Vail Resorts slashes Epic Pass prices by 20 percent
Reset lowers pass products to prices last seen in the 2015/16 season
Vail Resorts is turning the clock back on its Epic Pass prices to reward loyal customers following a trying year. On Wednesday morning, the resort operator announced that it is lowering the price of passes by 20% across the board — a reset to prices last seen during the 2015-16 season.
Wednesday’s announcement was mostly welcomed by some locals, with others expressing some reservations.
Longtime Vail resident Mark Gordon said the announcement on its surface “seems pretty great.”
Gordon has ownership interests in both a real estate company and a local bar. As a business owner, Gordon said Vail Mountain is perhaps the primary driver of visits to the town. Lower pass prices will help drive visitation, Gordon said.
And, he added, he expects the move to benefit local residents, too, especially those who have seen their incomes drop due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I see nothing but good things about it,” Gordon said.
Cutting costs for locals applies to business owners who buy passes for their employees.
Venture Sports owner Mike Brumbaugh said he buys about 100 passes for employees every season. That means his business could save roughly $20,000 next season.
“It’s a nice gesture for Vail Resorts to do that,” Brumbaugh said. “It’s a good (public relations) move, too. There’s nothing wrong with either one of those things.”
Troy Goldberg, owner of Troy’s Ski Shop in Vail Village, said he’s excited about the announcement, and believes lower pass prices will help drive more guest traffic to the area.
But Pete Seibert Jr., son of Vail Mountain co-founder Pete Seibert, questioned the wisdom of the decision.
Seibert said he wishes Vail Resorts would return to his father’s philosophy of quality over quantity.
Seibert noted that Vail Resorts in recent years has increased lift capacity at Vail, but hasn’t added any skiable terrain.
“Why discount what should be the best skiing experience?” Seibert asked.
Margaret Bowes is the director of the I-70 Coalition, a nonprofit organization of governments and businesses along the Interstate 70 mountain corridor. Bowes said it’s possible that lower pass prices could increase weekend congestion on the highway.
“I just hope we can work with the resorts to get more people into transit or carpools,” Bowes said.
A response to last season
Vail Resorts’ move comes a little more than a year after COVID-19 cut the 2019-2020 season short. The company temporarily shut down all of its North American resorts on March 14, 2020 — a decision that became permanent in the days that followed.
The company was then forced to reinvent the on-mountain experience at all of its resorts in just eight months to pull off a ski season in a pandemic, which included launching a much-scrutinized reservation system to limit crowds.
“The ski industry, our company and skiers and riders everywhere just navigated the most challenging season we have ever encountered” Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said in Wednesday’s release. “Because of the growth and loyalty of our pass holders, we were able to ensure this season was a success, with full operations across our 34 North American resorts, even amid a pandemic. Today, as we double down on our pass strategy by dramatically reducing our pass prices, we are excited to make it easier for everyone to move into a pass, and we remain fully committed to ensuring continuous improvements in the guest experience.”
Katz, in a letter to pass holders on Friday, said the company will be getting rid of its reservation system starting next season.
“The new prices announced today not only provide value to existing skiers and riders, but we also believe they will contribute to the growth and vitality of our sport as we bring new people and higher engagement into the industry, which we think is imperative,” Katz said. “We also believe these lower prices will benefit our financial results based on new learnings from the past few years.”
Katz added that over the two seasons the company has had its Epic Day Pass, the company has discovered customers who weren’t previously in its databases. People who switched from single-day tickets to pass have tended to ski more frequently, and have used more ski school and rental services.
“When we launched the Epic Pass 13 years ago, we began a journey to offer incredible value, flexibility and access to pass holders in exchange for a commitment before the season starts,“ Katz said. ”Since then, we have added 32 resorts to our portfolio to give our pass holders more choice, and watched how they more naturally spread out their skiing over the course of a season. We have also invested over $1.5 billion into the guest experience with industry-leading technological innovations and numerous on-mountain capital improvements.“
Pass coverage is included
The price reduction applies to all Epic Passes, including Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass and Epic Day Pass; Whistler Blackcomb Unlimited, Whistler Blackcomb Day Pass and EDGE Cards; Summit Value Pass, Tahoe Local and Value Pass, and Northeast Value and Midweek Pass; Military Epic Pass and Adaptive Pass; and many more.
Epic Pass products are now available at EpicPass.com for the 2021/22 winter season.
The Epic Local Pass is now available for $583 (down from $729 last season) and the full Epic Pass is priced at $783 (down from $979 last season).
With the price reduction, the Epic Day Pass, which provides the same season pass value to guests who want to ski or ride just one to seven days, gives guests the chance to visit resorts including Vail for just $87 with a one-day pass (compared to a $219 lift ticket) and as low as $74 a day with a seven-day pass.
Epic Pass products will also provide pass holders with significant savings on the rest of their mountain experience. Epic Mountain Rewards offers pass holders 20% off on-mountain dining, lodging, group ski and ride school lessons, equipment rentals and more.
All 2021/22 pass products will come with Epic Coverage, at no additional cost, which provides refunds for personal events like job loss, injury or illness, as well as for certain resort closures, including closures due to COVID-19.
“Much like in 2008 when we launched the Epic Pass, it can be counterintuitive to think that providing value to our guests by lowering prices will also drive value for our company,” Katz said. “However, we believe the price reduction will drive incremental revenue, given our comprehensive lineup of pass products that can fit any guest’s needs, our personalized and data-driven marketing efforts, and the fact that the vast majority of all visits from our passes occur at our network of owned and operated resorts.”
Scott Miller contributed reporting.