Aspen Skiing Co.: Ikon Pass accounts for 9% of visits at Aspen-Snowmass, local pass use up 40%

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times

A sticker pasted at the top of Highland Bowl expresses an opinion about the new Ikon ski pass.
Erica Robbie/Aspen Times file photo

Aspen Skiing Co. senior vice president Katie Ertl said Wednesday that Ikon Pass use has comprised 9 percent of all skier visits so far this season.

Ertl also said that a big change this season has been local pass use, which jumped 40 percent from the previous year.

“We’re tracking all of the Ikon Passes that come into Aspen-Snowmass,” Ertl said at an Aspen and Snowmass Rotary Club event at Elk Camp Restaurant.

The Ikon Pass was the hot topic Wednesday, as a number of local residents inquired about the pass and Alterra Mountain Co. A sister to Aspen Skiing Co., Alterra is the company that created and manages the Ikon Pass. The Crown family, which owns Aspen Skiing Co., is a partner in Alterra.

Ertl said the Ikon Pass is “not going to go away because right now what it’s doing is it’s allowing Aspen-Snowmass to stay individual in its nature and align with its values and its mission, but to participate in the pass race that’s going on right now with Epic and Ikon.”

Ikon Passes for the 2019-20 season went on sale Tuesday. There are two options: the Ikon Pass, priced at $949, offers seven days at Aspen-Snowmass with no blackout dates, while the $649 “base” pass features five days at Aspen-Snowmass with blackout dates. The majority of Ikon skiers at Aspen-Snowmass this season hold the “base” pass, according to Ertl.

The ski company was unable to say how many Ikon passholders visiting Aspen-Snowmass held a different ski pass previously.

All told, skier visits at all four mountains this season are up nearly 20 percent ahead of last year and 4 percent over the prior season.

Ertl, who is senior vice president of mountain operations at Skico, credited this season’s conditions for the boost in business.

Around town, some people are pointing to the Ikon Pass as the culprit behind, at times, exceptionally busy slopes. An underground movement started pasting stickers around the mountains that say “Stop Ikonisizing Aspen.” The sentiment also exists online, whereby new Instagram accounts such as @ikonoftheday or @stop_ ikonisizing_aspen post photos of crowded lift lines at Ikon resorts. Much of the content highlights Jackson Hole, which also is reporting a swell in skier visits this season.

Ertl acknowledged this amid the Ikon conversation Wednesday, noting, “It’s been pretty hot and heated in Jackson Hole.”

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort President Mary Kate Buckley wrote an op-ed published in the Jackson Hole News and Guide on Wednesday “to address rumors attributing the increased crowds solely to the Ikon Pass.”

“Skier days are up 11 percent season to date. … Season to date, local residents make up 39 percent of our total skiers versus Ikon passholders, representing 16 percent,” Buckley wrote.

Buckley said the resort attributes Ikon passholders “as adding 8 percent incremental skier visits.”

One trend that has developed with Ikon Pass use at Aspen-Snowmass this season is strong visitation on Fridays and even more on Saturdays, Skico Vice President of Communications Jeff Hanle said last week. Numbers decline somewhat on Sundays.

The Ikon Pass has sparked conversation among local pass-holders who feel that Skico should offer some reciprocity at Ikon destinations as part of Aspen-Snowmass’ Premier Pass, which costs between $1,389 and $2,284.

“I believe that’s happening,” Ertl said. “I don’t have an answer for that.”

The Ikon umbrella includes 38 ski destinations — “and a few more coming,” Ertl said Wednesday — across North and South America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Skico executives declined to comment further on the question of reciprocity when reached Wednesday.

“What we can confirm is that all Premier passholders are eligible to receive 50 percent off the single-day window rate at any Mountain Collective destination for 2019-20,” Skico chief marketing officer Christian Knapp wrote via email. “This reciprocal benefit has been available since the inception of the Mountain Collective program in 2012-13.”

At some point, the Ikon Pass will replace the Mountain Collective pass, Ertl said at the meeting.

“The thought is that Mountain Collective will dissolve,” Ertl said, noting that she does not know exactly when.