Aspen avoids ski pass war, season pass prices going up $25 to $50 | AspenTimes.com

Aspen avoids ski pass war, season pass prices going up $25 to $50

The pass war that is sweeping the ski industry has bypassed Aspen and Snowmass by design.

While Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Co. are dueling over customers with $899 season passes that are good at multiple resorts, Aspen Skiing Co.'s 2018-19 pass prices are increasing between $25 and $50 over this season.

A Premier Pass — good for unlimited skiing or snowboarding at Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk — will cost $1,899 next season. That's up $50 from this season's $1,849.

The Premier Pass purchased by an employee working for a business that belongs to a chamber of commerce in the Roaring Fork Valley will cost $1,389 next season (a $40 increase from $1,349 this season).

Skico is staying out of the pricing fray even while its sister firm, Alterra Mountain Co., is in the thick of it. Alterra is co-owned by the Crown family, which wholly owns Aspen Skiing Co.

Alterra's Ikon Pass directly competes with Vail Resorts' Epic Pass.

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The Ikon Pass includes seven days of skiing at the four resorts of Aspen-Snowmass, but Aspen did not want to open the floodgates with unlimited skiing via that cheaper pass.

"In the recent consolidations we chose to remain independently owned and operated and feel that allows us to give our customers the experience they desire and expect when they ski here," said Jeff Hanle, Skico vice president of communications.

The pass-price war is clearly about attracting big numbers of skiers. A study for the National Ski Areas Association, a Denver-based national trade association, showed that 41.2 percent of total skier visits in 2016-17 were through season-pass usage. Pass sales were up 11.5 percent nationwide last season, NSAA said, and the average passholder skied 10 days.

Alterra and Vail Resorts are playing a numbers game. Aspen-Snowmass is not.

Since the mid-1980s, Skico has aimed for quality over quantity through its pricing policies.

Hanle said Skico officials "believe our passes offer a tremendous value to our loyal guests."

"Our passholders who purchase and use the pass that fits their use best receive a tremendous value from their pass, no matter which one they decide to purchase," he said. "We continue to reinvest in the operation and feel we offer an unparalleled experience in the industry."

Skico revealed its season-pass prices earlier than ever this year even though they won't go on sale until Aug. 13. Alterra announced the price of the Ikon Pass in February. Prices for that pass go up May 1. Vail Resorts announced the price for the Epic Pass shortly after the Ikon's debut.

"We wanted to announce pass pricing early this year so purchasers can make an informed decision about which pass will work best for them," said Christian Knapp, Skico's chief marketing officer.

Skico's best prices will be offered during a super-early period, which runs Aug. 13 through Sept. 14. Skico will offer the Double Flex and flex passes, good for two days and one day per week, respectively, as well as the Classic Pass.

The Double Flex pass, good for skiing two times per week, will increase from $1,494 to $1,539.

The Double Flex purchased via a chamber of commerce will increase from $1,199 to $1,239.

The Flex Pass, good for one day per week, will increase from $1,019 to $1,049. Through a chamber of commerce the cost will increase from $879 to $904.

Those prices are for the super-early period. The complete list of passes and prices is available at aspensnowmass.com.

Skico officials expect the Ikon Pass will eat into its pass sales to some degree.

"We will have a better idea after this season exactly what that impact will be," Hanle said.

However, Roaring Fork Valley residents are primarily interested in Skico passes. Skico decided at least once in the 1990s to "hold the line" on pass prices after a tough season. It was a way of recognizing the tough times on local workers. However, it's going with the same sizes of increases for 2018-19 that are typical for the company.

"We consider many variables when setting prices for the coming season, including business levels and the costs of doing business," Hanle said. "While we will certainly see a dip in skier visits this season, occupancy in town was quite strong and by many accounts many businesses had excellent years."

scondon@aspentimes.com

SKICO SEASON PASS PRICES

Premier Pass (unlimited skiing)

2018-19: $1,899

2017-18: $1,849

Premier Pass (chamber)

2018-19: $1,389

2017-18: $1,349

Double flex (two times per week)

2018-19: $1,539

2017-18: $1,494

Double flex (chamber)

2018-19: $1,239

2017-18: $1,199

Flex Pass (one day per week)

2018-19: $1,049

2017-18: $1,019

Flex Pass (chamber)

2018-19: $904

2017-18: $879

2018-19 Ski Season Dates

Aspen Mountain, Nov. 22, 2018 – Apr. 21, 2019

Snowmass, Nov. 22, 2018 – Apr. 21, 2019

Aspen Highlands, Dec. 8, 2018 – Apr. 14, 2019

Buttermilk, Dec. 8, 2018 – Apr. 7, 2019

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