Vail’s ‘best buy’ in ski country returns
Aspen, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colo. ” Vail Resorts’ Epic Season Pass for its Colorado and California resorts went on sale last week for next season at the same price it sold for last year.
The discounted, unrestricted pass costs $579 for adults and $279 for children. Those prices are guaranteed through April 9, after which they may rise.
Skiers can reserve their Epic Passes with $49 downpayments, with the rest of the amount due in September.
The Epic Pass is good at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly and Arapahoe Basin and has no blackout dates.
The merchant pass, which can be purchased by local businesses and are transferable between employees, will also cost $579 next year. The merchant pass does have blackout dates during holiday periods.
Jerry Jones, an Avon-based ski-industry veteran who is a former executive with Vail Associates, called the Epic Pass “the best buy in the ski industry” and a great success for the company during tough economic times.
“I think it really saved (Vail Resorts’) tail this year,” Jones said. “I don’t think it was designed to be the life-saver that it has become, but it certainly did what it was supposed to do and then some.”
The worsened economy might even boost Epic Pass sales even higher than last year as skiers look for good deals, Jones said.
Vail Resorts reported in December that they had sold 59,100 Epic Passes. While the company is seeing less money per “skier visit” this year ” $45.77 compared to $47.87 last year ” it’s seen an increase in total pass sales of $17.1 million.
Dick Cleveland, mayor of Vail, noted that the introduction of the Epic Pass was met last year with “gnashing of teeth” as Vailites worried about parking and lift lines. The downturn in the economy has quieted those concerns.
“What the Epic Pass has done is given us entree into the Front Range again,” Cleveland said. “It brought people back to Vail, and I think it’s going to serve us well in the future. The fact that they may not spend a lot of money in hotels and restaurants is offset by the fact that they provide a vitality to the town which I think is important for destination guests to see here.”
Steve Rosenthal, owner of Colorado Footwear in Vail Village, agreed that the Epic Pass has brought vitality to Vail.
“Am I for the Epic Pass? Absolutely. I think it’s a great move. It’s a great move to do it again,” he said.
The Epic Pass was aimed last year at out-of-state “destination” visitors, who generally spend more money here. It seems that fewer of those guests actually used the Epic Pass this year than was expected, Rosenthal said.
“If that would have happened, it would have really helped a lot,” Rosenthal said.
Indeed, more of Vail Resorts’ season pass “skier visits” this year ” 48 percent compared to 41 percent last year ” are from Colorado.
CEO Rob Katz said he believes skiers will renew their Epic Passes, even as the economy struggles. Last year, many Epic Passes were purchased before the stock market dropped precipitously.
“We have seen a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, and we do believe there is a high intent for people to return,” Katz said. We sold a good amount of them after September of last year.”
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