Skico: Next year’s tickets to cost $68 | AspenTimes.com

Skico: Next year’s tickets to cost $68

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Earlier than ever, the Aspen Skiing Co. has decided its single-day lift ticket prices next winter will be higher than ever, at $68.

Last year, the company’s peak-season rate was $66, a dollar less than what Vail, Deer Valley and Telluride charged. For the two years before that, Skico ticket prices peaked at $65.

Several years ago, the Skico wanted to reduce the attention paid to its highest priced ticket, so it stopped announcing its single-day rate each fall and left it in the “to be determined” category. And it heavily promoted the price of its most steeply discounted tickets.

This year, in a policy change, the company has come out with its ticket price earlier than ever before. And it doesn’t feel there will be negative consequences to raising its top price by $2.

“I don’t think it matters much from a consumer standpoint,” said John Norton, Skico chief operating officer. “We can’t be outrageously priced, and I don’t think we are.”

Norton said the decision stems from the Skico actively listening to its customers.

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“In all of our research, and we’ve done more research in the past 12 months than ever before, we find that a buck or two on the ticket is not going to change the decision to come to Aspen/Snowmass,” he said. “People again and again tell us it is the four mountains and the total resort package that Aspen/Snowmass presents.”

Ironically, the company’s decision to reveal its high-price lift tickets was based on the desire to tell more of its customers about its low-price lift tickets, which are available until Dec. 1.

For the fourth season in a row, the Skico is offering discounts on lift tickets bought by Dec. 1.

The preseason discounts started in the 1999-2000 season with a $39-a-day rate on a seven-day ticket. The tickets were dubbed “the Millennium” tickets.

Last year, the lowest-priced ticket from the Skico was bumped up to $49.

For the upcoming 2002-03 season, the daily rate on a seven-day ticket bought by Dec. 1 will be $51.20.

And since a discounted price of $51.20 doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as $39 or $49, the Skico decided to position its low price as “20 percent off” the walk-up, ticket window price.

Once it got to 20 percent as a sales incentive, it had to answer the question, “Twenty percent off of what?”

“In the past, when people would ask `How much am I saving?,’ we would have to say `Trust us,'” Norton said. “Now we can be more specific. But to do that, we had to make it transparent. And to do that, we had to come forward with our ticket pricing.”

The best rate for a lift ticket comes in the seven-day pass if purchased by Dec. 1. The price is $358, or $51.20 a day. That is 20 percent off the walk-up window price of $448 for a seven-day pass, which works out to $64 a day.

And the reason the Skico wanted to set its discounting prices is to help boost early season sales and get people to commit to taking their vacation in Aspen/Snowmass.

“Now is the time when our partners in the lodging community, our wholesale partners and our own marketing department are producing sales materials,” Norton said. “And we wanted to give our partners the opportunity to include the pricing information.”

And by announcing its pricing structure in April, the Skico is also mixing up the standard ski industry game of keeping ticket prices close to the vest until just before the lifts open.

“Clearly, our hand is on the table, and we can see how other resorts react to that,” Norton said. “If we are the highest, we’re talking about a buck. And if we’re not the highest, we’re talking about a buck or two. And I don’t think that plays into the guy’s decision when he is making vacation plans.”

When asked about how the average valley resident might feel about spending $68 to ski for a day, Norton said that’s why the company offers its locally sold Classic Pass, which last year offered four days of skiing for $99.

“We are selling more and more of those,” he said. “The sale of Classic Passes was up 40 to 50 percent this season.”

Season pass prices have not yet been set by the Skico for next winter.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see them move upwards, but not in any significant manner,” Norton said.

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