How will Vail’s Epic Pass affect chambers of commerce? |

How will Vail’s Epic Pass affect chambers of commerce?

Scott N. MillerVail, CO, Colorado

After the initial rush of Vail Resorts Epic Pass passed, the questions started, including: Where will all the new tourists park? Will big-spending destination skiers be soured on Vail because of a flood of Front Range and local skiers hitting the slopes on holiday weekends? Why would anyone volunteer to work on the mountain, or work part-time at the ski school, if they can land a pass for less than $600?There are more questions like these, of course. But todays big question is how the Epic Pass is going to affect the valleys chambers of commerce.One of the big benefits of chamber membership has been Vail Resorts Merchant Pass, a pass priced a bit lower than a regular season pass, with the added benefit of being transferable, meaning a small business owners and employees could share the thing. Since only a few of us get 100-day seasons in any more, it was a good deal for everyone. Its probably also the only reason a lot of businesses joined any of the valleys merchant groups.With the Epic Pass, anyone can buy a pass for unlimited skiing and riding at five resorts for $579. Although the 2008-09 Merchant Pass is priced the same as the Epic Pass, is transferable and will be available after Nov. 16 the Epic Pass will only be sold until Nov. 15 its going to be interesting to see how it affects membership in the valleys business organizations. One business owner who called this week said flat-out he now has no reason to join any business association.Interviewed for another story earlier this week, Steve Rosenthal of the Vail Chamber & Business Association said that group is uncertain how the Epic Pass will affect membership, butis expecting a drop. The number of paying members determines what kind of services a business group can provide, and while the Vail chambers Web site lists a number of membership benefits including merchant passes at the Vail Golf Club the merchant ski pass is by far the biggest.The Vail Valley Partnership is facing a similar situation. We do expect to lose some members, Partnership President Michael Kurz said. But, he said, he expects his group to be able to weather the dip.The Partnership has more than twice as many members as the Vail Chamber. It also has a bigger staff and a lovely suite of offices in the Traer Creek Plaza Buliding in Avon. But it also has a big reservations department.In an impromptu interview at Wednesdays after-hours mixer at the Sonnenalp, Kurz rattled off a list of member benefits the Partnership has many similar to those the Vail Chamber provides and said hes confident his group can withstand any membership losses.If forced to predict something Im notoriously bad at Id guess that both upper valley chambers will survive, not without some pain. Reservations and a broader menu of other benefits will probably keep the Partnership going, and there are likely enough people like Rosenthal who believes Vail business owners need a merchants group dedicated entirely to Vail issues to keep the Vail Chamber afloat.But Kurz may have the best perspective on the situation.I expect the Epic Pass to generate lots of business for the valley, he said. Whatever member losses we have, this means more revenue for everybody.Thats probably a pretty good prediction.Business editor Scott N. Miller writes about valley business every Saturday. Contact him at

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