There have been some questions expressed recently as to the value and benefits of the Epic Pass via letters to the editor in the Vail Daily. What is being left out of the conversation has been mention of the Merchant Pass, which I think should not be overlooked.
Let’s go back to when Vail Valley residents had the choice of getting a Merchant Pass or a full ski pass. In order to qualify for a Merchant Pass, you had to work for a qualifying business and attend a customer-service class.
According to my business records, as far back as the winter of 1991-92 a Merchant Pass was $725. I believe from my recollection that a full pass 25-30 years ago cost $1,525. Looking back, a Merchant Pass was $775 purchased prior to Nov. 15, 1992, and $825 purchased after Nov. 15, 1992. In 1992-93 the Merchant Pass was $825 prior to Nov. 15, 1993 and $875 after. In 1997-98, a Merchant Pass was $875. Imagine if you took 2 percent inflation from that time to now — what would a Merchant Pass cost? With very rough calculations it would be $1,275 for a Merchant Pass.
BENEFITS OF A MERCHANT PASS
There are great benefits for the business community to have the opportunity to offer the Merchant Pass. The Merchant Pass is owned by the business and can be transferred to another employee if an employee leaves.
Another benefit to the Merchant Pass is that it gives the opportunity for a business to provide a ski pass to an employee who has arrived too late in the ski season to purchase an Epic Pass. Many businesses provide financial assistance to their employees through the Merchant Pass program. There is great value and benefit for all parties involved — Vail Resorts, local employees and local businesses.
CHEAP BY COMPARISON
It is hard to understand the criticism by some people as to the Epic Pass “pricing out the locals.” If the only choice for a ski pass was the Merchant Pass (like years ago) then locals would have to, one, work for a business that offered the pass, or two, cough up $1,200-plus or so for a full pass on their own. Having lived here for 40 years, I do remember when a full pass was $1,525 about 30 years ago. The choice of having the ability to purchase the Epic Pass for $729 is an “unbelievable” value!
A person with an Epic Pass can ski at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly, in addition to places in Michigan, Europe, Japan and Utah. With an Epic Pass a skier (locals, other Coloradans, second-home owners and soon-to-become locals) can ski so many places — with no restrictions.
If you look at the economics of an Epic Pass, this year $689 for 150 days of skiing (that is only $4.60 per day) to ski the best mountain in North America and next season with a slight increase to $729 for 150 days of skiing equals $4.86 per day to ski in Vail or the other multiple Vail Resorts ski areas. It is also very interesting that I spoke with a friend in Aspen and found out that a ski pass at Aspen/Snowmass was $1,649. Other resorts such as Sun Valley, Deer Valley and Jackson Hole were $1,695 to $1,999.
The Vail Chamber & Business Association totally and unequivocally believes both the Epic Pass and Merchant Pass have great value and benefits to so many people within our community and beyond. The Merchant Pass is extremely important to businesses that provide a ski pass for employees or finance the purchase of a pass for a new employee who arrives mid-season in January.
EPIC PASS HOLDERS A DIVERSE GROUP
The Epic Pass is equally important to businesses because of its appeal to so many diverse groups of people (locals, second-home owners, Coloradans and non-Coloradans). All these Epic Pass holders come to Vail to ski and support local businesses. It would serve us all to focus more on the value and benefits that major stakeholders in our community, such as Vail Resorts, provide for us locals.
Stay informed and stay involved. If you are not already receiving the VCBA weekly newsletter email us at info@vail chamber.org to start receiving it. If you are interested in finding out more about the VCBA and what we have to offer businesses in Vail call 970-477-0075. Based in Vail Village, our office is located on the top of the Vail Transportation Center — feel free to stop by and say hello.
Michael Staughton is an owner of Los Amigos and Russell’s. He is a Vail Chamber & Business Association board member.