Vail slashes season ski pass price
VAIL, Colorado ” Vail Resorts had its eyes on visitors from places like New York, Dallas and Mexico City when it conceived the “Epic Season Pass.”
But on Tuesday, locals were celebrating the new $579 season pass, which will chop hundreds of dollars off the price that many paid this year.
“It’s about time they did something for the locals,” said Jesse Reis, a snowboarder from Gypsum.
The $579 Epic pass will be good for next season at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly and Arapahoe Basin and have no blackout dates ” and anyone can buy it.
The pass is only on sale until Nov. 15. The price could rise before then, said Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz.
For this season, an unrestricted pass cost $1,849. The merchant pass, which many locals buy through their employers, cost $869 this year but will match the Epic price next year.
Vail skier Jay Spickelmier said he saw positives and negatives in the new pass.
“It’s nice that VA (Vail Associates) is doing that,” he said, but he wondered whether it would create more congestion on the mountain.
Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said the pass is targeted at so-called “destination” visitors ” people from other parts of the country and world that vacation in Vail.
Katz said he wanted to give them the options that a season pass affords ” whether that means skiing for a couple of hours in a day, or even returning to Vail for a second or third trip in a winter.
“One of the things that people really enjoy is flexibility,” Katz said.
The pass will bring more people to Vail during less busy times such as before Christmas and in January, Katz said.
The lowered pass price is also a gesture to locals, Katz said. It comes after a steady rise in the merchant pass over the last four years, from $729 to $769 to $829 to $869.
“There’s a point in time that different things make sense,” Katz said.
Some worry that the new pass will exacerbate Vail’s parking problems. Cars now line the frontage roads on busy ski days. But the pass won’t attract a lot more Front Range visitors, the source of many of those cars, Katz said.
“We’re not going to be any more crowded during peak times,” he said.
Ralf Garrison, a ski industry analyst with the Advisory Group, called the announcement a “brilliant” marketing move.
“In this day and age, things have to be really bold or they don’t really stand out,” Garrison said.
People from other parts of the country crave the bragging rights of a season pass, he said.
“They want to be treated like a local and feel they are being catered to,” Garrison said.
Also, a cheap pass lets Vail Resorts steal skiers from its competitors, such as Intrawest’s Copper, Steamboat and Winter Park, he said.
Intrawest sold an unlimited Copper-Winter Park-Steamboat pass for $999 this year. Copper spokeswoman Lauren Pelletreau declined to comment on how Intrawest might respond to the Epic pass.
The pass can also help Vail get more business from the other services it offers, Garrison said. Vail Resorts gets money from hotels, restaurants, ski-equipment rentals and sales, and ski school.
And a lot of buyers may not use the pass very much, giving Vail Resorts the revenue without having to provide a lot of services, Garrison said.
But some worried that the cheap pass may jeopardize Vail’s high-end reputation. People who spend lots of money to come to Vail don’t want to encounter lots of crowds, said Kaye Ferry, executive director of the Vail Chamber and Business Association.
“No one’s going to want to spend $2,500 a dollar a night for a room at the Arrabelle so they can fear for their lives with their grandchildren on the mountain,” she said.
Bob Rodriguez of Covina, Calif., skiing Vail for 10 days, said he probably wouldn’t buy the pass.
“If I could get away for that much time, I would,” he said.
Instead, he buys the $419 Colorado Pass, which offers 10 days at Vail and Beaver Creek.
Dick Reinhart, a skier from Dallas, said the Epic Pass wasn’t for him. He uses a senior discount when he comes to Vail.
“Can’t beat it,” he said.
Still, Vail Resorts had sold 500 passes in about four hours on the morning of the surprise announcement, said Kelly Ladyga, spokeswoman for Vail Resorts. Most were from out of town, both domestic and international, she said.
“All our call centers have been flooded,” Katz said, adding that some thought the price was an April Fool’s joke.
Some business owners said they liked the idea of the pass bringing more people to Vail.
“The more people, the better,” said Steve Kaufman, an owner of the Tap Room.
Broomfield-based Vail Resorts, trading on the New York Stock Exchange, closed Tuesday at $42.65, up $2.33.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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