Aspen Skiing Co. uses credits, potential refund to sweeten pot for pass purchasers
Aspen Skiing Co. is trying to ease concerns of wary customers by allowing anyone who buys a season pass for 2020-21 to cancel their purchase as late as Nov. 20 if coronavirus destroys the ski season.
Skico said pass purchasers will get a full refund if the season doesn’t pan out.
The company also announced over the weekend that it will give credits of as much as $250 for the coming season in acknowledgement that last season was cut short. The ski season ended abruptly March 15 when Colorado Gov. Jared Polis ordered all ski areas to close.
People who purchased a 2019-20 Premier Pass without the chamber of commerce discount will receive the $250 credit.
“These are our most loyal customers and it felt right give back something because the season was shortened,” Jeff Hanle, Skico vice president of communications, said Friday.
The credit amounts for the other passes have not been announced yet.
Non-chamber Premier Passes go on sale Monday for $1,999, which is an increase of $100 from last season. They must be purchased by July 15 to get the lowest price.
The two-day-per-week, one-day-per-week and chamber passes will go on sale in “mid-August,” Skico said. Hanle said there will be modest increases in price, though he hasn’t seen the amounts yet.
In another step designed to encourage purchases, every customer will have the option of placing a $99 deposit on their pass and pay the balance by Sept. 1.
All pass purchases can be canceled through Nov. 20, Hanle said.
“We’ll give you your money back.”
The credits can be used to purchase a new pass or other uses. They can be spent on lift tickets, summer lift access and other services, ski or bike lessons and rentals starting immediately. Skico also said the credits can be contributed to Skico’s Caring for Community Fund, which provides grants to local nonprofit organizations. Skico will match all donations up to a total of $250,000 through July 15.
“We believe this plan strikes the right balance, thanking customers for their loyalty and recognizing the shortened season with the credit, while offering assurance for next year with a full refund available up until Nov. 20,” Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan said in a statement. “It also offers customers an opportunity to make a contribution to the health and recovery of the place they love by making a contribution that we will match up to $250,000. Finally, it provides financial flexibility for people by allowing them to lock in the best available price with a small, refundable deposit.”
For the second consecutive season, all Premier Passes will include an Ikon Base Pass, which offers access to 41 ski areas around the world.
The seven- and four-day Classic Passes can be renewed starting Monday for anyone who had a Classic Pass for 2019-20. The seven-day pass is $429 through July 15 and the four-day price is $269. Purchasers can pay a $49 deposit to lock in those lowest prices. (Passes are available at aspensnowmass.com and by calling 855-272-2340.)
Classic passholders will receive two $49 early- and late-season lift ticket vouchers and one bonus day valid in early and late season. In addition, unused days from the 2019-20 Classic Pass can be used for summer 2020 lift access at Aspen-Snowmass resorts.
Skico is the latest in a long list of ski-area operators creating incentives to try to ensure customers return to purchase passes. The two giants in the ski industry already extended purchase deadlines, offered greater price breaks for renewing customers and are giving customers options in case the 2020-21 season is canceled.
Alterra Mountain Co., Skico’s sister resort operator, is offering “Adventure Assurance,” which allows the 2020-21 Ikon Pass to be deferred to winter 2021-22, if necessary. Alterra also extended deadlines for the Ikon Pass purchases and increased the discounts for renewing purchases to try to boost sales.
Vail Resorts offered 2019-20 season passholders credits of at least 20% for unused days from last winter. Vail Resorts also is offering cash refunds for pass purchases in case of resort closures because of COVID-19 and for job loss and illness.
At this point, the Colorado ski industry is counting on being open for the 2020-21 season. However, uncertainty hangs over the season with questions remaining about how large size of gatherings will be allowed by health officials and whether there will be another surge of the coronavirus in the fall — spooking people out of traveling.
Skico said the tentative operating dates for the 2020-21 season are Nov. 26 to April 18 for Aspen Mountain and Snowmass, Dec. 12 to April 11 for Aspen Highlands and Dec. 12 to April 4 for Buttermilk.
Hanle said no one can say right now if ski season will proceed as planned.
“There are too many unknown things to make an informed decision on that,” he said. “We can’t speculate on what’s going to happen in November.”
He noted that ski season is progressing as planned in New Zealand this season. There is a chance Arapahoe Basin in Colorado might be able to open up for summer skiing, if the snowpack holds and state health regulations allow it.
Aspen Skiing Co. will work on a plan for social distancing and separating customers in restaurants, Hanle said.
“We’re all working on way to make skiing as safe as possible,” he said.
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