Editorial

Regardless of whether the steady elimination of season pass senior discounts is personally insignificant or presents a financial burden, you should be aware of the lack of fairness and gratitude exhibited by this new policy.

Through Vail’s EPIC Pass and Alterra’s IKON pass, the companies are advancing elimination of senior discounts, while acquiring more areas. In fairness, some localized Vail Epic passes offer senior discounts. But Alterra’s pricing policy is more draconian because it substitutes its own IKON bundled pass for (most) local area season passes. In doing so, it also eliminates local area senior pass discounts.

Granted, for those who choose to travel to ski, IKON and EPIC offer decent value. But for most Alterra resorts, those who don’t travel but want to ski at one of the Alterra areas are now forced to purchase the bundle.

Why is the elimination of senior discounts unfair? Because areas removing senior discounts still offer student and military discounts.

Why does the elimination of senior discounts reflect a lack of gratitude? Perhaps the most obvious reason is related to our years of participation and support. After 30, 40, 50, 70 or more years of supporting ski resorts, why can’t resort operator’s reward us for our collective loyalty? It’s done in many other industries.

A subtler and possibly more significant reason is the older skier’s role in introducing young people to a  sport whose US  base hasn’t grown in 35 years. The most recent SeniorsSkiing.com reader survey shows that grandparents are a major factor introducing grandkids to skiing and boarding. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents were grandparents. They introduced more than 68% of their grandkids to the sport. Of those, 94.5% continue to participate. Considering that each grandparent or grandparent set has an average of 3.7 grandkids, the influence of older skiers on new skier/boarder recruitment — one of the biggest issues facing the ski resort industry — is profound. Why yank discounts when we’re helping to add new skiers and boarders?

Maybe they think they can boost revenues because we’re an easy and decentralized target. Maybe the people making the decisions have a built-in age bias. Maybe it boils down to old-fashioned greed.

And maybe it wouldn’t be so disturbing if it were fair. But it’s not fair. It doesn’t recognize our decades of support to the industry. It does not take into account that most of us go midweek. And it ignores our role introducing new skiers and boarders to the joys of being on snow.

We’d like your thoughts on this point of view. Please comment.

26 Comments

  1. Donald R MacKay says:

    I have resigned from Hunter Mountain after 40 years for just that reason. The new owners have eliminated first the 70 plus pass and now there is not even a senior pass. My season pass cost has risen over 500% over the past few seasons.

  2. Chris Blair says:

    Vail Resorts are renowned for extracting the last dollar from us.

    The rot started when all the seats were removed from the Lionshead Gondola area – a great place to change your boots, or just enjoy the sun after a long day. Many long years ago.

    Suddenly the only seats were in the restaurants cafes and bars – a very crude attempt to suck dollars from us.

    The next fiasco was giving the lift attendants bonuses to pick up invalid tickets, and each night on TV a there was a gleeful report on the number of invalid tickets confiscated, and people prosecuted. Overzealous is an understatement.

    First time I was pinged my explanations were ignored, and I was detained against my will. Eventually the true story emerged, and me and the rest of the family skied gratis for the next 3 weeks. So I planned ahead for the next fiasco.

    Second time I confirmed my eticket was valid before starting my day, but just in case I held a spare one day pass, one given to me from the previous fiasco. My eticket was then ruled invalid in the lift line, and once again they tried to detain me. I triumphantly removed my eticket, gave the one day pass to the attendant, and skied off despite their desperate cries of woe, seeing their bonus ski away. Once again back at Ticket Head Office more free tickets to compensate me for the angst and time – good thing I knew I was dealing with a pack of corporate vultures, and prepared accordingly. Even confirming my eticket at the office did not stop them from attacking me.

    However hard they try they cannot take away the joy! And I get a wry smile thinking of the days I got the best of them, in a very sticky situation or two.

    So a very adversarial culture, coupled with pressure from above to meet short term KPIs, no wonder they act that way. Very typical of Wall Street businesses looking to boost short term earning so executives get big bonuses.

  3. Companies can set whatever prices they want and issue whatever discounts they want. Consumers of any age can vote with their wallets. I do agree it’s not a great marketing strategy on the growth of the sport, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to unfair or even ungrateful. Just greedy and short sighted.

  4. Andy Smith says:

    Fairness is seldom, if ever, a factor in business decisions. It’s economics, plain and simple. If enough senior skiers and their families do not buy the new, undiscounted passes, changes may come. I personally know two families who own property in Steamboat but who will not be skiing there next season because of the Ikon pass.

  5. Bonnie Olson says:

    We rarely ski on weekends or holidays. Plus, we don’t usually ski the entire time the mountain is open. And, we like to treat ourselves at mountains restaurants, especially at areas that offer senior discounts. Finally, it’s fun to introduce children to the sport.

    I’m 72and have been skiing for 40 years.

  6. Mike Burns says:

    When I turned 70 I was going to buy a season pass to Crested Butte. I live in Virginia and go every year to CB. It would not have saved any money to speak of, just convenience. That year, they dropped the policy. I did not buy the season pass. Now I look for every way to get a discount on day tickets.
    Was not happy.

  7. sam goetz says:

    Vail’s attitude was always , if you can’t afford to ski here, don’t bother to come. More so now. The Amazon of skiing.

  8. My midweek pass increased $30 for 18/19 and last season was not valid weekends at end of season when area operated only on weekends. Maybe it’s time l get better at golf!!

  9. Rebecca Timson says:

    An equitable discount policy would be to offer a free or deeply discounted pass to any skier with 30 non-consecutive years as a passholder, regardless of pass type (ie inclusive of discounted, employee and full-paid passes) This would reward customer loyalty, as well as employee service. It would be based on actual loyalty rather than age, but of course would benefit older skiers. It would not penalize folks for years off due to injuries or other life circumstances.

  10. The soul of Vail is in real estate, not skiing. As a corporation, the financial bottom line is only what matters. The instructors, patrollers, wait staff, or all the service staff do not enjoy the benefits of the real estate munificence.

  11. Sad state of affairs.. just plain greedy.. 🙁

  12. Bruce Boeder says:

    I’m a baby boomer, age 67, and have always assumed that senior discounts would be eliminated at some point because there are so many baby boomers who are still fit and skiing.
    Plus, as pointed out, the days of ski areas being owned by enthusiasts is long gone. It’s a business, plan and simple, and those who don’t make a profit end up going out of business
    If you don’t like paying the big bucks there are several alternatives – XC skiing, smaller ski areas that aren’t being gobbled up by the big two or skinning up and skiing down,

  13. After skiing at Killington for 56 years I bought an Okemo senior pass for next year. If they deop the senior pass I will go back to Killington

  14. Dave weaver says:

    I’m 71, been skiing 40+ years. Taught my kids to ski in Upstate NY, then introduced them to western skiing. Mammoth (no pun!) improvement, right?.
    It was a fun, exciting, affordable vacation for our family. All things being equal, I’d be hard-pressed to take my family from Ohio to CO for a week long ski trip at today’s prices. My grandkids live in TX. I own a small cabin in the CO mtns. I had to choose between the IKON & Epic (couldn’t do both); and got no senior discount on either. I so want to teach my Grandkids to ski, but their parents were shocked when we calculated the cost – including free accommodations at my place. Certainly I’m aware skiing is a pricey sport. I get it. But, in my opinion, the industry (in their greed – ??) is not setting the stage to increase younger generations, either directly or indirectly. Vail is another story, as their mind set is a bit different than most – to reiterate the above post “If you can’t afford to ski/participate here…….oh well”. Ask them how their snow conditions were this year – ? Terrible!
    Fluke year, or global warming ? Makes one want to ask – wouldn’t it behoove Vail Corp to attract more skiers – not for today, but for future generations of snow sports lovers ??

  15. John Caspers says:

    OK, I’ll play devil’s advocate…
    This senior skier thinks the Epic and Ikon passes are the best thing to happen to the sport in my life time, perhaps surpassed only by the invention of the chair lift in the ski industry. I personally don’t know any senior skiers that can’t afford them. Lets face it, most seniors that ski aren’t poor. Both passes are cheaper than many of the single area passes of old, discount or no discount. I’m purchasing both passes this season. And I’m not going to complain one bit because I didn’t receive an entitlement whose justification comes off to me as a bit questionable and maybe even a little selfish.
    But we’re all entitled to our own opinion.

  16. Rex Cochran says:

    For years Snowshoe did not offer a Senior discount; every year I would call for rates and when no discount for seniors was available I told them I always take my family on a ski vacation where I get a discount…sorry. They now offer a discount for Seniors…I hope I had something to do with that. Last year I took them ALL to Seven Springs, Pa.

  17. Chris Blair is spot on. I gave up on greedy Vail years ago. I live on western slope of Co. kids and grand kids learned to ski at Powderhorn, Sunlight,and Monarch. I love Wolf Creek. mmm, no big corp. owns them. I will ski free at Monarch next year at age 69. I got the epic pass last year and skied from New Mexico up to Banff and Revelstoke and the common denominator was CROWDED! I will stick to BC skiing and the mom and pop areas, heck you can even park the van for free overnight at wolf creek

  18. David Lounsberry says:

    I have promoted and taught my children, their friends and parents, my grandchildren and some of their friends, and numerous friends the joy of skiing, the beauty and freedom of just being on a ski slope. As I approached 65 I was looking forward to skiing free but they moved the age to 80. My wife and I are 77, but now they have eliminated the discount ( forget skiing free). This great IKON pass is out of sight for most of us seniors. Few of us can pay for airfare, lodging and meals even if we have a pass to ski all over the country. Mammoth is our skiing home and we have a second home there. Now we pay more and have blackout days for holidays and we are not rewarded for our contribution to the skiing economy. Dave McCoy would never have allowed this!

  19. Have been skiing at Stratton since 1975 and have introduced many to skiing. Doing away with senior discounts and the stratitute pass are a big mistake. Don’t think I should be skiing free but at the age of 85 I should get a break!!!!

  20. Perhaps these passes that provide packages that many people do not desire, will result in a substantial decline in senior skier visits. They can purchase day tickets online in advance for lower prices on their fewer days on the slopes. Seniors must quantify meaningful numbers delivering midweek business rather than simply claim age as a justification for lower prices…perhaps compare to the reasons for student and military discounts. Which of these groups provide the most business?

    • Lee Kniess says:

      Interesting only one post brought up the fact that “SENIORS DELIVER MIDWEEK BUSINESS rather than simply claim age as a justification for lower prices.” Last winter I went on the 70+ Utah Ski Safari. We skied at Alta, Snowbasin, Brighton, Solitude, Park City, Snowbird, and Deer Valley. I also skied at Aspen, Taos, Telluride, Wolf Creek and Ski Santa Fe. None of these areas had any real lines midweek. It makes GOOD BUSINESS SENSE to offer Midweek Senior Discounts! This winter I will be using the Epic Military Pass and skiing at Taos’s Not Forgotten Outreach along with FREE skiing at Ski Santa Fe.

  21. Douglas Welch says:

    I’ve been skiing over 50 years and for the past few I’ve enjoyed the deep discounted senior ticket. I don’t intend to travel around to ski the country so neither of the big company passes are of any value to me. So I ski at Monarch. Yes its small and I often spend most of my time on just a few runs. But for more than 30 times last year, my wife and I blasted those runs as best we could. Next year, I’m free at Monarch. This policy is short sighted and will cost them in the long run. I much prefer the small family owned ski areas. They have forgotten why they are in business.

  22. This is what happens when too few own too much. In the business world skiing has become an oligarchy owned industry. They start by buying up all of your alternatives. They explain themselves by saying that the season ticket prices are less expensive than 5 day passes. Then the day pass prices double and now even more. Oh yes and the black out dates are on, they place lifts on wind hold with no wind, and they close the season as soon as possible. It’s a little like a 1/2 price sale at an overpriced store. Sure it’s half price yet still 25% above retail which is found at the store down the street. And here’s the rub, the store down the street was just bought by Vail.

    In 25 years from now when the sport has experienced limited or no growth and us baby boomers are going to our graves, where will the ski industry be? No skiers and no one to take our place. But Vail could care less. Remember this “Vail, there is a place”. We do but they don’t!

  23. Dennis Pecoraro says:

    I gave up sending emails about no senior discount with the Ikon Pass. Purchased it before the early season cutoff date. This past season I had Steamboat’s Senior pass and was able to spend six weeks there at my son’s place. Next year is costing more but still a lot cheaper than daily lift tickets. Who knows, maybe I ‘ll get to use it at Killington and Stratton.

  24. Terry Patti says:

    Mt. Sunapee has been sold out to Vail. Sunapee was a wonderful place to ski with reasonable prices for all including seniors. I was planning on taking my 9 year old granddaughter to ski here this coming season. Being 70 years old if there is no senior discount we will be skiing elsewhere.

  25. Alan Cort says:

    The conveyance of the lease of the ski facilities at Mount Sunapee State Park in New Hampshire to Vail Resorts is not entirely a done deal. Here is an excerpt from the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests governmental news letter explaining why:

    Sarah Stewart, the new Commissioner of the NH Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR), which includes the NH Division of Parks and Recreation, started her job on June 4. Both she and Governor Chris Sununu received calls early that morning advising them of the impending announcement of the sale. Attorney General Gordon MacDonald and Commissioner Stewart sent a joint letter to Governor Sununu and the Executive Council on June 15 explaining the complex transaction, including their view that the proposed transaction as it relates to the Sunapee lease must be reviewed and approved by the State before it is executed. They also announced a public review process that will include at least one public information meeting at Mount Sunapee State Park before the State decides whether or not to approve the transaction.

    If, as is noted elsewhere in these comments, Vail’s real interest is in development, this comment, also from the Forest Society’s newsletter, is particularly interesting:

    The transaction will also include the conveyance to Vail Resorts of some 600 plus acres of land in Goshen, NH privately owned by Tim and Diane Mueller. The Mueller’s Goshen land shares a common boundary with the ski lease area within MSSP. This land is in part the location of an expansion plan for the ski area known as the “West Bowl Expansion”, approved by the State in 2016 but yet to be built.

    Sounds like more to come, especially if the State seeks to modify the lease agreement before approving the transaction.

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