Skico ski pass onhigh end in state |

Skico ski pass onhigh end in state

It’s probably little consolation to Aspenites that the only people paying more for season ski passes in Colorado are residents of Vail and Beaver Creek.

An analysis by The Aspen Times shows 10 of 12 major resorts in the state charge less than the Skico. Only prices at Vail and Beaver Creek are higher.

It comes as little surprise that the Skico cannot come close to matching the prices charged for season passes by the resorts battling for a Front Range market share.

Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Loveland and Winter Park are waging a ferocious battle over Denver area skiers for the second straight year. That has driven the price of passes as low as $248.75. The high price among that group is $349.

Perhaps more surprising is that the Skico is on the high end of the range among the resorts that aren’t locked into the battle for Denver skiers. Steamboat, Crested Butte and Purgatory all charge less for a full-season, unrestricted pass. Vail even higher Telluride’s early-bird price was lower than the Skico’s price on a premier pass. However, Telluride started charging more than the Skico once the earliest deadline passed.

Telluride charged $895 for a full-season pass through July 30, according to resort spokeswoman Virginia Lucarelli. The price skyrocketed to $1,425 after that deadline, she said.

That’s in the ballpark of Vail’s and Beaver Creek’s season passes. They charge $1,449 for an unrestricted season pass, but buyers get a lot for their money: Those passes are also good at Breckenridge and Keystone, which are owned by Vail Resorts Inc., and at Arapahoe Basin, which operates under a marketing agreement with Vail.

So, for $1,449, a resident of the Vail Valley can buy a pass that provides access to 10,802 acres of skiable terrain that’s served by 93 chairlifts.

The Aspen Skiing Co. charges $979 for a full-season, unrestricted pass for employees of businesses that belong to the resort associations in Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. The price goes up to $1,149 after Oct. 2. Room to roam Skico officials have always touted the lack of crowds and diversity of terrain their areas provide. The higher price for season passes is warranted by a higher-quality experience, officials have repeatedly said.

They also note that they provide more season-pass options than any other resort in the state. That allows residents to purchase the pass they can best utilize.

The Skico’s premier pass provides unrestricted skiing access to 4,780 acres of terrain served by 39 chairlifts.

Skico Chief Operating Officer John Norton said last week that the company continues to view its passes as a good value for valley residents, despite the Buddy Passes available at other resorts.

The lift lines frequently encountered at other ski areas simply don’t exist at the Skico’s four areas, except at a few peak times, Norton has noted in the past. And fewer lift lines means more room to roam on the slopes without crowds.

Crowds have become such a troubling issue at some Front Range-oriented resorts that Copper Mountain and Breckenridge have installed six-person chairlifts.

When the heavily discounted Buddy Passes came out before the 1998-99 season, Norton said he was surprised that ski resorts would be willing to dip that deeply into their revenues with the discounts. The prices they charged wouldn’t cover the costs of providing services, he said.

“If I saw a bunch of people shooting themselves in the foot, I don’t know that I’d join them,” Norton told The Aspen Times last year.

Last week he repeated that claim that simple economics eliminates the Skico from discounting season passes as deeply as Front Range-oriented competitors.

“We’re not in the Buddy Pass War. We’re not planning to get in the Buddy Pass War. We couldn’t afford to do it,” Norton said. Other resorts’ passes While the Skico charges more than other destination resorts that aren’t battling for Front Rangers, it also provides more terrain.

At Crested Butte, for example, the early-bird pass price is $866. The price has climbed to $971 and will continue to rise as the season nears.

That pass provides access to 1,434 acres within the ski area.

Telluride residents who couldn’t scrape together $895 by the end of July are now paying $1,425 for a pass that provides access to 1,050 skiable acres.

At Steamboat, the best deal on a pass was $795 earlier this summer. The price is now $995. Steamboat provides 2,939 skiable acres.

On the other end of the spectrum, Winter Park charges $995 for four people, or $248.75 per person, through its Buddy Pass. Winter Park/Mary Jane, which started the pass price war last season, has 2,886 acres of terrain.

For someone who can’t make a package purchase with three friends, an individual pass is available at Winter Park for $350.

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