Merchants grumble over Vail pass price
November 7, 2007
VAIL ” Mark Tamberino calls Vail and Beaver Creek mountains’ $869 merchant pass “uncalled for.”
Tamberino, owner of Kirby Cosmo’s BBQ in Minturn, cannot afford to help his employees buy the pass, he said.
With the price of the pass having risen $140 in the past three years, along with other pass costs like a $75 class for business owners and another fee to a business association such as the Vail Valley Partnership, Tamberino and others say Vail Resorts should lower the price.
Vail and Beaver Creek’s merchant season pass has increased 31 percent in the past seven years, outpacing the price of an adult lift ticket.
“These are the everyday workers that keep this valley running,” Tamberino said.
“These are the people that provide the hospitality to the people who are here spending the money,” he said.
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In the past few years, the increase in price of the merchant pass has outpaced that of an adult lift ticket. The price of a merchant pass rose 31 percent since 2001; the cost of a lift ticket has increased 21 percent since 2001.
“The merchant pass provides a terrific value to businesses,” said Vail Mountain Spokeswoman Jen Brown, adding that a regular season pass for Vail and Beaver Creek mountains is $1,849 this season.
The lack of affordable housing and the increasing cost of living make it more difficult to attract people to the Vail Valley to work, said Andy Kaufman, owner of Minturn Saloon. The increasing cost of the pass is a part of that equation, he said.
“It’s unfortunate that Vail Resorts doesn’t do more to help the total picture and not just look at their own situation,” Kaufman said.
Kaufman only buys a pass for his kitchen staffers and for people who have worked at Minturn Saloon for several years, he said. Other employees set up a payment plan for their passes through the restaurant, he said.
“I don’t want to make them out to be the ogre here,” Kaufman said about Vail Resorts. “It’s just somehow, we’ve got to come together.”
Jim Glendining, owner of The George in Vail, said the rise in costs of merchant passes does not make a difference.
“It’s a cheap ski pass” compared to other ski resorts, he said.
Richard Wheelock, owner of Agave in Avon, buys a pass for key employees while others set up a payment plant, he said. Along with other rising costs in the valley, the cost of the merchant pass has forced him to raise wages, he said.
“I have to pay my employee more to live,” Wheelock said. “It’s kind of a trickle-down effect.”
Randall Knipmeyer, general manager of Finnegan’s Wake in Avon, called the merchant pass a “bit excessive.”
“When you look at [the price] ” at the other mountains around us ” it’s almost twice what they’re charging us,” Knipmeyer said about the cost of Vail and Beaver Creek mountains’ merchant pass.
Vail Resorts charges $409 for skiing at Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin and $40 more for 10 days at Vail and Beaver Creek mountains, Brown said.
Vail and Beaver Creek’s merchant pass has more benefits than a Summit County season pass, she said. (Vail Resorts does not have a merchant pass program for the Summit County mountains.)
Tamberino hopes that the Ginn Development Co., which wants to build a private ski resort south of Minturn, will set up a merchant pass program, he said.
“It’s getting ridiculous for a small business in town to be able to provide this service to employees,” Tamberino said.
Ginn is considering one, said Cliff Thompson, director of communications. But the ski resort won’t be built until “two or three years” after ” and if ” Minturn town councilors approve Ginn’s proposal, Thompson has said.