Ski industry heavyweights prepare for round two of pass war
The two heavyweights of the ski industry are gearing up for round two of a ski-pass war that has ramifications across the country
Vail Resorts announced Tuesday it’s creating a new option in its arsenal of Epic Passes. The company will offer an Epic Day Pass next season that can be purchased for one to seven days. The new offering is part of what Vail Resorts has branded its “Epic for Everyone” campaign.
The announcement came about one week after new kid on the block Alterra Mountain Co. announced a renewal discount and payment plan to try to entice returning and new customers to its Ikon Pass.
People who renew the full Ikon Pass will get a renewal discount of $30 if they purchase before April 24. It was a clever way of blunting an increase in the pass price of $50. Returning customers will just see a net increase of $20.
The full Ikon Pass is $949 if purchased by the early deadline or $919 with the renewal discount. It offers unlimited skiing to 14 destinations plus up to seven days at additional resorts and a combined seven days at resorts such as Aspen Snowmass.
Aspen Skiing Co. is owned independently by the Crown family of Chicago and isn’t part of Alterra Mountain Co. The Crowns own a portion of Alterra. There is a tight marketing relationship between the companies. The Ikon Pass website touts Aspen Snowmass as “An Icon Among Icons.”
Some residents of the Roaring Fork Valley are convinced the Ikon Pass has made the slopes of Aspen’s four ski areas significantly busier this season. The latest example, they say, was Sunday, a great powder day where Aspen Highlands experienced some of the longest lift lines in memory.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort officials disclosed last month that Ikon Pass holders had accounted for 14 percent of skier days as of mid-February, according to a Feb. 13 article in the Jackson Hole News & Guide headlined, “Riled locals blame Ikon Pass for resort crowding.”
The full Ikon Pass allows seven days of skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Aspen Skiing Co. said it is collecting information on use of the Ikon Pass at Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk.
“We’re still wrapping our heads around all that,” Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said last week.
Alterra also offers an Ikon Base Pass, which is Ikon-light. It offers five days combined to the Aspen Snowmass resorts, among its perks. That pass costs $649 if purchased by the early deadline. There is a $30 renewal discount.
The conditions for use of the Ikon Pass at Aspen Snowmass will remain the same for 2019-20. The full pass will again offer a combined seven days of skiing at the four local ski areas.
Meanwhile, Vail Resorts announced Tuesday that the full Epic Pass will cost $939 for next season if purchased early. It provides unlimited access to the resorts the company owns — such as Vail Mountain, Breckenridge, Whistler Blackcomb and Crested Butte — and limited access to various partners such as Sun Valley and Telluride.
It also offers an Epic Local Pass starting at $699.
The new Epic Day Pass starts at $106 for one day of skiing at any of the company’s North American resorts.
It might take years to gauge the full impact of the ski pass war. This season’s skier days have been heavily influenced by snow conditions. Local season pass use has soared at many resorts, including Aspen, because of excellent snow conditions throughout the season. So, it would be easy to attribute increased to the Ikon Pass when it’s really excellent snow conditions.
It’s also tough to gauge how many Ikon Pass holders previously owned a different pass good at Aspen Snowmass.
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The Little Nell Hotel Group, a division of Aspen Skiing Co., announced Friday that it purchased seven acres of vacant land at the base of Mammoth Mountain. It plans to build a Limelight hotel and residences. The size hasn’t been disclosed yet.