I was surprised to see the flier in the mail last week from The Snowmass Club announcing the new lower cost for joining and enjoying the facilities. It wasn't the half-price initiation fee or the dues that are beginning to approach reasonableness with an olive branch extended that caught me off guard. It's that this didn't happen sooner.
Can you believe it's been four years since the wheels came off and the model for making it in this town blew up like a Tijuana Taxi 1:320 scale replica on the Fourth of July, with the trunk full of cotton balls soaked in rubbing alcohol and a Black Cat jammed in its tailpipe by a group of boys with a box of matches? There's nothing left but the smell of burnt plastic and airplane glue.
I truly thought when the stock market crashed with the housing market trailing close behind would have been the time for the folks at The Club to cry "uncle," but it didn't work out that way. They had a plan and they stuck to it. I remember that plan pretty specifically because I felt singled out not to be a part of it.
Not that it's any of my business where I can afford to hang out, but coming up just short of announcing that regular folks were no longer welcome at the former town gathering spot, it became very clear that plain folks weren't welcome at The Snowmass Club any longer. Trust me, if I noticed that the riff-raff began to drop like dumbbells on carpeted flooring around there, you can bet the people in the backroom counting the money noticed long before that.
It wasn't that the proprietors didn't want to make money; it's just that they didn't want to wait around while it bled in slowly from the locals. If they could double the price and end up with only half the people left there, it would be all the better. Initially the revenue would be the same, but with only half as many people hanging out it would give the place an air of exclusivity that would eventually draw in three times as many people and then they could double the prices and have more members and cash flow than ever. Locals shmocals; money talks and locals walk. And we did, as they prodded us with a stick and a doorman held the exit door politely open for us.
The crazy thing is that this plan of theirs led to the plan of ours to build a taxpayer subsidized recreation center for us. Basically, wealthy taxpayers, many of whom are members of The Club, built and continue to pay for the upkeep of the community health club. This is not a complaint by me. I only bring it up to show how firmly everyone believed in the old model.
Who would have ever guessed that this town isn't big enough for two health clubs? Better question: How do I know it's not? That's easy. How else can you explain the drop in prices at The Club? You know one thing - it's not an introductory promo to attract all the new timeshare owners at Base Village. Folks, in case you don't recognize it, we have a health club price war going on and The Snowmass Club just fired the first shot.
No, it's not a full-on battle yet. But, what did you expect? The majority of current Club members paid outlandish amounts to be members there. Even the recent smallish price cuts reek of unfairness and took some nerve to even test the waters with. I don't care how you look at it, if you paid a hundred grand for a golf membership five years ago, you are not going to be pleased if the new member holding you up on every hole got in for half price.
Remember, part of the sales pitch in '07 was that you had an equity interest in your membership and could resell it if you decided you wanted out, not that anyone cared back when you actually might have been able to. At any rate, you know The Snowmass Club is serious about getting people back on the monthly dues list.
It will be interesting to see how this settles out. Both clubs will not survive as they exist today. One will have to become something else and most likely at great expense. If I had to guess which, I would say the one that is helping to subsidize the other is the most likely candidate.
Roger Marolt continues to watch in amazement the renaissance redo of Snowmass Village. Contact him at email@example.com.