Skico unveils modest pass price hikes
ASPEN Skiers and snowboarders will pay $10 to $70 more for the Aspen Skiing Co.’s most popular season passes for the upcoming ski season, the company announced Tuesday.Season passes go on sale Wednesday. People who work for businesses that belong to a Roaring Fork Valley or Rifle chamber of commerce get the biggest discounts if they buy before the end of Sept. 7.The Skico also announced Tuesday that its peak season, walk-up window price for a single-day lift ticket will be $87, up $5 from last year. However, its lift ticket pricing strategy promotes discounts when purchasing multiday tickets in advance.”If people think the $87 walk-up ticket price is too high, don’t pay it,” said Skico Senior Vice President David Perry. The company has plenty of better options that require just a little advance planning, he said.The Skico’s most popular season pass, the premier pass for chamber members, will sell for $1,239. That is a price increase of $60, or 5 percent, from last season.A premier pass for non-chamber buyers is $1,649 by the early deadline, up $50.Premier passes combine to account for about 45 percent of all pass sales, Perry said.The two-day-per-week pass for chamber members increased by $20, to $879.The one-day-per-week pass for chamber members increased by $10, to $659.The 20-day pass increased $70 to $1,099.There are no new passes this season, but there is a new benefit for some pass buyers. All four-mountain passes will be honored in case the Skico’s ski areas open early or stay open later than scheduled because of stellar snow conditions.”We’re listening to our customers,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle.Superb early-season conditions allowed the Skico to open Aspen Mountain early last year. Premier passholders were able to ski free; other passholders weren’t eligible: They had to pay to play.”There was quite an uproar,” Hanle said. The Skico took concerns into consideration and adjusted its policy.Perry said the Skico’s strategy on pass pricing was to implement “inflationary increases.” However, the Skico doesn’t necessarily try to recoup its business costs through pass prices, he said. It aims to provide a good value to its “most loyal customers.”The skiers and riders who purchased the premier chamber pass last season, for example, hit the slopes an average of 33 times. That reduced their cost per outing to about $37, according to Skico data.The Skico’s bread-and-butter customers are destination skiers who come for overnight vacations. The Skico pricing policy provides incentives to customers who plan ahead, at least a little bit.Skico customers who buy multiday lift tickets can knock substantial chunks off their bills on purchases at least seven days in advance. The more days, the greater the savings.Perry said the Skico is offering greater savings this winter than last year, in many cases. The Skico is offering discounts for the first time for multiday trips between Thanksgiving and Dec. 7. Late season also is being heavily promoted.Most customers book their trips one to three weeks in advance, so the discount policy on advance purchases matches travel patterns, Perry said.While the ticket program is designed for multiday sales, the single-day price grabs the most attention and often bedevils the ski industry. Perry said he suspects the Skico’s $87 won’t be the highest in North America: Vail and Beaver Creek hit $85 last season. They typically don’t announce their peak season price in advance.Skico officials started tinkering with lift-ticket prices in February and finalized them in May. They consider the prices of top competitors and speculate on where their prices may be headed, Perry said, but that isn’t the prime factor in establishing their own prices.He acknowledged that it might appear to people outside the industry that “one-upmanship” is the goal between the top resorts as prices start to rise as Christmas nears. But prices are set well before the season, not as a reaction to the competition, he said.The announcement of lift ticket and pass prices at this time of year – when people are wrapped up in warm-weather outdoor pursuits – is designed to get customers fired up for the season and get them thinking about skiing plans.”Our marketing for the winter is really kicking into high gear,” Perry said.A list of pass prices was mailed to last season’s passholders in late July. Pass prices are also available via links at http://www.aspensnowmass.com.Passes will go on sale starting Wednesday at the Aspen Mountain ticket office at the gondola plaza and at the Snowmass ticket pavilion. Chamber members get the best price by purchasing before Sept. 8. Prices increase again on Nov. 17.Ski season is scheduled to start Nov. 22 at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass; and Dec. 8 at Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com.