Mike Kaplan: Guest Opinion | AspenTimes.com

Mike Kaplan: Guest Opinion

Mike Kaplan
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Once again this town has proven that it is alive and well when it comes to skiing and snowboarding! At least we remember why we live here. Given the emotion and unfair accusations about our new pass program, I feel compelled to set the record straight.

Believe it or not, we changed the pass offerings this year with the primary goal of saying thank you to our 16,000-plus passholders for demonstrating such loyalty, particularly in the difficult year of 2008-2009. It would have been much easier to simply leave all the products in place and hold prices flat, but we chose to stretch and try something new with the intention of saving some money for as many people as possible.

After a thorough analysis, we created a new lineup that reduces prices by 15 percent on our top-selling pass and saves most of our other passholders money while providing more flexibility and less risk in the form of lower upfront prices. Based on last year’s usage, this program reduces or holds flat the total dollars spent for 95 percent of adult passholders. Of the 5 percent who have to pay more to ski at least the same number of days, they are getting far more benefits and flexibility in the form of the Premier Pass. Here are the numbers and some case studies.

Statistics and examples:

1. Ninety-five percent of adult passholders will pay the same this year to ski the same or more days than last year.

2. Eighty-six percent of two-day/week Aspen Chamber Resort Association passholders will pay less this year to ski the same number of days as last year.

3. Eighty-two percent of two-day/week non-chamber passholders will pay less this year to ski the same number of days as last year.

There have been some tough claims made in e-mails and letters to the editor, challenging our statements and intentions. Below are some samples with further analysis and explanations (names have been changed).

Jim – “… we all get to spend $200 more than we would have otherwise.” Not true, and based on his usage last year, he will in fact save $251.

Sam complained about the elimination of the 20-day pass and told us he was “taking his family to Summit County.” Since he only skied 14 days last season, he paid $82 per day. The Escape Pass will save him $164 and cost less up front.

Sally – “Once again, the everyday working person who is unable to be part of the chamber gets screwed.” She is one of 10 people who skied 35 days or more on the two-day/week non-chamber pass and one of 76 of these passholders who will pay more to ski the same number of days. This is the reason we eliminated the two-day/week, and I wish we could have lowered the price for everyone, but that is not a viable business decision. Other options include working for a business that is a member of the chamber and saving $30 versus last year, or volunteering to earn a pass or days at Challenge Aspen, AVSC or on our race, or Highland Bowl teams.

Don accuses us of “boosting profits on the backs of locals,” and Matt claims we are using “senior citizens, hard-working two-day-a-weekers, and diehard Highlands skiers” to subsidize the reduction in Premier Pass price. Actually, we are budgeting a drop in pass revenues, because we lowered prices for 95 percent of adult passholders. Making the Premier Pass accessible to more people is a great benefit, and even us “poor working sods” get vacations, long weekends, and the occasional powder morning to ski, or even that one run before or after work. We also offer seniors 70 or over two options; a full season, or a specially discounted Escape Pass, allowing 50 percent of seniors to save money based on actual usage or $349 for a full season Silver; skiing is still very cheap.

Classic Passholders: One of the decisions we made in the new pass program was to simplify the Classic Pass to a five-day product and increase the price to $50/day from around $40/day last year. $50 per day is still a great deal, particularly when you consider the quality of the mountain experience on weekends compared to our competitors, which is when this pass is primarily utilized. Many locals used the Classic to supplement their one- or two-day/week passes, which is no longer necessary with the new Flex pass.

So, do we appreciate locals and the community?

For well over a decade, we have recognized that our role is more than just running a ski resort; our responsibilities as a business include providing gratifying and meaningful work so that people can live full lives. This has been reflected in recent pay raises into the teeth of a recession and our decision not to lay off employees or cut benefits or the guest experience.

We also exceed the highest standards of corporate social responsibility, not only environmentally, but in our often overlooked local philanthropy, which exceeds 1 percent of revenue and 5 percent of profits. And don’t forget that we extend the seasons on our mountains whenever possible, including the extended weekends at Highlands the last two years and summer skiing on Ajax.

We made these decisions because we thought they were the right thing to do for our employees, our guests and our community. Skico consists of a dedicated, passionate, and skilled group of people who live, work, and play here and truly care about the place and community that we all call home.

We’ve never broadcasted these attributes because we believe actions speak louder than words. However, the biased and misleading statements and accusations of profiteering at the expense of locals made in letters to the editor, and the unbalanced reporting, needed to be put into proper context.

Thanks to all of you who have supported us, and I encourage anyone concerned about these changes to call us so we can understand your specific case and find your best pass options for the coming season.

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