Marolt: Who knew skiers cared so much about lift ticket prices?
November 14, 2017
I figure I am a local because I can't pinpoint anything around here if given only its street address, I don't know if the place I ski most is officially called "Ajax" or "Aspen Mountain," and I am really not sure if the entity that owns it is named "Aspen Ski Co." or "Aspen Skiing Co.," although my gut tells me it's the latter. Yes, I could easily look it up, but I don't actually care. Trivia is for people with something to prove and nothing to do.
I bring this up since I couldn't tell you if the upcoming 50th-anniversary celebration of Snowmass is for the ski area, the town or both. My guess is both, but I don't believe Snowmass Village was officially incorporated at the time the first lift switch was flipped. I don't know this for sure but, again, who cares? It makes no difference. People are going to show up for the bash on Dec. 15. It has nothing to do with the technicalities of dates and incorporations or historical accuracy. It has everything to do with lift ticket prices. I believe throngs of people would show up to celebrate the invention of tire chains in Southern California if you offered them an all-day lift ticket for $6.50.
There is some irony in the pricing of the lift tickets to match what they cost on the original opening day of our beloved ski area. While the tickets probably did cost $6.50 back in 1967, I doubt very seriously that 12,000 people showed up to christen the brand-new ski area. I was there. I was 5 years old. I think I could count to 100. I kept no records. All this considered I bet there weren't 500 people that first opening day, including lifties named "Caparella" and Norwegian ski instructors. This is all completely beside the point.
What is interesting is that Skico (or whatever their real name is) got caught totally off-guard by the demand for the seriously discounted lift tickets they offered for this year's event. Yes, I used the past tense there, because they had to suspend ticket sales at that price due to the overwhelming response to it. They sold 12,000 before turning people away!
Who knew? I mean, it is a really cheap price to go skiing at Snowmass, but it is also for Dec. 15, which statistics apparently show that only 40 percent of the mountain is usually open by then. It sounds to me like an incredible price for not such incredible skiing, if you are playing the odds. I admit that I am also a little surprised by the huge positive response to the offer.
It has made me see this 50th anniversary gig as an experiment rather than a party since there is no way I am going anywhere near the slopes under these conditions the way I am envisioning them in my mind at the moment. I choose to live to ski another day.
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Be that as it may, let's look at the results of the experiment. The first thing it shows is that lots of people really are excited about skiing and want to do it. The second thing is that skiers are way more sensitive to lift ticket prices than I ever thought. Even Skico was caught with their prices down. I assume they do market studies and have a rhyme and reason for their ticket pricing; regardless, they did not anticipate this incredible demand for low-priced tickets. It is only one test, but maybe it will open some eyes and minds to do more. Where shaped ski and high-speed lifts have not been able to save the ski industry, maybe, finally, someone will believe that lower prices can.
Of course, I observe all of this with mixed feelings. Lower ticket prices would presumably result in lower season pass prices for us, too. Yeah! We would also get longer lift lines, less powder, more crowded restaurants, shops, hotels and highways. Yikes! It might also result in more jobs and opportunities for people to make better livings. More work, less skiing, bigger paycheck, cheaper skiing… Hmmm…
Just to be clear, I am not suggesting anything here. I am just thinking silently in print. I have little idea what life in a ski resort would be like if skiing was reasonably priced. I've never seen it. What I do know is that we are all here because we are not all there. Insanity? Possibly so.
Roger Marolt has resorted to disco snow dancing since the modern stuff didn't seem to be working very well. Email at email@example.com.
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