Season Pass Wars

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
$579 for Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, and A-Basin with no blackout dates. I haven't skied at any of these places in years, but I assume the Vail Group has done extensive +/- analysis for this sort of thing. Why wouldn't they want blackout days? I wonder what kind of on-mountain train wreck these cheap passes create.

That said, if I lived out there, it'd be tough to pass up.

http://www.snow.com/epicpass/home.asp
 

EMSC

Active member
There will likely be something fishy about this 'deal' knowing Vail Inc. Maybe they have discontinued their cheaper passes or something. I paid $429 or so for my 'Colorado' pass (A-basin, Breck, Keystone unlimited, 10 days with some blackouts for Vail/BC), so if that no longer exists then it's really a $150 or 35% increase. Not a great "deal".

Very few do or will use the Heavenly part from Colo so mostly pointless. The only change is no blackouts and unlimited Vail/BC. Sounds good, but the extra mtn pass, paid parking, etc.. will not get me over there much more than I already go anyway... So again, I hope that the 'Colorado' pass is back for next year since I have no intention of paying $579 for no added benefits to me...

It's only a deal if you have a place at Vail/BC and ski there every weekend anyway... And if you do have a place over there, you can afford your pass without this deal (except for maybe some of the town workers are the only ones to benefit?)
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
That $579 is about the same as the Mammoth Value Pass, with breakeven at 8 days or so. The difference being that Vail has competition from Intrawest with Copper/Winter Park/Steamboat.

But the $579 is still a great deal, and perhaps it is a way to increase the revenue while taking less flak for it because they increased the benefits also.

Also, the $429 was so cheap that the typical one-week vacationer could save money with it, and I'm sure Vail only wants to offer these deals to Colorado locals.

I wonder what kind of on-mountain train wreck these cheap passes create.
These have never been the greatest places to ski during peak holidays, probably even more so now.
 

EMSC

Active member
But the $579 is still a great deal

Especially for those looking in from other regions that have rather exorbitant pass pricing. I suspect for many/most front rangers we will see it as a very bad deal if they don't keep the $429 pass too. In fact since I looked, it does not include A-Basin at all and that is also a major negative for me and a lot of others who like to hit the Basin in the spring (current passes include A-Basin unlimited).

While 'break even' might be 8 days, that is at exorbitant walk up window pricing. Which, as a local, I would never be willing to pay anyway. For my $429 pass to be a good deal I feel I have to hit at least 10 days on it. At $579 that would climb to at least 14 days on it. That gets to be a lot for the average joe front ranger and also for me due to my Eldora affiliation.

Again, all of this presupposes that this is the 'new deal' and that none of the old deals will be back. Personally, I suspect Vail is only releasing this pass for now to see what the response is and if bad results, then will be forced to offer the current passes again as well. For sure it is a great deal for a few of Vail Inc's skiers over what they currently pay for unlimited Vail/BC access.

Also remember that there are a lot of 4pack products/deals at a lot of different areas sold in Colo front range market so if you can't get your 14+ days in on the more expensive pass, you drop out from that market and instead buy from multiple competitors for a few days at each... Which is something I'm actually considering for next year with or without the new pass...
 

skibum4ever

New member
I hope they keep the regular pass but have not yet been able to find any details about it. We ski A-Basin a lot early and sometime late when the other areas are not open, and with a place at Keystone we are hard pressed to even make our 10 days at Vail.
 

ChrisC

Active member
EMSC":2q2ujwwu said:
. Personally, I suspect Vail is only releasing this pass for now to see what the response is and if bad results, then will be forced to offer the current passes again as well. For sure it is a great deal for a few of Vail Inc's skiers over what they currently pay for unlimited Vail/BC access.

I think Vail is trying to signal Intrawest into ending the season pass wars in Colorado - gradually. A March 15th press release is mostly talking to them - it has little to do with skiers. That is how corporations are permitted to talk to each other.

With a really bad recession coming (US Housing has never declined until now), visitor numbers are going to be down a bit next year - so you need to pick up more revenue from Colorado skiers.

And Colorado skiers should be paying more - a lot more - for their skiing. It's unsustainable.


I know a lot about ski area pricing - and did a lot of work as an MBA student to help bring down ski lift ticket prices for 2004/05. Alpine Meadows - any day at $40. And it was the right model - and prices have stayed near $40/day. So I feel vindicated.

And $40 is a great price to promote.

This is what local Colorado skiers should be paying at least. Otherwise you need to extort from another segment with $90 tickets - and there are more families than jet-setting bankers.
 

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
ChrisC":b3po4wxf said:
And Colorado skiers should be paying more - a lot more - for their skiing. It's unsustainable.
That was my point, though I forgot to write it out in my post.
:lol:

EMSC":b3po4wxf said:
Not a great "deal".
However, EMSC's sense of entitlement is amusing.
 

Admin

Administrator
Staff member
jamesdeluxe":2xzqmdrj said:
EMSC":2xzqmdrj said:
Not a great "deal".
However, EMSC's sense of entitlement is amusing.

Colorado skiers have had reason to feel that way for quite some time now. An AltaBird pass is $1400.
 

tseeb

Active member
My Heavenly pass this year cost $329 as they gave me renewal rate even though I skipped a year. I saw people with $81 tickets last weekend so you almost break even after four days if you pay full price (which I don't). If you get $66 tickets at Bay Area supermarket, you can break even with five days. I have 11 days and plan to get 13-14, depending on whether I use free Sugar Bowl tickets or get to Squaw for a day. My wife only has 4 Heavenly days, but still could get another two or three.

Plus we get three days at Vail that we plan to use next week, even though it costs us $1,000 for two even with $199 non-stop round trips on Frontier plus two $199 nights at ski-in at Vail and $200 for rental car. But ski-in at Vail and two nights in Vail and two days skiing and two nights in Aspen without kids are priceless.

I will probably skip a year and avoid Heavenly over holidays next year. I had a timeshare trade request in for Summit and Eagle counties since early January without success. A week in a CO timeshare for $129 trade fee would make the $579 pass worthwhile to me.
 

TeamSummit

New member
From some people who have called the Vail Resorts info center the Colorado Pass will be back next year. One person also gained info that Abasin is included on the new Epic Pass although that one I don't quite believe that since it's not on any of their published info.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Colorado skiers have had reason to feel that way for quite some time now. An AltaBird pass is $1400.
Marketing is strange. Day ticket prices (particularly at Canyon Sports, REI, etc. with no restrictions or advance purchase requirements) are way lower in Utah than Colorado.

I'm not sure why Vail Resorts feels the need to offer the super cheap passes at Heavenly when they don't have a multi-area competitor like Intrawest in the Tahoe region.

Mammoth's MVP was somewhat of a mystery also, though Mammoth annual skier visits were off 30% from their peak when the MVP was inaugurated.
 

EMSC

Active member
With a really bad recession coming (US Housing has never declined until now), visitor numbers are going to be down a bit next year - so you need to pick up more revenue from Colorado skiers.

And Colorado skiers should be paying more - a lot more - for their skiing. It's unsustainable.


I know a lot about ski area pricing - and did a lot of work as an MBA student to help bring down ski lift ticket prices for 2004/05. Alpine Meadows - any day at $40. And it was the right model - and prices have stayed near $40/day. So I feel vindicated.

And $40 is a great price to promote.

This is what local Colorado skiers should be paying at least. Otherwise you need to extort from another segment with $90 tickets - and there are more families than jet-setting bankers.

Comes across as a bit of a rant below which is not really what I had intended, but oh well, it's written and might get some lively debate going?

Sounds like we could have a long discussion on business models, pricing and marketing. From my view, less about entitlement than frustration that so many ski areas still 'just don't get it' and concern that Vail Inc was sliding back to immediate/today greed only motivation (powdr corp/Killington anyone? "what can we get away with?"). My references to Vail Inc and AltaBird below are illustrative, and really represent any of several ski areas/corporate groups in various regions.

The price pass 'war' in Colo started in 1998 at $200 per person for a pass :!: . The economics still work just fine and are quite sustainable 10 years later... Actually @ over $400 now, Vail has gotten away with >8% annual increases. In fact, the economics are better for this model than the AltaBird, etc.. model (heck Vail Inc installs ~2-3 new HSQ's every year at various resorts, etc... and has only been unprofitable once in that time - due to a bad snow year when the locals didn't bother going skiing). Vail Inc also gets a big cash infusion in the spring to help pay for summer projects, invest to make interest on, etc...instead of waiting another year to see how it goes, or borrowing the cash like the older business model. Vail Inc model is also more sustainable long term, drawing a larger, more diverse group out to the hill and become skiers.

In a down US economy, Vail will rely more on locals and international tourists (due to the $$ plunge) than destination skiers from east, mid-west, etc... So they actually need to consider flat or lower pricing to entice front range skiers to come up and buy more burgers, lessons, etc... more frequently for next season. (the toll road loop in denver recently said not enough people were driving it - and thus paying tolls - so they promptly raised prices. And thus dropped their # of users even more. Not smart business. Discretionary spending is very price sensitive).

The AltaBird model is all about 'how much can we get away with charging for a pass' and is not a thoughtful way to look at their overall profitability or long term business. I would note that the Colo model (instigated by Winter Park actually) allows many more people to enjoy the sport and encourages new participants - the long term health of the sport. The AltaBird model is about keeping or taking the sport to 'rich' folks only (whether consciously or not). It limits its market, its potential for overall profitability, etc... over the long run. If not for migrants to SLC area like a lot on this forum, over time, AltaBird would see a long slow slide in local skiers. They are the ones essentially keeping the AltaBrid's from having to change or re-think things. Only since the Colo pass wars erupted and were occasionally mimic'ed elsewhere, have the skier visits nationwide begun to climb again after a couple decades of flat to falling.

Day ticket prices (particularly at Canyon Sports, REI, etc. with no restrictions or advance purchase requirements) are way lower in Utah than Colorado.

I'm not sure why Vail Resorts feels the need to offer the super cheap passes at Heavenly when they don't have a multi-area competitor like Intrawest in the Tahoe region.

The day ticket pricing is the one item I can't quite figure out. It is so much cheaper to buy day tickets in Utah vs Colo and opposite pricing in passes. It takes a ton of days to break even against utah pass pricing, but only 8 (in theory) for Colo. As for Heavenly, it is meant to be a big disruption in the market place and to drive huge numbers to Vail Inc and away from all other resorts. I wonder though, given how status, image and name conscious so many Caifornians can be (certainly not all, by any means, but a pretty big percentage) if it will really drive enough more to Heavenly vs say Squaw.

The final piece of this however, is unintended consequences. I-70 traffic jams and overcrowding the slopes during the major holidays. I have not heard in a couple years, but according to marketing types at Vail from back then, the numbers work out something along the lines of: 200,000+ passes get sold, ~10,000 passes Never get picked up at all :shock: , the average usage is ~6-8 days with the vast majority less than 20 days.

If you see my previous post I shoot for ~10-12 days which is a bit above to a bit below $40/day.

Ok, ok. Too much and too long and too rant like, I know.

Interestingly, so many people from the front range had the same reaction I did and swamped Vail Inc with questions, Vail just sent out another blast email today saying that all their 'normal' passes will be back again too, with specific announcements on those passes April 2nd...
 

TeamSummit

New member
Just to add to EMSC's note, which voiced very well my concerns and opinions, the additional email from Vail Resorts is that Arapahoe Basin is included in the Epic Pass.
 

Admin

Administrator
Staff member
EMSC":1rb0x6n8 said:
The AltaBird model is all about 'how much can we get away with charging for a pass' and is not a thoughtful way to look at their overall profitability or long term business. I would note that the Colo model (instigated by Winter Park actually) allows many more people to enjoy the sport and encourages new participants - the long term health of the sport. The AltaBird model is about keeping or taking the sport to 'rich' folks only (whether consciously or not). It limits its market, its potential for overall profitability, etc... over the long run. If not for migrants to SLC area like a lot on this forum, over time, AltaBird would see a long slow slide in local skiers. They are the ones essentially keeping the AltaBrid's from having to change or re-think things.
<snip>
The day ticket pricing is the one item I can't quite figure out. It is so much cheaper to buy day tickets in Utah vs Colo and opposite pricing in passes. It takes a ton of days to break even against utah pass pricing, but only 8 (in theory) for Colo.
<snip>
The final piece of this however, is unintended consequences. I-70 traffic jams and overcrowding the slopes during the major holidays.

You've inadvertantly explained the UT/CO pricing dichotomy. Our resorts are on our doorstep, not a couple of hours away from the regional metro area like Denver. Things are already as crowded as I'd care for them to be around here. Add in cheap season passes and, honestly, I suspect that the resorts here would get uber-crowded.

Despite what I consider to be superior snowfall, and in many cases superior terrain, Utah ski resorts do roughly one-third the skier visits of Colorado (and, coincidentally, average one-third the skier-per-acre ratio of Colorado). Why? Utah's not on the forefront of your average ski vacationer's mind. Sure, the Olympics in 2002 helped that but a) other than Park City we lack any true ski town, and b) there are misconceptions regarding the cultural issues around here ("I thought Utah was a dry state?"). Resorts, therefore, price their product more attractively than Colorado to attract out-of-state visitors. Utah resorts need to do nothing to attract locals and therefore price season pass products to maximize revenue and control visitation. Decide how large you want your local market to be, then price what that market segment will bear.

Case in point, until recently Solitude didn't offer any season pass products at all in order to restrict the place to day ticket purchasers. I had a member of the owner's family advise me directly in 2004 that they chose that option to limit local skier traffic. They now offer a season pass, of sorts, but not an unrestricted one -- you buy specific days of the week.

Would I and others want cheaper season passes here? Probably, until the longer-term unintended consequences are considered.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Heavenly could charge $100 for a season pass and the Squallywood crowd wouldn't go there. It would be like trying to get AltaBird devotees to ski Park City.

On a related subject the desires of the destination market (a ski resort town) must drive pricing more than the locals. Thus Park City/Canyons/Deer Valley are more expensive than the Cottonwoods.

Heavenly has a convenience audience by its location near:
1) the most lodging at Tahoe
2) the best apres ski
3) plus a bunch of intermediate terrain with the famous views of the lake.
This is an area that does not need to promote to drum up business IMHO. Like the Summit County group in Colorado it's already overcongested during peak times. I try to ski Heavenly when it's quieter ... or in bad weather when the nicely spaced trees make it a completely different experience.
 

Admin

Administrator
Staff member
Tony Crocker":3r0xpn86 said:
Also, the $429 was so cheap that the typical one-week vacationer could save money with it, and I'm sure Vail only wants to offer these deals to Colorado locals.

To the contrary, Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz was quoted in the Epic Pass announcement as saying,

Vail Resorts’ new Epic Season Pass gives our guests the opportunity to ski or ride when they want, how they want. They can visit for a week-long vacation during the holidays and then decide later in the season to return for an extended weekend getaway or even to book a last-minute trip after hearing about one of Colorado’s or Tahoe’s epic snowfalls. They can ski all day or just for an hour. In essence, we’re taking the thought out and putting more fun into a ski vacation. ... In designing the Epic Season Pass, we removed the key limitations and restrictions and are offering it for sale online, better tailoring it for all of our guests from around the world.

Also,
TeamSummit":3r0xpn86 said:
From some people who have called the Vail Resorts info center the Colorado Pass will be back next year. ... the additional email from Vail Resorts is that Arapahoe Basin is included in the Epic Pass.

Both true. We've got a news story running in the morning which will clarify some of these issues, but for now know that details on the Colorado and Summit Passes will be released on Apr. 2.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
I stand corrected. Vail's move now looks more like the Mammoth MVP mentality of the 1990's. They see a slowing economy, so let's make the lift tickets more attractive to lure people in. Then we'll make money off what they spend in town while they're here.
 

EMSC

Active member
Our resorts are on our doorstep, not a couple of hours away from the regional metro area like Denver. Things are already as crowded as I'd care for them to be around here. Add in cheap season passes and, honestly, I suspect that the resorts here would get uber-crowded.
<snip>
Resorts, therefore, price their product more attractively than Colorado to attract out-of-state visitors. Utah resorts need to do nothing to attract locals and therefore price season pass products to maximize revenue and control visitation. Decide how large you want your local market to be, then price what that market segment will bear.

Case in point, until recently Solitude didn't offer any season pass products at all in order to restrict the place to day ticket purchasers. I had a member of the owner's family advise me directly in 2004 that they chose that option to limit local skier traffic.

More lively discussion points...

Each market may have a few unique things about it, such as a 2 lane road into LCC or BCC that shuts frequently during storms; but even then I believe there have been talks of putting a tunnel into the cottonwoods from the PC side of things? Far more often than not, there are ways to mitigate and solve the problems. Even expansion of terrain as necessary (not easy I know, but if the visits support it, the FS eventually goes with it).

What happens if everyone in Utah drops their pass price at once? If the locals are already coming out as you indicate, then how much more crowded can it get? Why not up the price even more if they will come anyway? Would AltaBird suddenly get a lot more skiers than PC area or Brighton if all dropped pass pricing? or would visits to all of them go up? What happens if Vail finds a way to get The Canyons (doubtful at this point) and starts a price war in that market? (rhetorical questions by the way)

The Canyons has some areas that are barely used and could handle more skiers very comfortably (they'd need a new base area or 2nd gondola out of the base though). Or is it primarily well off locals and transplants hitting the slopes. Essentially elite folks, or a sport for the average person/ski bum?, etc... Not everywhere can be a place for the 'higher end market'. That market is going toward Yellowstone clubs; not AltaBirds or even Aspen as much anymore (funny quotes in Aspen times by skico talking about Vail's passes - they don't quite 'get it' either).

Solitude also can handle more visitors very, very comfortably. I recall an article about 7-8 years ago interviewing the various owners in Utah and the best Politically Correct description I can come up with for the punch line is they were all pretty "hardheaded" about things. My way or the highway, I know it all (or know best), etc... attitudes and nearly completely unable to cooperate or see eye to eye on much of anything with anyone. So the Solitude attitude doesn't necessarily surprise me, it's more disappointing than anything.

On a related subject the desires of the destination market (a ski resort town) must drive pricing more than the locals. Thus Park City/Canyons/Deer Valley are more expensive than the Cottonwoods.

Heavenly <snip>
This is an area that does not need to promote to drum up business IMHO. Like the Summit County group in Colorado it's already overcongested during peak times.

Current market place I agree on the town issue. If there were a gondola /train/etc... from SLC, or even if SLC looked more like a cute euro city, then LCC/BCC would do better with destination folks. Majority are looking at it holistically now, not as a ski-only trip anymore. They want the winter atmosphere and mtn town. SLC is a 'big' city (but not known for shopping) and rarely has much snow (compared to Breck or PC or etc...) and how many people really prefer to stay in a concrete bunker or a run down/dumpy place like gold miners daughter. Both types in LCC are way over priced for lodging IMHO.

I love the tree skiing at Heavenly, but in theory, in spite of it's goofy layout of ridges & peaks there are several more sections of their 4800 acres they can open up and put lifts in, etc... It once was way under capitalized for it's size & market, though I suspect with Vail owning it, it will get ironed out and begin to become harder & harder for the other guys in Tahoe to compete on much other than extreme terrain & brand history.

Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz

I have never met him personally, but supposedly a pretty decent guy and a fairly smart guy (according to one of our parent coaches that seems to know him a bit). I just have to wonder if he and the other exec's ski Eldora occasionally since he moved the HQ from Eagle to just outside Boulder. That would be ironic.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Snow and terrain DO matter a little bit in attracting visitors and much more in attracting locals. Just a wild guess, but I'll bet the Park City group is 75% destination while the Cottonwoods are at least half local.

Tahoe has destination visitors, but the Bay Area/Central Valley/Reno weekenders are in some ways more like the SLC/Denver locals. Thus many of them are going to prefer Squaw's terrain and/or Kirkwood's snow no matter how much Vail dresses up Heavenly. I'd expect Heavenly to have the higher proportion of out-of-state visitors, just like Park City.

Beers on the Tram Plaza graduated to wings and more beer at the Wildflower, which graduated to shots of vodka in Stefan's condo, followed by the usual grand Sunday dinner in Al's condo with wonderful wines
We do our own apres-ski just fine in the Iron Blosam's concrete bunker :wink: .
 

Admin

Administrator
Staff member
EMSC":16rzik2y said:
More lively discussion points...

Yes, much to respond to.

EMSC":16rzik2y said:
I believe there have been talks of putting a tunnel into the cottonwoods from the PC side of things?

Only in the form of the most rudimentary brainstorming ideas.

EMSC":16rzik2y said:
What happens if everyone in Utah drops their pass price at once? If the locals are already coming out as you indicate, then how much more crowded can it get?

Lots when many casual skiers who were previously above the price point of buying a pass ante up and buy one. Now they're inclined to go more frequently. Ergo, more crowded slopes.

EMSC":16rzik2y said:
Why not up the price even more if they will come anyway?

I'm rather confident that market research has identified that balancing point at which demand equals desired supply. See my comments above.

EMSC":16rzik2y said:
Would AltaBird suddenly get a lot more skiers than PC area or Brighton if all dropped pass pricing? or would visits to all of them go up?

I suspect all:

1. Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks.
2. Right now day ticket pricing is much higher in the PC area without discounts, and with discounts they're darned close to ech other.
3. Season pass pricing in PC is similar to that in the Cottonwoods, other than The Canyons which I believe is a bit lower.

EMSC":16rzik2y said:
The Canyons has some areas that are barely used and could handle more skiers very comfortably (they'd need a new base area or 2nd gondola out of the base though).

They'd need more dependable snowfall on the lower part of the hill, too.

EMSC":16rzik2y said:
Or is it primarily well off locals and transplants hitting the slopes.

You didn't get a good look at the dirtbag quotient while you were here in the Cottonwoods, did you? :wink: It's all types, but LCC is hardly a hotbed of the rich and beautiful.

Which kind of kills your presuppositions. Again, the price is set at what the desired market will bear.

EMSC":16rzik2y said:
Solitude also can handle more visitors very, very comfortably.

But they deliberately make little effort to market to locals.

EMSC":16rzik2y said:
Majority are looking at it holistically now, not as a ski-only trip anymore. They want the winter atmosphere and mtn town. SLC is a 'big' city (but not known for shopping) and rarely has much snow (compared to Breck or PC or etc...)

Agreed...which is part of my Colorado vs. Utah comparison above.

EMSC":16rzik2y said:
and how many people really prefer to stay in a concrete bunker or a run down/dumpy place like gold miners daughter. Both types in LCC are way over priced for lodging IMHO.

Limited quantity, thus supply-and-demand. Try finding a vacancy. And FWIW, don't base your opinion on Alta-area lodges on what you saw at GMD. The others are quaint, elegant and wonderfully understated.
 
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