Lemon: Vail’s Epic pass may be just the ticket
Vail, CO Colorado
An “Epic” pass for an “Epic” season – so trumpets the http://www.epicpass.com web site. (For those of you who have been on another planet, Vail Resorts is offering an unlimited ski pass for next season for the price of $579). I am not sure why a pass named “Epic” bothers me after all the epic movies, epic tales, epic heroes we have been bombarded with recently. It is almost an epidemic of epics. But endemic to all epic epidemics is the dilution of the epic to something more akin to BIG, surpassing the usual or ordinary (Merriam’s seventh definition). But somehow the “BIG” Pass might not attract, so in the grand tradition of Hollywood, VR churns out the EPIC Pass.
VR hopes, of course, that there will be epic crowds, and epic profits of colossal proportions while the Town of Vail worries that there will be epic-sized traffic and parking headaches of monumental magnitude.
We will know in a year how successful the new Epic Pass is, depending on your definition of success. Right now, it depends on who you ask. The Town of Vail is horrified that Vail Resorts didn’t contact them when offering this pass to plan properly for the parking. But VR claims they have five years of statistics on this topic. The current Colorado Pass, which was available in the $400 range, gives you unlimited skiing at Breck and Keystone and 10 days at Vail. Historically, only 2.5 days are used at Vail. So those Colorado Pass people would have unlimited access to something that they don’t fully use now. Therefore, according to Vail Resorts, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be a million more people paying more than they could have had with the Colorado Pass … it just means that they think they can go skiing anytime they want. They are the ones filling the parking garages on the weekends, the so-called dreaded, no-spend day trippers.
The destination skiers come for a week. Anyone who comes in by airplane usually expects a full week of good skiing. The Epic Pass is perfect for them. Just $579 for unlimited skiing in five different ski areas with, more importantly, no blackout dates. They will book their second trip out here to really justify the pass. I hear from real estate clients daily that they have bought it “never mind that they only skied four times this year.
The classic dilemma for the rest of us remains unresolved ” so much skiing and so little time. We all have dreams of skiing the 40 days a year, but the reality is that getting to ski 10 is doing well. Work and other commitments seem to get in the way. How many of us have joined an athletic club and paid the dues up front with the goal of going every week to the gym? (All of us at some time or another.) We feel great when we buy the membership and imagine all our days getting in shape at that club. The Epic Pass is the same thing. Our tourists and even locals will buy this pass and feel great. They will be skiing 10-20 days next season. They know that because they bought the pass. The reality may be different but the feeling is the same. VR understands the psychology of the up-front purchase. And VR made it possible.
A further reality is that the economy is slowing down and recession is looming. VR may be anticipating this downturn and is doing everything to drive business to the valley. While many of us would like to argue otherwise, we are dependent on the ski industry here for much of our income. Hotels, restaurants, contractors, and all of the real-estate-related services are dependent on the tourist industry. Vail Resorts is helping all of us by offering this pass to generate the traffic we all need here next season. We will all benefit.
We may have parking headaches, but as locals we are not the ones walking half a mile carrying skis and snowboards. We may see a few more people on the mountain as well during peak times. We need to stop complaining, and hope the ploy works. We may be the only ski area full next year, and the others will be wishing they thought of it first. Now all the pass purchasers have to do is show up.
I am still not sure about the name “Epic.” But here’s hoping it’s not a colossal failure.
Heather Lemon of Eagle-Vail writes a biweekly column for the Vail Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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VAIL — The lift operator in the maze at Vail Village’s Gondola One tilts his head back and hollers: “Masks up please!”