ASPEN - Aspen Skiing Co. is teaming with Whistler Blackcomb and four other independent resorts to expand a program that will make a collective ski pass available next season, the participating resorts announced Tuesday.
The Mountain Collective program, which offers two days of skiing per resort, featuring Aspen-Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Alta and Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows was launched this season. Now, Whistler-Blackcomb, Snowbird and Mammoth Mountain have joined the mix.
The pass is for sale for $349 for adults, the same as the preseason rate last season. The price is $229 for children 12 and younger. The two days of skiing or riding at each of the six participating resorts counts Aspen-Snowmass, Alta-Snowbird, Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows and Whistler Blackcomb as one resort each. So a pass holder who skies two days at Aspen Mountain, for example, would not be able to use the pass for Snowmass because the two days would already be used up.
Premier pass holders at each of the resorts also can buy additional days at the other resorts for themselves for half price. There are no blackout days. Lodging discounts of up to 25 percent also are offered.
Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said the original participants were pleased with the sale of the passes this season, especially since the program wasn't announced until August.
"You're a little bit behind the eight ball when you get it out that late," he said.
Hanle wouldn't disclose how many passes sold for this season. However, it appealed to skiers across the country and in other parts of the world.
"The first two people to visit all four resorts were from Australia," he said.
The six independent resorts have a product that provides access to 12 mountains with more than 30,000 acres of terrain and 186 chairlifts.
The Mountain Collective Pass matches the firepower of Vail Resorts' Epic Pass, which gives buyers access to Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado as well as Kirkwood, Northstar and Heavenly in California. All of those resorts are owned by the company. Vail Resorts purchased Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mount Brighton in Michigan in December, so those smaller ski areas were added to the mix. Independent Colorado resorts Arapahoe Basin and Eldora also can be skied with the pass. The Epic Pass for 2013-14 is currently for sale for $689 for buyers 13 and older.
Hanle said the Mountain Collective wasn't designed specifically to compete against Vail. It's a way for the participants to market together while maintaining their independence, he said.
Michael Berry, president of National Ski Areas Association, a trade group based in Lakewood, Colo., said he expects to see collective marketing pacts inked between resorts in different parts of the country. Regional efforts have been undertaken for some time. Now it will expand to coordinated nationwide efforts, he said.
"I think it's part of a trend that you'll see more and more of," Berry said.
Resorts are interested because programs such as the Mountain Collective have the ability to draw visitors that might not otherwise come. "There's value in the visibility in creates," he said.
When asked if the Mountain Collective pass is designed to compete against Vail's Epic Pass, Berry said, "Obviously it is."
Charles Goeldner, professor emeritus at Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado, said collective marketing efforts come and go in the ski industry. He recalled there was a program called "Ski the Rockies" that brought independent resorts together probably in the late 1970s into the '80s. It worked until some members decided to drop out, then the whole effort collapsed, he said.
Nevertheless, Goeldner said he believes the collective efforts are a good way to increase business. He was impressed with the lineup of independent resorts participating in the Mountain Collective.
"They put together a pretty powerful package there," Goeldner said. "That sounds like a bargain price."
The Mountain Collective passes are available through an exclusive technology, distribution and marketing partnership with Liftopia at www.TheMountainCollective.com. A limited number of passes are available at the lowest price.