Cheaper in Aspen?
December 15, 2006
Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN When the Aspen Skiing Co. raised its single-day lift ticket price to $82 last week it was temporarily the highest among U.S. ski resorts. Vail wasted no time trumping Aspen by raising its price from $77 last week to $85 this week.The battle to be most expensive is no accident. For years, Vail gave Aspen the crown. Vail would wait until Aspen established its regular season price, then set its own lift ticket price one dollar lower.Vail reversed strategy about five years ago and set its price above Aspen for a single-day lift ticket.While having the most expensive ticket might be a source of embarrassment for some locals in Aspen and Vail, it carries some weight with customers.”There is a strong presumption among consumers that price indicates quality and prestige,” said Meg Campbell, associate professor of marketing at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado at Boulder.Price is an important factor that companies use to position their brand, Campbell said. By carving out a spot at the top of the price list, Aspen and Vail theoretically send a message that “signals to consumers this really is the best.”Vail used to follow a “me, too” strategy by pricing itself just below Aspen, Campbell said, then it decided it didn’t need to follow any longer, she said.The change in strategy seemed to coincide with Vail’s efforts to wrestle the premium image away from Aspen.Ski resorts contend the media pays too much attention to the single-day lift ticket price. Only a few skiers and snowboard riders pay that highest price at the ticket window because so many discounts are available, industry officials have said for years.But, Campbell said consumers are well aware of the pricing. Extensive research shows they do connect premium pricing with quality, she said.Don’t expect Aspen to try to overtake Vail in the single-day lift ticket price during Christmas and New Year’s. “That’s it” for increases said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle about the pricing.The $85 ticket is the highest Vail will go, according to an employee at the resort’s reservations center.Deer Valley used to hang with Aspen and Vail in price, but not anymore. Its single-day lift ticket price during the holidays will be $79, according to the Utah resort’s web site. Telluride is also at $79 while Stowe, typically among the highest priced ski areas in the east, is at $78 for the holidays, according to their websites.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.