Extended ski season at Aspen, other resorts builds ‘snow equity’
Ski resorts are wise to extend their seasons when snow conditions allow because it builds confidence about the following winter in the minds of consumers, according to travel industry expert Ralf Garrison.
At least four ski resorts in the state have determined they will remain open longer than originally scheduled. Aspen Skiing Co. announced Thursday that the season will be extended by two weekends at Aspen Highlands — April 23 and 24 and April 30 and May 1.
Vail extended its season to April 17 after originally planning to close April 10. Copper Mountain will reopen April 22 to 24 after closing April 17. Winter Park’s Mary Jane territory will remain open until May 7, although the closing date for the rest of Winter Park remains April 24.
While the bonus days are obviously a boon for skiers and snowboarders who can make it to the slopes, it also sends a message to customers back in Chicago or Los Angeles that the snow conditions remained good or actually improved late in the season.
“We’re preselling next season,” said Garrison, director of DestiMetrics, a Denver-based firm that tracks occupancy rates and bookings for mountain resorts in six Western states. He coined the phrase “snow equity” to describe the psychological effect. Resorts build snow equity when there is a positive experience or outlook on snow conditions, he said.
For better or worse, some people base their perception of the following season based on snow conditions during the current season.
Christian Knapp, vice president of marketing for Aspen Skiing Co., said Colorado continues to be the “gold standard” in North America for consistent snowfall year in and year out. Extending the season at Highlands reinforces that.
“A strong season definitely drives momentum into next year, and we’re seeing spring pass sales reflect that trend,” Knapp said. “Loyal guests have always been a strength of Aspen-Snowmass, and a season like this helps reaffirm that position.”
Skico sent direct mail pieces last week to customers who purchased a four- or seven-day Classic Pass. They are urged to renew their classic pass immediately. As incentive, Skico offered a fifth or eighth day, depending on the pass purchased, at the same price. The bonus day has to be used prior to Dec. 16 next season.
Skico’s weekly email to customers, “What’s Happening at Aspen Snowmass?” informed readers Thursday that 7 more inches of snow fell, making it 22 inches in the past week.
“No, we’re not kidding,” the email said.
Knapp said Skico officials believe that snow equity works with destination guests — residents from outside the state who take overnight trips — as well as with customers who buy season passes.