Aspen won’t join ski pass price war |

Aspen won’t join ski pass price war

ASPEN, Colorado ” The Aspen Skiing Co. said Thursday it won’t be influenced by other ski resorts’ decisions to keep next season’s pass prices at this winter’s rate.

Numerous resorts have already announced they will hold the line on 2009-10 pass prices because of the condition of the economy.

“For the first time, instead of looking forward at the new season and new pass prices, Colorado Ski Country USA resorts are looking years or even a decade back to set prices for next season’s ski passes,” the state trade association said in a press release this week.

Some big-name resorts are offering pass deals at reduced prices. Copper Mountain and Winter Park teamed to pare $40 off their Rocky Mountain Super Pass Plus for 2009-10. For $399, skiers and riders will have unlimited access to those two resorts plus six days at Steamboat. All three resorts are owned or operated by Intrawest Corp.

Steamboat is offering its lowest price in a decade on its season pass. It will charge $879. That is $100 less than this season.

Vail Resorts is maintaining the price on its three most popular passes. The Epic Pass, introduced last season, is staying at $579. That is good at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, California’s Heavenly plus Arapahoe Basin.

The Summit Pass ” good for unlimited access to Breckenridge, Keystone and A-Basin ” is selling for $399. The Colorado Pass, which adds 10 days of skiing at Vail and Beaver Creek to the Summit Pass, is going for $439.

Closer to home, Sunlight Mountain Resort will hold its price at $360. Loveland, Monarch and Purgatory are the other ski areas holding their pass prices at this season’s rate, according to Colorado Ski Country.

In just about every case, the resorts require the pass to be purchased or a deposit to be paid within the next few weeks.

The Aspen Skiing Co.’s pricing committee is still mulling its options, according to spokesman Jeff Hanle. Pass prices will be announced in August, and early-bird rates will be available in September.

The pricing committee will make its decisions independent of what is going on elsewhere in Colorado.

“We’re certainly aware of it, but we’re not using it to guide our pricing strategy,” Hanle said.

Many of the resorts that have set their pass prices for next season are battling for skiers from Denver and elsewhere in the Front Range, he noted. Vail Resorts created the Epic Pass this season and gained market share. Other resorts vying for those customers were forced to react.

“As one goes, so go the others,” Hanle said. “It’s not our market.”

Aspen and Snowmass are among the state’s destination resorts ” those that rely primarily on out-of-state guests taking an overnight vacation. The Skico offers a variety of passes. The least expensive full season pass this season was $1,299 for an employee of a business that belonged to a local chamber of commerce.

Hanle said Skico officials don’t believe it is sound business policy to follow other resorts with the pricing strategy. The Skico’s philosophy is to “offer a superior product at a fair price, not to offer a discounted experience for a discounted price.”

However, he acknowledged that the pricing of other resorts may create an issue for Skico.

“It might place some additional public relations-type pressure on us,” he said.

That might get magnified by the recession, which is hitting many locals in the pocketbook.

When the Epic Pass was unveiled by Vail Resorts last year, some locals criticized the Skico for not reducing its pass prices, according to Hanle. But the company’s “defenders” countered that the critics could move to Vail if they wanted the cheap pass ” and put up with longer lift lines and larger crowds.

That argument gets to the heart of the matter. Skico officials believe the uncrowded conditions and excellent terrain at its four ski areas are worth an extra dollar amount. Some, but not all, of its customers agree. There are also differing opinions on how much more those factors are worth.

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