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Skico taking million-dollar price gamble

Once the Aspen Skiing Co.’s sale on prepurchased, multiday lift tickets is up Dec. 1, the company will “hold the line” on most prices for the rest of the ski season, officials announced Thursday.

“We thought that after a bad year was not the time to raise prices,” said John Norton, Skico chief operating officer.

The Skico announced June 9 that it would sell multiday lift tickets for as low as $39 per day as long as they were purchased before Dec. 1. Norton said Thursday the company didn’t want to detract from that discount by raising prices beyond last season’s level after the Dec. 1 deadline.

Therefore, prices that customers will pay at the ticket windows for two-day through seven-day tickets will remain the same as last season. The Skico is sticking to a “variable rate” single-day ticket. It didn’t announce the range that the single-day ticket will hit.

The Skico’s marketing strategy, Norton said, is to get more skiers and snowboard riders to Aspen through pricing incentives.

“It’s a multimillion-dollar gamble if we can’t get more business,” Norton said. “If this doesn’t work, I don’t think it means heads will roll at the ski company. I think it means heads get scratched.”

The Skico’s business dropped 8.2 percent during 1998-99, making for what Norton called “a lousy season.”

Total skier visits were 1,431,854. Norton said the company hopes to return to levels of a “couple of seasons ago” through the pricing strategy. The Skico logged 1.56 million skier visits the prior season, its best ever.

At the annual meeting of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association Thursday, Norton announced that the Skico was spending more than ever on its marketing effort this year. That effort will focus on the discounted prices on four-, five- and six-day lift tickets.

This week, the Skico’s first mass, direct-mail piece of the year went out to “everybody who’s ever been here before,” according to Norton. Skico officials are banking on a big response to that effort.

“We should have a pretty good idea by December 1 how it’s going to go for the whole season,” he said.

Conspicuously absent from the Skico’s announcement was the single-day adult ticket price. Last season it reached $63, highest in the land.

For adults, two-day tickets will remain at $118; three-day tickets will be sold for $177; four, five- and six-days purchased after Dec. 1 are $236, $285, and $330 respectively. Seven-day tickets are $385.

Discounts from those prices will be available through 14-day prepurchases.


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