Ski-pass wars fought harder in Vail
ASPEN ” While Vail and Intrawest duke it out for a seventh year in a season ski-pass war, the Aspen Skiing Co. is aiming to avoid the fray by insisting its customers get a good value despite paying a lot more.
Vail and Intrawest slashed prices for season passes in 1998 and have kept them at a low level. The price cuts were designed to lure more Front Range skiers to their resorts.
The real winners were locals in towns like Breckenridge, Dillon and Frisco and, to a lesser extent, Vail and Avon.
Intrawest is currently charging $309 for a season pass that gets customers onto Copper Mountain and Winter Park. The price was supposed to go up after May but the early bird special has been extended for an unspecified time, according to a ticket seller at Copper Mountain.
Meanwhile, Vail Resorts is selling its Colorado Pass only to pass holders from last season. The price to renew is $349. New prices are expected in about one month.
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The Colorado Pass is good for unlimited skiing at Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin plus 10 days at either Vail or Beaver Creek. Some restrictions apply. Vail Resorts also offered a Buddy Pass for $309 last season for unlimited skiing at Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin.
The new prices haven’t been announced.
“That’s what locals predominantly purchase in Summit County,” said Kelly Ladyga, spokeswoman for Vail Resorts.
When the ski industry heavyweights opened the price war in 1998, prices were cut from the $600 to $800 range to just over $200. Pass prices remain about half of what they were at the various resorts before the price war.
The Aspen Skiing Co. is unfazed by the price war, according to David Perry, senior vice president for marketing. When the company sets pass prices, it never looks at any competitors’ rates, he said.
In the bigger picture, he said, so-called “destination resorts” that depend on out-of-state tourists rather than Front Rangers have ignored the price war. They are completely different beasts from resorts like Breckenridge, Vail and Copper Mountain, he said.
“Pure destination resorts have been relatively shielded from the price wars,” Perry said.
Perry, who in 2000-01 was the executive director of Colorado Ski Country USA, a state trade association, said the price war is bad for the ski industry. The price war among well-capitalized companies places tremendous pressure on smaller, independent resorts like Loveland and Monarch that are scrambling to survive, he said.
Skico officials concentrate on offering a vast menu of season passes to customers, Perry said. They also try to tailor passes to locals’ needs, ranging from a full pass to a one-day-a-week pass ,and new this year is a pass that can be shared by parents of young children, he said.
Perry said he believes Roaring Fork Valley residents examine the value they receive for their pass to determine whether it is a good deal rather than compare it to other resorts’ prices. Although that may be true, The Aspen Times couldn’t resist a comparison of its own.
The Aspen Skiing Co. raised the price of its full-season pass to $1,129 if purchased with the chamber of commerce discount. The price is $1,579 for individuals if purchased before the first deadline.
Sun Valley just announced that it will charge $1,775 for its unrestricted adult pass for 2005-06. Deer Valley in Utah is charging $1,345. Both resorts have deadlines in October for those deals. Prices climb higher as the season gets closer.
The early deadline for the best price has already passed in Telluride. That resort charged $965 for a season pass through last Friday. The price has climbed to $1,375.
Crested Butte is at $768, Steamboat currently charges $925 and Park City is getting $950.