For Skico, kudos and criticism
September 4, 2009
The Aspen Skiing Co. kicked up a whole lot of acrimony when it announced its new season-pass system. We understand much of the controversy – certain passholders are understandably upset that they’ll have to pay more to ski next season – but we’re also amazed at how few skiers and riders have stepped forward to thank Skico for the positive changes.
First, holders of the Premier Pass, the full-boat, four-mountain pass, will save between $200 and $270 off last year’s price, depending on when and how they buy their pass. That’s a great deal for those who choose the company’s most popular pass. So let’s just say it – thanks!
Second, we applaud the company’s “choice guarantee” program, which allows buyers of the Premier and Flex passes to upgrade or downgrade between the two for a modest sum. For many locals who might have purchased a cheaper two-day, one-day or Highlands-Buttermilk pass, the guarantee allows them to take a chance on the pricier Premier Pass, but then adjust later in the season if they’re not skiing as much as they’d hoped to. Similarly, if a skier buys the cheaper Flex Pass, which offers 20 days of skiing plus additional days for $49 per day, they can upgrade easily to a Premier if they find they’re burning through their days too quickly.
This takes a lot of the perceived risk out of the new pass choices, and helps ensure that locals get value for their money. So, thanks again to the Skico.
These are real benefits that deserve recognition. And we’ll take Skico officials at their word that revenue from pass sales will drop (Will food prices rise accordingly?).
We also reject the arguments that, since resorts like Vail have drastically reduced pass prices, that the Skico should follow suit. Vail and its affiliated ski areas are on the Interstate 70 corridor and depend heavily on hordes of Front Range customers, which represent a fairly small subset of Aspen’s visitor base.
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Of course, however, all is not rosy with the new season-pass regime, as numerous locals have observed in recent letters to the editor. Many seniors will pay more to ski, a pricing move we don’t understand. Classic Pass holders will pay significantly more, even after absorbing price increases for several prior years. And there are those who simply liked the way things were – such as avid Highlanders and two-day passholders who skied most Saturdays and Sundays.
These people are the minority – 5 percent of passholders, according to Skico – who lose under the new regime. Their gripes are real, and we feel for them. Systemic changes like this one rarely affect everyone favorably, and this change, however thoughtful, is no different.
Skico officials say the vast majority of customers who call the company to discuss their pass options come away feeling well-served. Given our knowledge of the new system, we believe this is true. The new, simplified season-pass regime will serve most passholders, especially the avid skiers. But it goes without saying that some have been stung by the changes at a time when money is especially tight. Skico should own both the upside and downside of this situation, and take the lumps from the understandably vocal minority.
That’s life. And it’s certainly life in Aspen.