Price of skiing to stay the same in Aspen this winter | AspenTimes.com

Price of skiing to stay the same in Aspen this winter

Jeremy Swanson Aspen Skiing Co.

ASPEN – The Aspen Skiing Co. is holding the line on the prices of its two most popular ski passes and it is resurrecting the two-day-per-week pass, which had been eliminated prior to last season, the company announced Monday.

The Premier Pass – which offers unrestricted access to all four Skico ski areas with no blackout dates – costs $1,099 for members of local chambers of commerce in 2010-11. The price is $1,499 for individuals who aren’t chamber members. Both prices are the same as last season.

In all cases, season passes are cheapest when purchased before a Sept. 24 “super early deadline.” Prices go up Sept. 24 and again on Nov. 12.

“The message there is buy your passes before Sept. 24,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. About 80 percent of season pass buyers heed the advice and purchase before the first deadline, he said.

The Flex Pass prices, good for one day of skiing or riding per week, sells for $699 for chamber members and $819 for non-members, if purchased before Sept. 24. Those prices are also the same as the prior season. Extra days can be added for $49 per day.

The price of Premier Passes was dropped by $200 last season for chamber members and $270 for individuals, so the skiers and riders who hit the slopes most often are paying less than they have since the 2004-05 season.

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“It’s never happened where we dropped the level $200 one season, then held it flat the next season,” Hanle said. The Skico has held its pass prices flat during some seasons in the past, although infrequently.

Even without a price increase, the Skico’s full-season pass remained the most expensive among Colorado resorts. Telluride charges $1,298 but customers can knock that down to $998 per person when four people team to buy passes. Steamboat’s current price is $999 while Crested Butte is charging $949.

Vail Resorts, which is more vulnerable to competition for Front Range skiers, is charging $599 for an Epic Pass, which buys access to Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin as well as Heavenly in California.

Most other Colorado resorts raised their pass prices by a modest amount for the 2010-11 winter.

The Skico’s decision to keep pass prices flat was partially an acknowledgment of the ongoing tough economic times, Hanle said, but there’s also a philosophical statement involved.

“It’s a product of a lot of passionate skiers and riders in the company [who] want to get locals up on the hill,” Hanle said. The Skico will hold prices as low as possible for locals as long as it can still operate profitably, he added. That strategy was demonstrated last season when “as a whole, the valley skied more for less money” because of the drop in Premier Pass prices, Hanle said.

In addition to holding the prices the same as 2009-10 for the major passes, the Skico brought back an old favorite. The two-day-per-week pass is now dubbed the “Double Flex Pass.”

Among people who objected about pass options last season, the biggest complaint was about the loss of the two-day-per-week option. Critics said they could only hit the slopes twice per week, Hanle said. They didn’t want to pay more for the Premier Pass because they knew they couldn’t use all the days. But they also wanted more than a one-day-per-week pass.

The Double Flex sells for $949 for chamber members and $1,199 for non-members if purchased by Sept. 24.

When the two-day-per-week pass was last sold, in the 2008-09 season, the price was $919, so the increase was $30 over two seasons.

Two other passes that were eliminated last season won’t be brought back this season. The seven-day Classic Pass remains buried, and no option will be offered for Aspen Highlands only.

“It’s just a pass that’s outlived it’s time,” Hanle said of a Highlands option. The Skico focuses on “The Power of Four” with its four ski areas – Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk – so it doesn’t want to sell a pass good at only one or two of the areas, he explained.

A five-day Classic Pass is $259, up $10 from last season.

The Escape Pass offers a pay-as-you-go option. It is $319 if purchased by Dec. 17, then $49 per day it is used. The upfront cost is up $20 from last season.

The cost of the five-day Classic Pass is $259, up from $249 last season.

Skiers and riders will get more bang from their bucks this season because the 2010-11 campaign is two weeks longer. The season is 22 weeks, compared to 20 last season.

Aspen Mountain and Snowmass will open Nov. 25 and close April 10. Aspen Highlands will open Dec. 11 and remain open the longest, until April 24. Buttermilk’s season will run Dec. 11 through April 3.

Information about the passes was mailed recently to all passholders from last season.

Passes will go on sale Monday. There are three ways to buy: at the Aspen Mountain and Snowmass Gondola ticket offices, online at http://www.aspensnowmass.com or by calling 923-1227.

scondon@aspentimes.com