Aspen Skiing Co. says Ikon Pass use is up, local pass use down so far this season
Aspen Skiing Co. is matching last season’s pace for skier visits through the first half of this winter even though local passholders aren’t hitting the slopes as frequently.
Skico’s business is “maybe a little bit up” despite a major difference from last season, according to Jeff Hanle, vice president of communications. In 2018-19, there were numerous big powder Saturdays that lured hordes of skiers from the Roaring Fork Valley and surrounding area as well as Ikon passholders. This year, there haven’t been as many powder days overall, so far, and not the same amount of monster powder days on Saturdays. Nevertheless, snowpack in the Aspen area is at about 120% of median.
“Very steady is what it’s been,” Hanle said Wednesday of this year’s business. “I think we’ve seen fewer peaks and valleys than we did in previous seasons.”
Last season broke a 21-year-old record for skier visits for Skico, with the number topping out at about 1.55 million.
It’s too early to say if this season will keep pace through closing weekend. Aspen’s ski season passed the halfway point Feb. 6.
Fewer big pow days has translated into less enthusiasm among some local residents and the decreased pass use.
On the other hand, use of the Ikon Pass is up at the four Aspen-Snowmass resorts compared with last winter’s debut for the product, Hanle said.
“We’re seeing a significant increase in Ikon Pass use,” he said.
That corresponds with fewer sales of Skico’s Classic Pass, popular with out-of-towners, and the Mountain Collective, a pass that provides access to several iconic resorts.
“The net effect is to make us just about even with last year,” Hanle said of overall numbers for those passes.
The Ikon Pass is sold by Aspen Skiing Co.’s sister company, Alterra Mountain Co. The Crown family, which owns 100% of Skico, is a partner in Alterra. The pass provides access to a collective seven or five days on the Aspen-Snowmass slopes, depending on the version purchased.
Last season, some local skiers blamed Ikon passholders for crowded conditions despite repeated claims from Skico officials that local pass use was the biggest contributor to lift line waits on the busiest days. The Ikon Pass accounted for about 9% of all skier days, according to Skico.
Alterra Mountain Co. CEO Rusty Gregory said there is no doubt the Ikon Pass was a contributor to crowding issues last season at the resorts Alterra owns and affiliates such as Aspen-Snowmass. He attributes that to the buzz around a new product and the great snow conditions.
“It was a super-charged year,” Gregory said.
He said Alterra’s own resorts have made adjustments to deal with capacity issues. Affiliates such as Aspen-Snowmass did, as well. Skico paid for extra bus service to Aspen Highlands from the parking lot at Brush Creek Road and Highway 82, for example.
Alterra sold about 250,000 Ikon Passes last season, according to multiple media reports. While the company hasn’t released its sales figures for 2019-20, Gregory acknowledged, “We sold considerably more passes.”
More passes translate into more business on the slopes. Skier visits at resorts owned by Alterra in Colorado and Utah are “significantly up,” according to Gregory. Eastern resorts are “solidly up” while resorts in California are down, in large part because of a recent dry spell, he said.
“It’s really a solid year of growth for us,” Gregory said.
Aspen Skiing Co. officials are encouraged that business is hanging tight with what became a record season in 2018-19.
“It’s been good,” Hanle said. “We’ve been happy with everything.”
It could be a challenge keeping pace with the skier visits racked up during the last few days of February and first two weeks of March last season. An epic storm cycle dumped prodigious amounts of snow on the slopes and brought out the locals. Pass use was up by as much as 40% at one point last season and ended the season up by double digits.