Aspen Skiing Co. pass prices up $40 to $50 | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Skiing Co. pass prices up $40 to $50

ASPEN – Ski pass prices for the 2011-12 season are going up 3 to 4 percent over last year, the Aspen Skiing Co. announced Thursday.

“It’s still a great value. [We’re] holding the line as best we can,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. The increase in prices is partially a reflection of the company’s higher cost of doing business, such as higher fuel and power costs, he said.

Passes go on sale Monday, Aug. 15.

As is always the case, Skico’s pricing attempts to get buyers to join the chambers of commerce in Roaring Fork Valley, and it tries to get people to commit early. Skiers and riders who purchase their pass before the Sept. 16 “super-early deadline” get the best prices. Members of a chamber of commerce reap substantial discounts on pass prices compared to nonchamber members.

The Skico is offering a similar lineup of passes as years prior, except for a tweak with Classic Passes. Last season the Skico offered only a five-day classic pass. After customer complaints, it killed the five-day Classic and resurrected the four- and seven-day Classic Passes.

The Skico did not revive a Highlands-only pass, as some customers have requested.

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The Skico’s two most popular passes are going up $40 to $50 over the prices last season. The Premier Pass for buyers who qualify for a chamber of commerce discount increased from $1,099 last season to $1,139 this season; that is a $40 increase or 3.5 percent.

The Premier Pass for buyers who don’t qualify for the chamber of commerce discount increased from $1,499 last season to $1,549. That is an increase of $50 or 3.3 percent.

The Premier Pass allows for unlimited skiing without blackout dates. Special variations of the pass are available for seniors and youth.

The Double Flex Pass for adults, which entitles buyers to two days on the slopes per week, increased in price from $949 to $989 for chamber members, an increase of 4.2 percent. The Double Flex pass price increased from $1,199 to $1,249 for buyers who aren’t members of the chamber.

The Flex Pass, good for one day per week, is $729 for chamber members, up 4.3 percent from the $699 charged last season. The price increased from $819 last season to $849 for buyers who aren’t chamber members.

The seven-day Classic Pass is $329 and the four-day Classic Pass is $199. They cannot be combined with any other pass. New Classic passes must be purchased in person. They will be available at various Colorado locations starting Sept. 2. Sales dates and locations will be online at http://www.aspensnowmass.com/classicpass.

Class passholders from last season can renew online or by telephone from Aug. 15 to Nov. 13.

The Skico’s Premier Pass price increases are the first in three seasons. The company dropped the prices of its Premier Pass in 2009-10, then kept the price flat in 2010-11.

“Our prices are still significantly below the 2008-09 season,” Hanle said.

He used the price of the Premier Pass for buyers who don’t belong to the chamber to prove his point. That pass was $1,769 for the 2008-09 season. It is $1,549 this season.

Hanle said world, national and local economic conditions were considered by the Skico committee that set the prices. The Roaring Fork Valley’s economy is better now than it has been since the 2008-09 season, although there is a lot of uncertainty right now, he acknowledged. Overall, the economy hasn’t returned to where it was, and pass prices haven’t either, he said.

The Skico feels its passes provide a good value for the experience. They can be used at all of Skico’s four ski areas. The Skico isn’t trying to match ski resorts “around the corner and down the road” on pricing, Hanle said.

Vail Resorts’ Adult Epic Pass is $649; it offers unlimited access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado as well as Heavenly and Northstar-at-Tahoe.

While he didn’t compare to any other resorts by name, Hanle pressed the point that skiers and riders at Aspen and Snowmass encounter fewer people on the slopes and in the restaurants than at many other Colorado resorts.

“It’s a different business model. We’re not trying to fill the lift lines and pack the restaurants” by offering discounted prices, he said.

While some Skico customers complain about prices, he believes a larger continent feel the price is worth the experience. “Most locals realize they’ve got the best skiing experience in North America,” Hanle said.

The Skico’s press release about pass prices also hints that the modest increases are justified, based on the experience last season: “Last year was an outstanding winter for snowfall that saw increased pass usage from opening to closing, and in all pass products,” the press release said.

The Skico also noted it is making $26 million in capital improvements this year: the new $7 million Tiehack Express chairlift; a $6 million remodel of the Merry-Go-Round at Aspen Highlands; and the first phase of construction of a new $15 million restaurant at Elk Camp at Snowmass that will open for the 2012-13 season.

Direct mail pieces explaining all the pass prices and benefits were scheduled to be sent Friday, Hanle said. The Premier Pass comes with numerous discounts, such as four vouchers for anytime during the season for 50 percent off a one-day ticket. It provides a discount for friends or family, Skico said. The Premier Pass also comes with a discount on season parking prices at Highlands and Two Creeks at Snowmass.

Ski season is 104 days away. Opening day is Nov. 24 at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk open on Dec. 10.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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