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Aspen Skico ‘guarantees’ satisfaction

ASPEN – The Aspen Skiing Co. is trying to placate critics of its new ski pass program by sweetening the deal for buyers on the fence about what to purchase.

The Skico announced Tuesday it is adding a “choice guarantee” program that will give some buyers an affordable option to upgrade their pass or, in other cases, give cash back to customers who want to downgrade their pass.

The guarantee program will benefit purchasers of the Skico’s full-season Premier Pass and the new Flex Pass. In a nutshell, skiers and riders who buy the Flex Pass to start the season can upgrade at any point in the season to a Premier Pass in an economical way. Conversely, Premier Pass holders can downgrade to a Flex Pass by Jan. 8 and receive a refund.



“We want to give people confidence in their choice,” said Aspen Skiing Co. Senior Vice President David Perry.

Some past pass holders have been critical of the Skico’s new pass program since it was unveiled Aug. 19. The price of the Premier Pass, the Skico’s most popular offering, saw discounts ranging from $200 to $270 compared to last season. The two-day-per-week pass was eliminated and the Flex Pass was offered instead.



Perry and Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan have said at least 85 percent of passholders will save money in the new program. Both claimed a small, vocal minority don’t like the new program but have dominated the discussion.

Perry said the choice guarantee was largely a “result of feedback” on the passes. The Skico is willing to take the risk that customers will be satisfied with the passes.

“We just said, ‘Hey, why don’t we put our money where our mouth is and guarantee it,'” Perry said.



The choice guarantee was conceived Friday, finalized Monday and announced Tuesday.

Here’s how it works: Flex Pass buyers are entitled to one day of skiing or riding per week during the season and they can purchase additional days for $49 per day. The choice guarantee allows Flex buyers to upgrade to a Premier Pass at any time during the 2009-10 season and apply all funds they used on the Flex Pass and extra days.

For example, let’s say Joe Skier buys a Flex Pass at the chamber of commerce rate before the Sept. 18 super-early deadline, so he pays $699. During December and January, there are so many powder days that Joe Skier purchases eight additional days at $49 per pop for another $392. Joe Skier realizes he has invested so much in his Flex Pass and extra days that he should have just bought a Premier Pass.

His total investment at that point is $1,091. The Premier Pass at the early-bird chamber rate cost $1,099. The choice guarantee program will let Joe Skier upgrade to that Premier Pass and apply the entire amount already paid for base price of the Flex Pass, plus the extra days. Once he upgrades, he can use the Premier Pass every day for the rest of the season for free. (To be clear, the upgrade to a Premier Pass can be pursued at any point for a Flex Pass holder.)

The Skico will charge $50 to upgrade a Flex Pass to a Premier Pass.

The upgrade is a way to finance a Premier Pass purchase over a longer amount of time rather than paying a lump sum before the season. It’s also powder insurance for skiers and riders who want to see how the season shapes up before settling on a pass. If there is powder, they can upgrade.

The cost of the Premier Pass will depend on when the customer purchased a Flex Pass. If the purchase was made prior to the Sept. 18 super-early deadline, the customer is eligible for the super-early Premier Pass price.

The second part of the choice guarantee program will help customers who buy the Premier Pass but don’t use it as much as planned. Premier Pass holders have until Jan. 8 to downgrade to a Flex Pass and receive a refund from the Skico to cover the difference.

For example, say Skier Jane purchases a Premier Pass at the chamber super-early price of $1,099 but ends up working more than planned. She only uses the pass about once per week in December, so she wants to downgrade to a Flex Pass. The Skico will allow that change and since the Flex Pass would have cost her $699, it will refund $400. There will be no processing fee.

The Skico also announced Tuesday it created a new pass offering, the Premier College Pass for $749. In the past, college students paid the adult rate for Premier Passes.

More information can be found on the Skico’s passes at http://www.aspensnowmass.com.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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