Ski pass battle intensifies as Sugarbush, Snowbasin join Aspen and partners
The Aspen Times
The Mountain Collective ski pass giveth and Vail Resorts taketh away.
For the second time in six months, the expansion of Vail Resorts has removed a key member of the Mountain Collective ski pass offered by a consortium of resorts including Aspen Skiing Co. But the consortium has again answered with additions to offset the loss.
Vail announced last month that it had entered an agreement to buy Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont. If the sale goes through as expected, Stowe will be removed from the Mountain Collective lineup and join the Epic Pass lineup for 2017-18.
Whistler/Blackcomb was part of the Mountain Collective this season even though Vail Resorts acquired a majority interest in the mega-resort last year. The deal was completed too late for Whistler to pull out of the Mountain Collective. Whistler will switch exclusively to the Epic Pass in 2017-18 after being in the Mountain Collective for four years.
The Mountain Collective isn’t taking the losses without action. It announced Tuesday that it added a new East Coast resort, Sugarbush Resort in Vermont, along with Snowbasin Resort in Utah.
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In addition, the Mountain Collective will provide additional value next season because Alta and Snowbird will be considered as separate ski areas as will Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise. That will give passholders two days at each resort.
The additions for 2017-18 mean that the Mountain Collective will feature 32 days of skiing or riding at 16 destinations that are full members. Complete information is available at http://www.MountainCollective.com
A limited number of the passes went on sale Tuesday for $399. Spring purchasers also get one bonus day at the resort of their choice and a kid’s pass for $1.
Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said Vail Resorts’ purchase of Stowe wasn’t a surprise in the ski industry, so the Mountain Collective members were looking for a new partner on the East Coast. They feel they found a good one, he said.
The Mountain Collective added Telluride and Revelstoke for this season, showing that it is willing to add members when it makes sense.
“We feel we’ve put together some real aspirational resorts,” said Hanle.
Bill Jensen, CEO and partner in Telluride Ski and Golf Resort, said use of the Mountain Collective at Telluride exceeded the company’s expectations this season. It’s been good for the resort as a whole because it has added numerous two- and three-night stays in tourist accommodations, Jensen said.
In addition, the pass is driving new business — music to any resort operator’s ear. Jensen said 80 percent of the Mountain Collective utilization in Telluride is from people who haven’t visited before.
“That’s big,” he said. “We really have felt the benefits of it this year.”
Head ‘em off at the pass
Vail Resorts is currently selling the 2017-18 Epic Pass for $859 for adults. The provides unlimited access to numerous resorts in Colorado — Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin — as well as several outside the state, including Whistler, Park City and Heavenly.
The Mountain Collective provides two lift tickets to each of its member destinations plus discounted tickets. The four resorts operated by Aspen Skiing Co. count as one destination.
Hanle said the two passes aren’t necessarily in competition.
“They’re very different products in what they offer,” he said.
Some people want the quantity of days that the Epic Pass offers. Others want the unique experience that the Mountain Collective members present, Hanle said. The lineup includes some iconic resorts such as Aspen, Jackson Hole, Squaw Valley, Sun Valley, Taos, and Telluride. Some skiers just really relish the experience those towns offer, Hanle said.
“The people buying the Mountain Collective fit into the category that I call passionate skiers and riders,” said Jensen, who noted that some skiers buy both passes.
The Mountain Collective has shown significant growth since it was unveiled for the 2012-13 season, Jensen said. He credited the work on the pass to Christian Knapp, Skico’s vice president, marketing.
“It’s really his baby,” Jensen said.