It’s going to cost Ikon Base Pass buyers a little extra next season if they want to access the slopes of Aspen-Snowmass and Jackson Hole.
Alterra Mountain Co. announced Thursday the Base Pass will no longer automatically include five days collectively at Aspen Skiing Co.’s four resorts or five days at Jackson Hole. Instead, consumers will have to pay $150 extra to upgrade their passes to add Aspen and Jackson Hole.
The full Ikon Pass, which is more expensive, will continue to provide seven days of access to Aspen and Jackson Hole.
Aspen Skiing Co. President and CEO Mike Kaplan said Thursday it was anticipated “from day one” when the Ikon Pass was introduced before the 2018-19 season that adjustments would be necessary once patterns of use were established.
“We’re looking long-term,” Kaplan said. “We want to maintain the quality of the experience.”
Skico’s goal is for “sustainable levels of growth” at less than 1% annually over time, Kaplan said. That’s a big part of the reason for the adjustment in Ikon Base Pass use at Aspen-Snowmass.
The price increase will likely decrease Ikon Base Pass use, at least on weekends, Kaplan said. Aspen Snowmass has experienced more visits from Ikon Base Pass users than the regular Ikon Pass, he said. Ikon Pass owners tend to be more like destination customers — those coming for extended, overnight stays. Ikon Base Pass users tend to come for weekends.
Skico logged a record number of skier visits last season, in part because of Ikon Pass use but also because local pass use soared. Snow conditions were excellent throughout the season and there were several powder weekends that brought out skiers and snowboarders. Aspen Highlands was hit particularly hard.
Skico responded by contracting with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority this season for extra buses to Highlands from the Park & Ride Lot at Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road. That helped ease congestion on Maroon Creek Road but didn’t address conditions on the slopes.
This season, Ikon Pass use at Aspen-Snowmass is up “significantly” from last season, according to Skico. However, there was a corresponding decrease in purchases of the Mountain Collective and Classic passes, which also were popular with customers from outside the Roaring Fork Valley. The net result is pass use is about even with last season, according to Jeff Hanle, Skico vice president of communications.
There is considerable pass use on the weekends. By increasing the price of the Ikon Base Pass, Skico and Alterra hope to reduce the influx on weekends and spread out use, Kaplan said. The Ikon Base Pass also has blackout days between Christmas and New Year’s as well as other major holidays. Skico wants to drive business to “non-peak times of the year,” Kaplan said.
Skico’s challenge is to relieve congestion without driving away Ikon customers. The Ikon Base Pass has attracted new customers, many from Colorado’s Front Range, who tend to be younger than average for Aspen-Snowmass, he said.
Alterra Mountain Co. CEO Rusty Gregory said in a Feb. 19 interview that the company sold “considerably more passes” this season than in the inaugural year.
“It’s really a solid year of growth for us,” he said.
Gregory acknowledged that some of the resorts Alterra owns and some of its affiliates are still making adjustments to deal with congestion.
This season provided a glimpse of how the Ikon Base Pass can be used to a business advantage. The pass couldn’t be used at Aspen Snowmass from Dec. 26 to 31.
“We never had any insanely busy days,” Kaplan said. The total skier visits didn’t top 21,000 on any single day at the four ski areas, he said.
But when the blackout period ended, there was a surge of use. Jan. 2 was the busiest day of the holiday period. Kaplan said he had never witnessed that before in all his years at Skico.
Another trend of Ikon use this season is passholders aren’t just congregating at Highlands. Aspen Mountain also has experienced increased use.
“I would say the use is more spread out,” Kaplan said.
That’s a trend Skico wants to enhance next season.