Merchant pass program sees resurgence in sales
EAGLE COUNTY — Merchant ski passes used to be a common sight at Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek. Then along came the Epic Pass.
Before the Epic Pass — and the 2008 national economic meltdown — local chambers of commerce did a booming business in membership. At one time, the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce had more than 350 members, many of whom took advantage of the merchant pass program. Even while people were buying Epic Passes for employees, though, there were some merchant pass sales. These days, merchant pass sales seem to be growing again.
“We’re seeing a resurgence,” Vail Chamber & Business Association Director Alison Wadey said. “People are realizing how much it protects them, because (the pass) stays with the business.”
That means if an employee leaves a business in mid-season, then that person’s pass is no longer valid. In fact, the business can transfer the pass — but only once — to a new employee for a $100 fee.
The merchant pass is also the same price all season long, Wadey said. The Epic Pass isn’t even available after Jan. 1. In addition to providing an incentive for someone to stick with one employer through the season, the merchant pass also allows employers to track when their employees are skiing.
“If someone calls in sick on a powder day, you can know if they’re skiing,” Wadey said.
While the pass is gaining some popularity, there are some strings attached.
At the Vail Valley Partnership, businesses must either:
• Participate in the group’s Platinum Service Program, which involves mystery shoppers evaluating that business.
• Participate at the $500 level in the EGE Air Alliance — a group that works to bring new flights into Eagle County Regional Airport.
• Attend the partnership’s annual meeting Dec. 8.
Partnership CEO Chris Romer said in an email that businesses that choose to attend the annual meeting don’t have to wait until early December to get their passes.
“They’ll need to write a check that we’ll hold and as long as they attend the meeting, we’ll return the check to them,” Romer wrote.
At the Vail Chamber, Wadey said businesses have to be members of the organization.
While merchant passes seem to be finding their footing again, both Wadey and Romer said not many businesses join just for the passes any more. And both said they’re grateful to Vail Resorts for the program.
“They don’t offer it elsewhere that I know of,” Wadey said. “It’s a great tool and a great community outreach effort on the part of businesses to be competitive. It’s great to have these kinds of tools to retain and recruit employees.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.