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February 12, 2013
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Letter: Consider affordability to bring Aussies back

Dear Editor:

It has been widely reported in the local press that Australian skier numbers in our resort are dramatically down from the previous year.

As an Australian owner of a Snowmass condo, I can offer observations that should be of interest to others with a similar vested commercial interest in redressing this decline. Indeed without Australian and Brazilian visitors, January would be a disaster.

First the positive:

Well done Aspen Skiing Co. for making the best of a bad snow season. Skico's personnel selection is astonishingly good, particularly the folks who man the lifts - ever cheerful, friendly and helpful - and same for Skico's on-mountain restaurants' staff.

Well done, snow groomers for doing a "loaves and fishes" job, working with so little and achieving the nearly impossible: groomed runs despite little snow coverage. Yes, the groomed runs are less than ideal, but having groomed runs at all with so little snow! Great job guys!

Well done, ski instructors. My daughter and grandchildren recently returned to Australia after a 15-day visit and were taught by several instructors in ski school and the Women's Edge program. Their skiing and snowboarding skills radically improved despite less-than-ideal snow conditions and some frigid days.

Well done Village Shuttle and RFTA bus drivers, invariably pleasant, friendly and helpful. Excellent ambassadors for our resort.

Now for issues I think need to be addressed. Skiing is a competitive industry. Other resorts, particularly in Japan and Canada, compete for the visitor dollar, and they are winning.

1. Airfares from Sydney to Aspen are astonishingly high during the month of January, when Australian schoolchildren have their long summer holiday. The cheapest coach fare we could get for our grandchildren (ages 12 and 14) was around $3,400, almost double the normal outside of school holidays fares. There were much cheaper airfares to Canada and Japanese resorts available.

2. We were unable to buy equipment rental, ski tuition or lift-pass packages for our grandkids from Skico. I emailed them in October (no reply) and called the head of the ski school, who was unable to help. I ended up buying lessons, equipment hire and passes overseas at a considerable cost-saving over buying direct from Skico. This seems silly to me. Never can I understand why wholesalers can sell a product at a lower cost than the actual supplier of goods or services. Even buying overseas, one has to buy item by item instead of buying a package deal.

3. Following on point two, consider affordability. Does anyone in Skico marketing do their sums and calculate what it costs to bring children on a ski vacation? I know bringing our family here this year, renting the gear, buying the lift passes and paying for ski school almost broke the bank. It is like buying an air ticket sector by sector instead of from origin to final destination. A plea then for teenager packages similar to those for younger children.

I suggest that when setting prices, vendors should consider affordability. Having a great product to sell is one thing, but pricing it out of the reach of all but the super-rich is another. Not many of us can afford $500-plus for a half-day, private ski lesson, much as we would like to have one and no matter how great the standard of instruction.

Here's hoping a more family-friendly pricing structure next season will bring my fellow Aussies back to Snowmass.

Ian Sanderson

The Crestwood, Snowmass Village and Sydney, Australia

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The Aspen Times Updated Feb 12, 2013 03:58PM Published Feb 12, 2013 03:57PM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.