Aspen Skiing Co. prices passes for the masses | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Skiing Co. prices passes for the masses

ASPEN – The Aspen Skiing Co. unveiled new pricing for season passes that provides hefty discounts from last season for skiers and riders who hit the slopes most often.

And new options add flexibility – but don’t give financial breaks from last season – to skiers and riders who can hit the slopes only once or twice per week.

The simplified pass options with price breaks and new payment systems were a response to the recession, according to Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. A Skico team started assessing what to do with season passes for the 2009-10 winter back in January. Skico officials realized some businesses might not be able to offer ski passes to their employees this season, and that individuals buying their own passes might be facing financial stress, he said.

“What we’ve come up with will give the greatest number of people a chance to ski more for a lesser amount of money,” said Hanle.

Aspen/Snowmass passes go on sale Monday, Aug. 24. The biggest discounts are available when passes are purchased before Sept. 18.

The biggest winners are people who buy Premier Passes, which allow unlimited skiing during the 137-day season with no blackout dates. The early price is $1,099 for buyers who work for businesses that belong to a local chamber of commerce. That is $200 less than last season.

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For non-chamber members, the Premier Pass is $1,499 or $270 off last season’s price.

The Premier Pass will be priced the lowest since the 2004-05 season. The price drop isn’t a precedent. Hanle said Skico records show the price was dropped $100 for the 2000-01 season.

Hanle said the Premier Pass is the highest-selling Skico pass. When including Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club passes, student passes and senior passes, the various premier passes account for about 67 percent of pass sales.

The Skico axed is two-day-per-week, one-day-per-week, 20-day and Highlands/Buttermilk passes. Instead it is offering two new passes.

The Flex Pass will be sold for $699 to chamber members and $819 to non-members if purchased by the early deadline.

The Flex Pass is good for one day on the slopes per week throughout the 20-week ski season. Flex Pass holders can add days at any time for $49 per day.

An analysis shows the Flex Pass wouldn’t be economic for a person who purchased a two-day-per-week pass last season. A pass buyer who selects the chamber-member Flex Pass this season and then spends $49 to ski once more each week of the 20-week season would spend $1,679 for the equivalent of the old two-day pass. Last season’s two-day pass cost $919 with the chamber discount if purchased early.

Here’s another way to look at it: If a person buy a chamber-member Flex Pass and buys 10 extra days of skiing or riding over the course of the season, they would spend more than if they purchased a Premier Pass.

“Ultimately it’s our goal to get people to ski more,” Hanle acknowledged.

Last season’s one-day-per-week pass cost $684 with the chamber discount, so the Flex Pass is a slight increase from that rate.

The Skico also is offering a new option called the Escape Pass. It costs $299 up front and requires $49 per day validation. If used once per week throughout the season, the cost would be $1,279. It would be penny wise but pound foolish for someone who skis once per week or even close.

However, it helps people who are cash strapped and have trouble coming up with a lump sum at the start of the season, Hanle said.

The Escape Pass is the same price for chamber and non-chamber buyers. Hanle said it also might be economic for out-of-town residents who spend a chunk of time in area during the winter.

In another new wrinkle, the Skico will offer five-day Classic Passes this year for $249. In the past, four- and seven-day Classic Passes were offered.

Every passholder from last season will get some coaching from the Skico on which pass option would be best for them this season. Hanle said a personalized letter will be mailed to each passholder. It will analyze their pass purchase from last season and offer guidance on what route they might want to go this season. Those letters should arrive late this week.

The Skico isn’t expecting more revenue from pass sales this season. The new system will probably raise the same amount, Hanle said.

Pass information will be available at the Skico’s website at http://www.aspensnowmass.com.

Other tidbits of information released by the Skico Wednesday include:

• The ski season will be the same number of days as last season. Aspen Mountain and Snowmass will operate from Nov. 26 to April 11. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk will be open Dec. 12 through April 4.

• Direct-to-lift access will be provided to skiers and riders with the Flex, Escape and Classic passes. Passholders can provide credit card information and complete an agreement when purchasing the pass. That way, they can skip the ticket office when they add or validate days on the slopes. They will be automatically charged on their credit cards.

• The Skico will have 100 percent automated gates on its mountains this season for passholders and lift ticket buyers. Lift operators won’t scan passes; the 40 gates automatically read them. The Skico believes the hands-free gates mean less time in lift lines.

scondon@aspentimes.com