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Are We Seeing the End of Regular Season Passes?

thetrailboss

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We have had several threads over the past couple years talking about Epic, IKON, and other "Mega Passes." Whenever I talk to folks out here who have one of those "four letter" passes I tell them not to discuss it with the locals because as you all know too well Ikon at least contributed to some crowding last season at a lot of resorts out here. Alterra announced that this season Ikon has seen a 60% increase in sales. A lot of ski areas in the program have not responded well to their passholders' concerns and have instead said "it is the snow" or gave their passholders a peace offering in the form of an Ikon Base Pass (Jackson Hole, Aspen for example), Some areas, like Brighton this week, have even started extending discounts once reserved for season passholders to Ikon Passholders. It seemed downright odd that a lot of areas were quick to defend Ikon passholders who are not committed to a single area rather than try to please their own passholders.

Other areas are responding by creating their own mega passes. For example, there is the Monarch Pass (with all those deals), and some other independent resorts partnering up.

The one thing that seems to be going out of style is just having a season pass to a single ski area for an entire season.

So considering these changes, and wondering WHY ski areas don't seem to care as much about their own passholders, it dawned on me--are we at a point where the season pass model is ending? Are areas no longer interested in catering to their own loyal and captive audience and more willing to curry favor with a larger group of potential customers in a Mega Pass program?

Certainly we have seen this movie before--how many of you, like me, have at least one old "American Ski Company All East Pass" in a drawer or in a photo album or memory box? The difference between then and now is that ASC went under before the pass could expand anymore than it did. Now, we are dealing with TWO big pass products that seem to be going head-to-head in an arms race leaving ski areas to decide which team to join. We're also seeing a lot of market consolidation with Vail and Alterra leading the way.

So I am just thinking out loud here--with both passes growing, are we seeing the end, or "disruption" of the season pass model? Who here, like me, still has a pass that is good for ONE or at most TWO independent areas?
 

JimG.

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I think season passes will remain at many hills. But I think fewer skiers will buy them.

And that will disrupt the collect money early model many resorts use to fund upgrades.

Which I think will lead to even fewer people buying single mountain passes. The end result will be more ski areas going out of business.
 

ss20

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No. Still plenty of faithful locals dedicated to their single mountain. Even at the big hills, there's plenty of homeowners who will only ski that resort. I have a Killington pass. Ikon wouldn't do it for me- I've got ties to Killington that make it the best fit for me. 7 days isn't enough.

Also of note is that for every Mega-resort there's two local ski hills on independent passes. There's still many more independent areas with single-mountain passes than multi-mountain. It's just that 90% of the major players have gone the multi-mountain route.
 

Cornhead

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Not a fan of consolidation. It seems deals are drying up as window prices soar. Stowe got rid of their ski council days. An opportunity to ski there at a reasonable price. I am glad Greek joined the Freedom Pass. I can't explain why they aren't listed on the Freedom Pass website. I informed about 5 Greek passholders on the hill today about the free tickets to the east coast hills, Platty, Bolton Valley, and Magic. They were totally unaware. You have to ferret that information out of Greek's website. If I were a passholder to a mountain inundated with Epic or Ikon skiers, I wouldn't be happy.3kr1zj.jpeg

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cdskier

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No. Still plenty of faithful locals dedicated to their single mountain. Even at the big hills, there's plenty of homeowners who will only ski that resort. I have a Killington pass. Ikon wouldn't do it for me- I've got ties to Killington that make it the best fit for me. 7 days isn't enough.

I agree with this. Next year I suspect I'll be forced to go Ikon since my resort is going to be owned by Alterra. But if it wasn't for that I'd stay a single mountain passholder.

I guess it really depends what type of skier you were/are. If you jumped around in the past and weren't a single mountain passsholder, then Ikon or Epic may be natural choices. But if you were a passholder to a single mountain for a specific reason (and that mountain is only a partner with limited days on a multi-pass), then I don't know that you'll see a ton of those people converting. Some will no doubt. But others will remain loyal to their resort (could be that they are a homeowner there like you said or they don't like planning different lodging every weekend or have friends somewhere that they like to ski with, etc).

Passes like Ikon are making the largest impact to other forms of passes to those resorts. What I mean by that is many Ikon people are using that to replace day tickets or other discounted options like quad packs. Some resorts are seeing a significant drop in those type of things and thanks to technology are able to tell that those same people switched to Ikon (There was some interesting stats on this from one resort in Chris Diamond's latest Ski Inc 2020 book). So ultimately you are going to see those other deals continue to dry up. That's going to be one of the biggest downsides for people that don't join a multi-pass. But as you pointed out, there are still a lot of independent areas out there. This is a great potential opportunity for them to offer better day ticket prices and capture people that don't want to get a multi-pass.
 

jimk

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I have a Snowbird senior season pass because I can stay with family members nearby. I hope to get about 25-30 days there on the pass this season.
 

BenedictGomez

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I've written about this more extensively, but eventually Vail's going to fail. Might take a decade or so to complete the cycle, and then the future will be more like the past. This mega pass thing wont last forever. If you have one, enjoy it until the price increases that they're telling you wont happen, happen.
 

Los

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This mega pass thing wont last forever. If you have one, enjoy it until the price increases that they're telling you wont happen, happen.

That's exactly why we went for it this year - seemed too good to be true so we wanted to take advantage of it while it lasts (is what we were thinking when we purchased them in September...)
 

jimk

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I think the first season for Epic Pass was 08/09 and when it came out it dropped a Vail pass from $1,849 to $579. Now it's what, $939?
 

Pez

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The problem I see with these mega passes is the bigger ski areas pricing themselves out of the 4-6 day a year casual skiers. $100+ a day to me is insane. Some people who love the sport just can't commmit to more than a handful of times, and for them to have to shell out that kind of money.... I was in that 4-6 times a year skier about 20 years ago and if I had to pay these current rates IDK if I would have even skied that much.

Yesterday I thought about a half day at Mount Snow... but they weren't offering their $49 deal... 99 bucks to ski limited trails with crap conditions, and deal with those crowds... well no thanks.

But ya, sooner of later this model is going to come crashing down.
 

ss20

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I think the first season for Epic Pass was 08/09 and when it came out it dropped a Vail pass from $1,849 to $579. Now it's what, $939?

All while improvements at Vail Resorts across the entire platform have decreased (when looking at an $ spent per resort ratio).

Killington and Mount Snow both completed probably the most extensive transformations of Northeastern resorts over the past 15 years and they were single-mountain passes for all of that time (minus Peaks pass, but that was only the past 3 years or so iirc).
 
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The problem I see with these mega passes is the bigger ski areas pricing themselves out of the 4-6 day a year casual skiers. $100+ a day to me is insane. Some people who love the sport just can't commmit to more than a handful of times, and for them to have to shell out that kind of money.... I was in that 4-6 times a year skier about 20 years ago and if I had to pay these current rates IDK if I would have even skied that much.

Yesterday I thought about a half day at Mount Snow... but they weren't offering their $49 deal... 99 bucks to ski limited trails with crap conditions, and deal with those crowds... well no thanks.

But ya, sooner of later this model is going to come crashing down.
I've brought this guys podcast up before, but the Storm Skiing Podcast recently had on the CEO of liftopia, and it was interesting to hear him talk about how they help smaller places use dynamic pricing to get people to commit to single days on the cheap. I pre-bought some tickets to Plattekill shortly thereafter for $33/pop. I have family coming in that weekend. The weather might suck, but they got my money already anyway. Pre-committing is a trend that is likely to become more pervasive - and hopefully more smaller places figure out how to harness it to capture the very people you mention.

Keep in mind, too that the super passes track where guests ski. I'd expect them to use this data to make more pricing tiers/options in the future. Too many people in the cottonwoods? They can create a more expensive Ikon for that. Too many people at Mt. Snow/Okemo/Sunapee/Huntee? Vail can upcharge/limit access for those places, too.

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Glenn

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Glad you brought up the ASC days. Cheap passes, crazy lines; it wasn't all sunshine and powder. Me and the Mrs. buy our pass to the mountain we ski at; just the run of the mill "this mountain only" value pass. I think we pay $400 each if we buy at the end of the season. We have a few blackout dates, but I just look at that as them paying us to not show up when it's ultra busy.
 

mbedle

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Doesn't Alterra offer single mountain season passes at most of their resorts? I know that Vail does at their really small ski areas and a couple of their resorts, plus they have all the other types of passes they offer for CA and CO ski resorts. It wouldn't surprise me to see Vail offer some limited types of passes in the northeast and down here in PA.
 

WWF-VT

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Doesn't Alterra offer single mountain season passes at most of their resorts? I know that Vail does at their really small ski areas and a couple of their resorts, plus they have all the other types of passes they offer for CA and CO ski resorts. It wouldn't surprise me to see Vail offer some limited types of passes in the northeast and down here in PA.

Alterra will piss a lot of people off if they don't offer an unlimited/unrestricted Sugarbush only season pass
 

JimG.

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Alterra will piss a lot of people off if they don't offer an unlimited/unrestricted Sugarbush only season pass

I'm sorry to say that a lot of people are going to be pissed off. They may offer it but it will cost more than now.

Like ss20 Killington is just the best place for me to ski taking everything into account. I think the $1,000 season pass price is reasonable and based on the 20-25 days a season I ski there a good value for me. I'm not happy to see any Ikon passholders there and I think it's a bit of a slap at passholders like me that Ikon passholders get some benefits like going to the season passholder party or opening passholder day. But I'm not going to be a big baby about it either and there's no need to complain...yet.
 

machski

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I'm sorry to say that a lot of people are going to be pissed off. They may offer it but it will cost more than now.

Like ss20 Killington is just the best place for me to ski taking everything into account. I think the $1,000 season pass price is reasonable and based on the 20-25 days a season I ski there a good value for me. I'm not happy to see any Ikon passholders there and I think it's a bit of a slap at passholders like me that Ikon passholders get some benefits like going to the season passholder party or opening passholder day. But I'm not going to be a big baby about it either and there's no need to complain...yet.
Assuming on at least the full Ikon SB becomes unlimited, how will that be at most significantly more than a current unlimited SB only pass next year?

The comment about the first Epic pass pricing to today's pricing is a bit hard to judge as apples to apples. They had what, 5 or so areas on it when it first came out, mostly or totally in CO? Now it has how many areas unlimited on it plus how many more with partnership access? The cost increase seems worth it to me!

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thetrailboss

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A lot of good responses. Here are a few comments....

And that will disrupt the collect money early model many resorts use to fund upgrades.

Which I think will lead to even fewer people buying single mountain passes. The end result will be more ski areas going out of business.

Good point. However, with a lot of resorts now doing summer activities, do they rely on the funding as much as they did before?

Passes like Ikon are making the largest impact to other forms of passes to those resorts. What I mean by that is many Ikon people are using that to replace day tickets or other discounted options like quad packs. Some resorts are seeing a significant drop in those type of things and thanks to technology are able to tell that those same people switched to Ikon (There was some interesting stats on this from one resort in Chris Diamond's latest Ski Inc 2020 book). So ultimately you are going to see those other deals continue to dry up. That's going to be one of the biggest downsides for people that don't join a multi-pass. But as you pointed out, there are still a lot of independent areas out there. This is a great potential opportunity for them to offer better day ticket prices and capture people that don't want to get a multi-pass.

Very good point. I did not think of that. And I need to get Chris Diamond's book.

I've written about this more extensively, but eventually Vail's going to fail. Might take a decade or so to complete the cycle, and then the future will be more like the past. This mega pass thing wont last forever. If you have one, enjoy it until the price increases that they're telling you wont happen, happen.

Can you link me to the post where you outlined this argument? It does seem like they are getting pretty big pretty fast.

The problem I see with these mega passes is the bigger ski areas pricing themselves out of the 4-6 day a year casual skiers. $100+ a day to me is insane. Some people who love the sport just can't commmit to more than a handful of times, and for them to have to shell out that kind of money.... I was in that 4-6 times a year skier about 20 years ago and if I had to pay these current rates IDK if I would have even skied that much.

That is a huge issue. I have seen a lot of coverage and discussion about this problem.

Yesterday I thought about a half day at Mount Snow... but they weren't offering their $49 deal... 99 bucks to ski limited trails with crap conditions, and deal with those crowds... well no thanks.

Did you expect that deal on a Holiday Week?
 

thetrailboss

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All while improvements at Vail Resorts across the entire platform have decreased (when looking at an $ spent per resort ratio).

Killington and Mount Snow both completed probably the most extensive transformations of Northeastern resorts over the past 15 years and they were single-mountain passes for all of that time (minus Peaks pass, but that was only the past 3 years or so iirc).

I, too, have noticed that Vail has slowed down with the improvements and has also done smaller projects. Take for example the new lift that they installed at Canyons/Park City this year (the "Over and Out"). Instead of a Dopp or a Poma brand lift, or a HS lift, they installed a SkyTrac lift that was likely less expensive. Granted it is a transfer lift and one that is not of any huge importance. They also were faced with TONS of backlogged maintenance at Crested Butte (which still surprises me). Same thing--a SkyTrac fixed grip. No replacement of the older HSQ's. I would have expected the Vail of old to come in and do a major revamp to create interest. It will be interesting to see if they upgrade any lifts at Attitash or Wildcat.

Keep in mind, too that the super passes track where guests ski. I'd expect them to use this data to make more pricing tiers/options in the future. Too many people in the cottonwoods? They can create a more expensive Ikon for that. Too many people at Mt. Snow/Okemo/Sunapee/Huntee? Vail can upcharge/limit access for those places, too.

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Trust me. A lot of us here in SLC selfishly hope that this WILL happen. Ikon works well with ski areas spread out. But with FIVE Ikon resorts in such a small area it has created chaos. Why would someone in SLC buy a pass to one area when one can get pretty damn good access to FIVE with the same amount of money? At the very least, a lot of locals hope that the resorts will restrict Ikon days or get rid of it. Methinks though that Alterra incentivized ski areas to do the seven day deal instead of the five. And, again, LiftBlog.org reported that Alterra has said that Ikon pass sales increased 60% over last season. That is insane.

Doesn't Alterra offer single mountain season passes at most of their resorts? I know that Vail does at their really small ski areas and a couple of their resorts, plus they have all the other types of passes they offer for CA and CO ski resorts. It wouldn't surprise me to see Vail offer some limited types of passes in the northeast and down here in PA.

I've wondered this too. I did not notice an option for Steamboat. I thought that Vail did an "Epic Local" for Park City, but in looking at it, they have made that their pass for their smaller resorts.
 
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