome):
Dear Killington Passholders and Northeastern Region Skiers,
We are writing to you as concerned skiers/snowboarders and customers of Killington Ski Resort. Our resort has recently been sold to SP Land of Dallas, Texas and POWDR Resorts of Park City, Utah. The new owners have already alienated thousands of loyal customers within their first month of ownership. Please take time out of your busy day to join our boycott of early pass sales and send this document to anyone you know who may be a past, present or future customer of Killington. We intend to nip this in the bud and show them very clearly that their "new vision" for our resort and their overall business ethics are not appreciated here in the Northeast. We are not going to leave ? we are going to stand and fight.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Killington already plans to close for the season next year on APRIL13th, 2008.
- Killington intends to operate for 5 months or less, from Mid-Nov. to Mid-April
- This represents a shortening of the ski season by 50+ days since the '02-'03 season.
- Pass prices have increased by over 60%, while reducing benefits and discounts.
- Many discount programs benefiting the local region have been cancelled.
- Killington plans no tangible improvements for next year.
- Killington makes no promises about more snowmaking or more lifts running.
- Overall, this represents a true decline in the skiing product vs. what ASC has offered.
- POWDR has canceled 1,200 Lifetime Bond Passes issued at the founding of the resort.
If you are upset with Killington's new owners, please join us in boycotting their recent Season Pass sales offering, which expires July 31 st. We request that you do the following:
- Delay your pass purchase until within 48 hours the final deadline for a discounted pass, which will most likely be in early October, or sometime this fall. They will not raise prices significantly from the current rate, due to their market competition. Pre-season pass sales represent ~15% of Killington's yearly revenue, or roughly $10 Million dollars, which is received prior to the start of skiing operations. Killington expects to sell an estimated 15,000 passes this year. Many thousands of people delaying their pass purchase until the last day or two will crush their pre-season income and make them completely unaware of how many passes they can sell under their new pricing, until all the sales come rushing in at the 11 th hour. This will be a large display of solidarity between loyal Killington customers throughout the entire northeast region. Don't let them bully you or scare you off, we hold all the cards. We hope that this will induce them to find efficient ways to offer a longer ski season and improve the overall quality of their skiing product to a level which is comparable to the prices they are charging and their market competition. We must make it very clear to them that a longer ski season is extremely important to their market and the overall Killington brand.
- Call the season pass office at 1-800-887-3257, and complain about the above points, or any other grievances you may have with how the mountain is operated. Tell them you will buy a pass when they return to a 6+ month season and promise more snowmaking and lifts operating. Please do not mention this email - they will find out about it sooner or later on their own.
HOW TO FORWARD THIS EMAIL: Please do not actually "forward". Copy the main text and paste it into a new email, remove any extra headers, clean the title, and briefly check that the formatting is clean. Please feel free to add your own comments at the top, above "Dear Killington?". Please use "BCC" or "Blind Carbon Copy" to send it out to your email list, while putting your own email as the main recipient. This will prevent recipients from seeing who else it has been sent to, making the entire scope of dispersion un-traceable, chaotic, and highly overlapping?.but rest assured, it will reach tens of thousands of people. Expect this email to come back to you multiple times in the next 4 months, we apologize for the annoyance. Please send this email to anyone you know who lives or skis/snowboards in the Northeast United States . Plus anyone you know who lives in Utah or Texas . Do not send it to any major media outlets or Killington itself; we will take care of that when the time is right. The originators of this document can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your time and understanding.
Please read on for the full story and backing information.
On May 11th, 2007 , our resort was sold by American Skiing Company to SP Land LLC, a private real estate holding company, for $85.2 Million Dollars. SP Land is an offshoot of E2M Partners LLC, a Dallas TX based development firm with multiple major real estate investments throughout the country and various investment funds. E2M is a combination of the Eiger Fund, L.P. and 2M Real Estate Partners, Ltd. The President of SP Land, Steve Selbo, was from Fleet Bank in 2004, during an ASC real estate debt restructuring. During this restructuring, nearly 470 acres of prime developable land at the base of Killington were sold to SP Land for roughly $75M. Much of this land happens to be part of what Killington/ASC received in a swap with the state of Vermont for Parker's Gore in Mendon, off the southwest side of Killington Peak , in 1997. After 3 years of failing to move forward with a major base area real estate development and Ski Village , and with ASC about to collapse due to over $500M in high interest debt, a back room agreement was struck to sell Killington Resort to SP Land. POWDR, the operator of Park City Mountain Resort and several others throughout the country, was brought in to manage the resort operations. POWDR did not purchase the resort, only a minority interest, while SP Land maintains controlling interest in both the real estate development and resort operations. Chris Nyberg was brought in to be president of the resort; he is an industry veteran, most recently at Bombardier and previously with Mount Bachelor in Oregon .
After 7 years of gradually declining operations under ASC, this was originally taken as overwhelmingly good news by Killington skiers. Killington has always been a successful resort, with FY '06 operating profits of $8.23M on revenue of $58.9M. Operating profits in good years should have been as high as $12M or so in recent history, but the data is not publicly available. The major issue with ASC is that since 2000, a large majority of Killington's profits have been taken away to pay off a crushing debt load. The last significant capital project completed was the Woodward Reservoir connection in 2000. The last new lift constructed was the K-1 in 1998. Killington has been able to spend roughly $1 million in capital per year in since 2000 ? enough for critical maintenance expenses, and little else. This should all be plainly obvious to anyone skiing at Killington. In conjunction with this, ASC released the All4One pass with heavy discounts in the spring of 2003 - to get stronger early season pass sales to help make their debt payments, and they realized they could no longer afford to sustain a level of operations that would justify a high pass price. The season length at Killington went from 202 days in '02-'03 (and over 200 days in every year prior for the past 20 years), down to roughly 165 days for the last two seasons. There has also been a corresponding falloff in snowmaking quantity/quality, and a decrease in lifts operating on the mountain. But, we all figured, you get what you pay for. Overall, these changes have sustained traffic at Killington, however, they have moved the resort significantly down-market, hurting the local economy and making it so Killington is no longer directly competitive with other major resorts in the region.
From the announcement of the sale in February, hopes were high and Killington skiers were ready to receive the new owners with open arms. Many of us expected the new owners to come in and invest significant amounts of money to rebuild deteriorating infrastructure while growing the market share and rebuilding the prestige of the resort. Needless to say, the events of the past month have been sorely disappointing. Debate what you will, but there are four salient events which have transpired that many people are extremely upset about.
#1. The Cancellation of Lifetime Passes and many local discount programs. During the closing of the Killington sale, POWDR and SP Land decided to discontinue honoring the 1200 Lifetime Bond Passes issued in 1960 and 1961, shortly after the founding of the resort. For an investment of $1000 (in 1960), skiers received a single transferable bond where the only payout is yearly skiing services. 800 of these bond passes are still actively used. These bonds were re-sold throughout years, on a single transfer, and their recent market value was $7000++. Needless to say, anyone who purchased one of these bonds recently or had it gifted to them by a family member is highly upset. Due to the structure of the Killington sale, SP Land and POWDR claim that they no longer have to honor these passes. Very recently, Chris Nyberg has admitted that this was a last minute revelation by ASC, and the impact to season pass sales by having to continue to honor these passes would have made the finances of the Killington sale unfeasible. If Killington can't handle the impact of 1,200 lifetime passes on their seasons pass sales, that speaks volumes about how much they actually value pass holder's money?..quite a bit more than they would like to admit to you. POWDR has also axed multiple local discount programs ? the Killington and Pico Ski Club pass discounts, free skiing for the children of Mendon, and so many others it's hard to keep track of them all. Chris Nyberg made a very telling analogy at the June 4 th Killington Selectman's meeting, saying:
"it needs to be a symbiotic relationship between what they have at the mountain and what goes on in the rest of the community. He said it's like an elephant and the friendly birds that live on the back of the elephant and pick the bugs off ? that's a symbiotic relationship."
We do not appreciate the Killington region, the local residents, and local businesses being described as birds eating bugs off a dirty old elephant's back, nor the resort itself being described as an elephant. That is not a symbiotic relationship, that's scavenging for the leavings of a tired beast. If this truly is POWDR's attitude, the Killington region is in deep trouble.
#2. Reducing the Ski Season to Mid-November to Mid-APRIL, WITH AN APRIL 13TH CLOSING DATE. It is highly recommended that you read the fine print on the '07 Killington Pass page, on their website as of this writing. It is their intent to schedule ski operations for 5 months out of the year, or approximately 150 days, or even less. Could be Thanksgiving Day until April 13 th, for all we know. Dave Rathbun, Killington V.P. of Marketing, has already publicly admitted on a popular Killington message board that they plan to close for the season on April 13, 2008 . While this is a significant decrease from the 165 days in '06-'07 Season, it is an UTTERLY MASSIVE decrease from the 202 day season in '02-'03, and 200+ days every year prior to that. This is not due to global warming or energy costs ? it is simply poor management and ignoring their loyal customers, the pass holders. We know that many of us come to Killington because of the longer season than everywhere else, and have made long term, lifestyle plans based on the length of the season. It makes it much more attractive to own and sustain property at Killington when the season is 7 months long vs. 5 months ? taxes, condo fees, etc. It's tough to use your property if there's nothing going on for many months of the year like there is now. Every decent ski resort in the northeast has roughly a 5 month season, and it is highly likely that Sugarbush, Mt. Snow , Okemo, Attitash, and Sunday River , among others, will all have a longer ski season than Killington next year. The long season and extreme snowmaking have always been what we get as pass holders for putting up with "herby-derby" on hectic weekends. If you take that away, it makes it much more appealing to go to a resort where they actually value the business of the pass holder, and where a higher percentage of the people on the mountain are competent skiers on a mid-season Saturday. We are not willing to put up with the insanity, if we are no longer getting anything in return.
#3. $3 Million in Capital Expenditures after 7 years of severe neglect, plus their overall investment strategy. Killington has experienced 7 years of pitifully small re-investment under ASC, of approximately $1M per year. This is clearly displayed for all to see in the condition and age of the lifts, lodges, and snowmaking equipment. Killington's book depreciation was $8.16M for FY '06. While other resorts have moved onward and upwards, Killington is still partying like its 1999?..too bad it's not. To come into a depressed resort and only spend $3 Million is a pittance, a sick joke, and an insult to anyone who has toughed out the last few lean years under ASC. That's going to buy us some nice new snowmaking pipes (which badly need repairing), some women's restrooms at Rams Head, some trail maintenance, and maybe some modern ski holders for the Skyeship?if we're lucky. To top that off, POWDR is promoting its "Eat what you Kill" strategy for mountain re-investment. Killing and Eating your customers? Brilliant. They are proposing to re-invest $3-5M of their revenue, each year going forward ? while better than nothing, this is still a pittance, and will lead to the overall shrinking of the resort infrastructure, as certain components are eliminated as they wear out. At that rate, Killington is looking at a very long road regain its market prominence.
4. 70% Increase in Season Pass prices with severe cuts in discounts, benefits and no tangible improvements to the skiing product, plus a late announcement. No matter how you spin it, Killington has increased its pass prices 60%, and once you count that you no longer can save on tax by buying through Attitash in NH, the increase is in excess of 70%:
'06 Bronze @ $365 w/no tax vs. '07 Blackout Pass @ $634.94 inc. tax
'06 Gold @ $619 w/no tax vs. '07 Full Pass @ $1058.94 inc. tax
Either way, that's a pretty hefty increase. Not a bad price, but when taken in context, it is outrageous. We are not asking that they decrease it, simply that they justify it. The deadline at this price is 7/31/07. Killington has very carefully targeted these prices in an attempt to retain customers, while extracting as much cash as possible. They are still at the point where people will not flat out reject them, but most people would not consider them a decent deal. These prices are in line with what Stratton and Okemo are charging right now and will continue to charge until early October ? their early season promotion has already come and gone, and was cheaper than these prices. Sugarbush's full pass is $999 right now, until 9/20/07 . Some people will make the argument that pass prices have simply returned to where they were before the discounts - $1100 for a Killington Pass in '02-'03. This is a baseless argument because the mountain has seen a very tangible decline in the past 4 years ? a season which will be shorter by 50 days, with less snowmaking and less lifts operating in off-peak periods, and a deteriorated infrastructure. Other people will say that the cheap All41 passes were "artificially low" pricing. There is absolutely NOTHING artificial about a pricing structure that is sustained for 4 years while a company still turns a profit, while having a massive effect on the entire east coast ski industry. All other resorts still have pricing that reflects competition with the All41, yet Killington wishes to increase its prices by 70%, without improving its skiing product overall. No tangible improvements on the mountain, a shorter season, and no real promises about increased snowmaking. How does that make sense?
We are going after Killington's new owners, and we are out for blood. If you are upset by the above or any other reason whatsoever, we humbly suggest that you join us. The new management needs to learn that what made Killington great originally is what will continue to make it great. A long ski season, the most snowmaking in the east by far, and lifts that actually operate are key components for anyone choosing Killington as their home away from home.
There ways that pressure can be applied. Dave Rathbun, VP Marketing at Killington, very recently made the following statement on a popular Killington message board in response to a question about what would cause them change their minds about going to a 5 month season:
"We are going to learn this season how the elimination of the All For One pass changes the mix of pass and ticket visits. Some believe we will return to the pre-All For One pattern. I don't think so, it will be very different. If there becomes evidence that modifying the open/close schedule aligns with new patterns and can be justified financially we reserve the right to change it again."
The punch line here is that they just don't know. Dave doesn't know, and other people in management just don't know. They just don't know how WE are going to respond, and like it or not, they do need us, quite a bit. These folks just don't know how important a longer season is to their season pass market and are about to find out, the hard way. They are playing with fire.
Killington has also displayed another weakness, by offering a "payment plan". They will charge half your pass now, and half on August 31 st. While on the surface this appears somewhat generous, and accommodates people who may not be able to pony up the full amount right away, it also gives them an exit off these prices ? to actually drop pass prices after July 31 st if they don't sell enough to make them comfortable. They will simply charge the difference, due to the price decrease (instead of half), and will not have to refund as many people. This will mitigate the negative fallout of a highly unorthodox price drop. They have clearly stated that they do NOT know what pass prices will go to after July 31 st, and that they will actually stop selling them before re-starting sales at a later date, at a different price.
Chris Nyberg made the following statements in the Rutland Herald on 6/18/07:
"According to Nyberg, Killington issued 1,200 passes to stockholders and bondholders who invested in the ski area in its infancy. That fact did not come to Powdr's attention until it was about to close on the purchase, or, as Nyberg said, at the "11th hour and 59th minute."
Nyberg said the revelation could have been a "deal breaker" because the passes in question threatened the financial structure of the deal, posing a threat to future season pass sales. That was especially problematic, he said, because the stockholder and bondholder passes could either be sold or transferred. He said some passes could be transferred or sold once while other passes could be transferred to individuals on a yearly basis with the bondholder or stockholder retaining ownership."
Chris is saying here that the 1,200 outstanding Bond passes would make a significant enough impact on their bottom line. What does that say to you?
If they are worried about how 1,200 passes can affect their bottom line, pass sales must be rather important to them overall, much more important than they would like to admit.
Pass sales figures are a closely guarded secret, but there is a strong general guideline that can be derived from looking at the ASC and S.K.I . Ltd. Annual Reports from the 1990's, where pass sales figures for that period are listed: with a traditional pricing structure, there will typically be 1 season pass sold for every 100 skier visits a resort receives, and pass holders skiing an average of 20 days will account for 20% of skier visits. Thus, for a resort like Killington which traditionally had ~1,000,000 visits per year, they were selling roughly 10,000 passes at $1,000+ apiece, or roughly $10M total revenue overall. 10,000 passes is the traditional number rumored, that most people would be inclined to believe.
With the introduction of the All4One passes with heavy discounts, pass revenue did not fall off. Pass revenue actually increased. They simply sold more passes and let it cut into their discount ticket sales, while it had little impact on their ticket window sales or vacation ticket sales, and helped sales in other sectors ? food, lodging, etc. At the same time, they brought the resort down-market, by cutting back operating costs. They would also get more money up front during the summer months. It worked well for them, and it has lead to massive changes in the east coast resort industry. It is rumored that ASC sold 30,000 discounted All41 passes that were primarily used at Killington. At an average of 15 visits per pass, that accounts for nearly half of Killington's yearly skier visits, or 450,000 out of roughly 900,000+. At an average of $450 per pass, that's roughly $13.5M, or over 20% of Killington's yearly revenue. Considering that Killington averages 5,000+ people on the mountain each day throughout the season, with busy Saturdays bringing 17,000 people, these numbers become pretty believable. Even if you don't believe 30,000, it still has to be well over 20,000, which is still big money.
These numbers are accurate enough that it becomes abundantly clear that Killington still wants to bring in at least $8-10 Million dollars in pass revenue before mid-October this year. This helps cover their start up costs for the season, snowmaking, labor, etc, plus it hedges against bad weather and locks customers into Killington for the year. Between the $599 and $999 pass options, that pegs the total sales goal at somewhere in the range of 10,000-15,000, or even more. Even though Killington seems to be giving pass holders the cold shoulder, they still would like to see a comfortable number of skier visits coming from pass holders ? probably around 30-40% depending on overall skier visits, which directly aligns with a sales figure of 15,000.
That is a number which is prone to manipulation ? by us, the Killington Community.
How many people do you know who ski at Killington and hold passes? The people generating this email know hundreds, and have their email addresses. The other multiple thousands are far less than "six-degrees-of-separation" away from us. Most of those people are quietly enjoying their summer, not particularly concerned about Killington at the moment. It's time for a wake-up call. We are betting that we can reach 90%+ of Killington's potential pass market, within a very brief period of time.
These new owners play serious hardball, and evidently have honed some bluffing skills playing Texas Hold'em. Utah and Texas vs. the Northeast???
Let's call their bluff and give them an east-coast style shakedown??
We think this is an excellent opportunity to tell them that they can't effectively sell season passes at these prices, with what they are offering. Don't cave, don't beg, and don't buy! Where are they going to go, what are they going to do??you need us more than we need you!
DON'T BUY YOUR PASS UNTIL THE LAST POSSIBLE MINUTE, RIGHT BEFORE THE LAST DISCOUNTED PASS DEADLINE THIS FALL.
Call their bluff and make them fold. Make them sweat. Bring the pain to them. Mess up their income stream, severely. Make them think long and hard about how much they value their loyal customers, and why their passholders are paying to ski at Killington. Let them see how much power WE wield over THEM - how, when and where we choose to spend our money. By waiting until the last possible minute to buy your pass, Killington has very little income until October, and has NO idea what they are getting into this season. Completely blind as to what their pass sales revenue will be until the last possible minute. They cater to us, the customer, not the other way around.
Where are they going to go with pass prices after July 31st?..up another $50? Up $100? On a purchase by mid-October? Good Luck!!!! That puts them directly at or above the pricing of Sugarbush, Stratton, and Okemo, while being dangerously close to Stowe ? prices that are good from now until mid-October. They will simply gut their market if they go any higher than that. Period.
They have no room to raise, and the negotiation starts with what we demand. We want a return to a 6+ month long season, real tangible improvements, and real changes in operations. Real promises, to be held accountable against - not weasel words. Apply the pressure ? you will get what you want.
The line in the sand is being drawn, RIGHT NOW. Are you willing to bet $50 on the future of Killington?
There are other possible strategies that can be employed here too. Simply reduce the amount of money spent at the mountain, while continuing to ski there. Buy the blackout pass, and ski there every day you can. Go elsewhere on the blackout days, make other plans. Avoid spending other money on the mountain ? don't pay for parking, don't buy food, and don't buy booze. Pull your kids out of expensive programs, or at least cut back. If you're mad, stop giving them your money.
Here's the final whammy ? if you're mad enough, put your Killington area property on the market ASAP. We're not suggesting you sell it, simply find a realtor and have them list it. Tell them you very disappointed in the new Killington and want out. Set a price that's a little on the high side, so it seems like the market is nervous and inflated. SP Land is looking to develop real estate, and has to be sensitive to all things that affect the strength of the market. If 50 to 100+ properties hit the market this summer, that makes an already soft market that much softer and scarier.
Please join us all in this boycott. We all love Killington dearly, and we are not willing to see it turned into Park Shitty East.
This situation is totally OUT OF CONTROL!! These folks would rather see the whole operation fail than accept that K is broken, it needs fixing, it's gonna cost money, and the skiers will pay. I don't get it at all.