Skico taking fresh look at ticket pricing |

Skico taking fresh look at ticket pricing

The Aspen Skiing Co. is taking a fresh approach to plot a lift-ticket pricing strategy for next season.

The Skico always cranks up its internal planning process for the next season at about this time of year, but this time it has added a twist. It’s throwing out all past assumptions and starting with the proverbial clean slate, according to Skico President and CEO Pat O’Donnell.

“The concept was `Let’s get crazy, let’s look at everything possible,'” O’Donnell said.

Skico Chief Operating Officer John Norton said a new approach was pursued because of the lackluster season experienced by the ski industry as a whole. It’s not a direct response to the Skico’s woes, he said.

Lift-ticket sales this season were down 14.5 percent at one time. Final numbers will be released in June.

“There’s not a year that goes by that we don’t try to do things better than the year before,” Norton said.

To try to improve, committees of Skico officials are looking at about 12 pricing options. The committees will report back to the full group about the feasibility of the options, then determine which warrant further study. That winnowing process started Friday.

“There’s some pretty interesting stuff up on the wall,” said O’Donnell. He declined to share details.

Whatever options survive for greater scrutiny must also be profitable, he stressed.

“I can’t go to ownership and say `Hey, I’ve got a great idea and by the way, you’re going to lose millions and millions,’ ” said O’Donnell. “They don’t hire me to lose money.”

Skico officials have insisted this year that their pricing wasn’t to blame for a decline in business. The company had a $63 single-day ticket, highest in the country, but O’Donnell said that isn’t the culprit.

“I’ve stated to the point of ad nauseam that not all that many guests buy it,” he said of the single-day ticket.

Skico officials won’t disclose how many customers buy the single-day ticket. More are drawn to multiday tickets, which offer a better per-day price.

O’Donnell further defended Skico prices on the basis of “value received.” He believes customers are willing to pay the price for skiing in Aspen because of the experience offered at the four mountains.

Critics of the pricing policy say Skico officials simply won’t face facts. Aspen charges some of the highest prices in the country, which is to blame for Aspen’s declining numbers, they say.

O’Donnell counters that lift-ticket prices cannot be singled out. The whole package – airfare, lodging and dining – has to be taken into account.

“Skiing is pricey, there’s no way around it,” said O’Donnell. “I’m telling you, overall, it’s a very expensive sport.”

Adopting a new approach for setting prices shouldn’t be interpreted as a sign the Skico is going to enter the Buddy Pass price wars, Skico officials have said. They won’t try to match prices set by resorts closer to Denver, which are duking it out for Front Range customers.

The company’s pricing policy won’t be unveiled until later this spring or summer.

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