Bigger Better?

With the Aspen KSL Capital Partners acquisition of Stratton VT and Mt. Tremblant, PQ, and Vail buying the iconic Stowe VT resort, it appears the ski industry has passed a tipping point. The trend is now toward nation-wide reach, corporate management and marketing, multi-resort passes that can be used from coast to coast, and certainly more choices. These multi-resort passes are formed through acquisition and merger of resorts or through collaboration between individual independent resorts.

The good news is that the ubiquitous pass idea—Epic, Mountain Collective and others—gives the skier lots of opportunities for variation and actually brings the price of skiing down if you ski a lot. These passes give you, for example, two days skiing at designation resorts and half-price tickets if you want to ski more. Passes are on sale now for next season and, if you’re interested, now is the time to buy.

On the other hand, what about senior discounts for the less active skier? Stowe currently has a Super Senior Card (70+) that reduces lift ticket prices to as little as $44 a day. The question is will new management sustain these in the future? Vail gives seniors a five percent discount for day lift tickets at the home base resort in Colorado. For example, a regular adult ticket in late April is priced at $123; seniors 65+ pay $113. Granted it’s Vail, but that’s not much of a discount. What’s the point, Vail?

We know from reader surveys that seniors like discounts and deals. Perhaps we will see second tier areas who do encourage seniors with nice discounts and amenities benefiting from new traffic, especially from those who ski less than 10-20 days a season. Perhaps seniors will gravitate to where the lift prices are always reasonable. Perhaps local, mom-and-pop areas will get a boost from seniors re-discovering the benefits of smallness.

We will be watching.

7 Comments

  1. Bill Hettich, Bainbridge Island, WA says:

    Crystal Mountain here in Washington just went private. The senior rate has been $40, down from $70, we’ll see if they hold the discount next season. Crystal is now part of only a handful of mom & pop, resort type skiing, operations left. Season ends this Sunday. With the installation of new snow making machines, they hope to open before Thanksgiving next fall.

    • Michael Maginn says:

      Hi Bill: What does “going private” mean? Is this a membership club now?

      • Bill Hettich says:

        Michael: Private ownership. Crystal has been purchased by John Kircher. Boyne Resorts has owned the property for many years. John is the son of the founder of Michigan based Boyne Resorts and lives at Crystal, he loves the place. He plans to invest 5 million on upgrades in preparation for next season. This has been a good year for Crystal; Mother Nature has supplied abundant snow and cool weather.

  2. Resorts are gravitating from lodging to season passes as the king of revenue. The Epic reportedly sold 650,000? What will season pass revenue be after adding all those areas? I’ve heard that some areas have a million dollars of season pass sales on the books that account for the people who purchase season passes but never even show up to the area. Yes, there is no incremental income from people who never visit the resort, but there’s Not much extra expense associated with the sale of season passes compared to running a lodging operation.

  3. David Hoffman says:

    I am 74 and have bought the Epic local pass for the past 5 years. I live in NY but I ski Breck, Keystone and Beaver Creek a total of12 to 15 days. The Epic pass pays for itself after 4 days. The pass now costs $640. When I asked Vail Resorts Mgmt if they would offer a Senior discount on this pass, they said I am already getting a discount by multiple days of skiing.

  4. marc liebman says:

    Great editorial…. My gut tells me that more consolidation will lead to fewer benefits to seniors unless we can prove to ski area management companies that we are an economic force to be reckoned with.

  5. It is unlikely that resorts offer discounts because older skiers “have earned it.” The senior discounts are trying to encourage more visitation or midweek visitation associated with older skiers. If older skiers identify a resort as their favorite, there is a good chance they’ll bring their extended family skiing there. It would be interesting to know the %age of older skiers among those who purchase the EPIC Pass or season passes at ski resorts. While surveys tell us that seniors skiers love discounts, can we imagine any age group that does not love discounts?

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