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Vail’s $85 ticket tops Aspen

Preston Utley/Daily file photoA ski industry analyst Vail and Beaver Creek mountains will have to provide an $85 experience if that's what Vail Resorts is charging for single-day lift tickets at the resorts.
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VAIL ” Mitch Call probably wouldn’t pay $85 for a lift ticket at Vail.

“Not unless it’s a ripper of a day,” said Call, a seasonal worker from Australia.

Dan Hartzog probably would.

“Vail has the highest status,” said Hartzog, a visitor from Austin, Minn., who is in Vail for a week. “It’s the epitome of the ski slopes.”

Vail and Beaver Creek posted the $85 price last week. It’s the most expensive lift ticket in the nation this year, edging out Aspen’s highest daily lift-ticket price of $82.

Hartzog said if people don’t like the price, they’ll go somewhere else.

“It’s the price of demand,” he said. “If people want it, they’ll pay.”

But neither Hartzog nor Call actually paid the $85 price. Call has a merchant pass and Hartzog was using a medallion.

That highlights the argument from Vail Resorts that many skiers pay less than the top price through pass deals, such as the Colorado Pass and the local merchant pass. Last year, Vail Resorts reported that it got $41.83 in lift-ticket revenue for each skier visit across its five ski mountains.

Vail and Beaver Creek’s lift tickets were $77 in 2004-05 and $73 in 2003-04.

“(The $85 price is) a reflection of the quality of experience at the resorts as well as the cost of operations,” said Vail spokeswoman Jen Brown.

Consumers tend to associate price with value, said Ralf Garrison, a ski industry analyst with The Advisory Group.

“If it costs a lot, you think it’s high rent,” Garrison said.

But if Vail Resorts doesn’t follow through with making the $85 worth it, customers won’t come back, Garrison said.

“They set themselves a high-jump bar with an $85 lift ticket, because if they don’t supply $85 worth of value, that guest is a candidate to consider another resort for their next trip,” Garrison said.

But as the No.1-ranked ski resort in this year’s SKI magazine’s poll, perhaps Vail has a better chance than anyone to deliver at that price.

“I wouldn’t want to put any other resort up to it if Vail can’t do it,” he said.

Ski resorts need to be careful that they don’t scare away the hard-core skiers who give skiing its “enthusiasm and energy and gusto,” Garrison said.

Clay Humphries of Opelika, Ala., said he paid the $85 price.

“We didn’t fuss about it,” he said. “It’s a beautiful place.”

The only problem was that he was worn out after skiing just a few hours. He got $14 back for skiing just a half day, he said.

Jane Conolly and Eric Pan of Washington, D.C., said they got a small discount off the full price because they are former Colorado Pass holders. They both said the price is too high.

“But they can do it because people pay for it,” Conolly said.

Pan said he’s not sure he’d ski at Vail next year if the lift ticket costs, say, $90.

“I might go somewhere else,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.


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