Clash of the titans
EAGLE COUNTY – Skiers and riders will continue to reap the rewards of a blood-bath lift-ticket competition between Vail Resorts and Intrawest for the sixth season running. Both ski companies released 2004-2005 season pass prices last week. The popular Colorado Pass offered by Vail Resorts, which offers unlimited skiing and riding at Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin as well as 10 days at Vail and Beaver Creek, was bumped up $20 to $349 by Vail Resorts. Pass prices in Summit County at both company’s resorts held steady with last year’s rates.Discounted ski passes allow the two ski resort giants to carve out a generous market share of the estimated 500,000-strong Front Range and Colorado skier market, and have money in hand prior to starting up the chairlifts.
Vail Resort’s five-mountain pass increased by $20, while Intrawest’s two-mountain offer is up by $10. Intrawest kick-started the price competition in 1998 when it rolled out a combined Winter Park-Copper Mountain pass for just over $200. Vail Resorts responded with the Buddy Pass shortly thereafter.No one expected price wars to diminish this season, but Copper slashed its Four Pass by $20, effectively reducing the price of a day on Copper’s slopes to less than $18. The Four Pass includes four lift tickets at Copper for $69. Vail Resort’s comparable offer, the Four Pack, is offered again for $99, but resort spokeswoman Nicky DeFord was quick to point out the company’s deal offers more than Intrawest’s.”The important thing to remember is that our Four Pack offers three resorts so there’s more value there,” DeFord said.In typical fashion, Vail Resorts took the offensive position last week and released prices first. Intrawest quickly responded with an announcement 20 minutes later.
Vail Resorts corporate communications director Kelly Ladyga admitted some surprise at Copper’s four-day deal.”Frankly, we are a bit surprised because overwhelmingly, based on our Colorado Pass sales each year … they want more than four days a season,” she said. “We’ve found that more people take advantage of the season pass.”Vail Resorts sells more than 100,000 Colorado Passes each season. It was first offered four years ago for $299. This year’s price is $349, a $20 increase over last year.Vail Resort’s Buddy Pass rolled out five years ago for $249. The price held steady this year and the previous two at $299.”Those are pretty minimal increases,” Ladyga said. “You’d be hard pressed to find anything in the market that increased that minimally in four years.”
The price for Intrawest’s Rocky Mountain Pass rose $10 this year to $329. The Copper Mountain pass held steady at $259.Rob Perlman, president of the trade and marketing organization Colorado Ski Country USA, said the price announcements are sure to create a buzz about the upcoming season.”It creates an energy and gets people excited,” he said. “The big winner in pricing is the Colorado resident. You can get a very affordable pass and then get a second one, or spend money at the other 17 resorts in the state.”Consumers are the hands down winners in Colorado’s season pass wars but local businesses win, too, said Steve Bowman, director of the Copper Mountain Resort Chamber.”It helps with the body counts,” Bowman said. When compared to other Western resorts – it costs $1,079 a season to ski in Aspen, for example – the price to ski in Summit County, for example, seems a proof of capitalistic competition.
“It’s fun,” Ladyga said of the price wars. “Who wins out in all of this is the skier and snowboarder.”Season pass sales started Friday and will run through Nov. 7.Vail Daily Staff Writer Cliff Thompson contributed to this story.Vail, Colorado