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.

12 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?

  6. Well, Steamboat has raised its senior pass (70+) from $500 to $700 over the past 2 years but has at least added Winter Park to the mix next year. Aspen has a lower senior pass age and offers great deals for senior tickets. With the consolidation, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

  7. While not advertised as such, midweek passes are to some extent senior passes. While most individual mountains and the Peak Pass offer less expensive midweek passes the Max Pass doesn’t. I think it would be in their best interest to boost midweek visits by offering a midweek pass. I have the Max Pass but feel I’m paying a premium for days I won’t ski; weekends, holidays and vacation weeks. While this didn’t keep me from getting the pass it will keep me looking for better deals.

  8. There are still some great Sr. Colorado deals out there. If you are 70+ Loveland has a $99 season pass which also includes three days each at Purgatory, Crested Butte, Monarch and Snow Basin in Utah. A-Basin has a $75.00 season pass for 70+ skiers and Monarch has a $20.00 season pass for 70+ skiers. Yes there are still some areas that take care of their seniors.

  9. We have been using various versions on the Epic Pass now for 7 years and it has been an absolute boon for us. $300 for a Keystone Pass, ski $18 days and you are under $20 a day. Ski as much or as little as you want, ski the best times of the day are a huge benefit for us. At $100 a day, we would be skiing 7 days a year, now we can stay for a month and ski as we please. As a retired person, these passes are fantastic!!

  10. Just finished reading Ski, Inc. by Chris Diamond (pretty sure I saw it recommended here in Senior Skiing), A very good look at the ski business from the management side over the last 40 years or so. Some really good insights into the big players and the impact of multi-resort passes. I highly recommend it to all Senior Skiing readers, especially in light of this editorial and the comments it is generating.

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