Multi-Resort Ski Passes Trending Up
Season passes hedge against weather
Launched in 2008 by Vail Resorts, the Epic Pass was a market disruptor. It evolved into a national product over the years and changed the ski business in a major way.
Case in point: The share of visits to U.S. ski areas from season pass holders jumped to 42 percent in 2017-18 compared with 31 percent 10 years earlier, according to the Lakewood-based National Ski Areas Association (NSAA).
With the entry of the Ikon Pass from the newly formed Alterra Mountain Co., the Denver-based parent of Steamboat, Copper Mountain, Winter Park and 10 other resorts from California to Vermont, look for the trend to continue.
“Multi-resort passes promote season pass awareness and earlier deadlines to secure the best deals,” NSAA President Kelly Pawlak says. They also act as a hedge against weather; powder hounds can follow the snow.
The trend toward multi-resort passes is a tide that lifts all boats, Pawlak adds. “Independent and small ski areas report that this strong messaging has helped drive sales at their areas and that their customers are more amenable to earlier deadlines.”
Vail Resorts spokesperson Johnna Muscente says sales of season pass sales for the 2018-19 North American ski season increased about 19 percent year-over-year through late May. The premium Epic Pass, which starts at $899, is the company’s fastest-growing pass product. This season, it includes days at more than 60 resorts, including Crested Butte, acquired in the offseason, and Telluride, a new partner.
The growth comes in the face of the debut of Alterra’s $999 Ikon Pass, which includes days at 35 resorts. “There wasn’t a really strong coast-to-coast pass that competed with Vail,” Alterra CMO Erik Forsell says. “We’re really, really happy with how the market is reacting and our numbers so far. We’re a shiny new object, and the market is responding.”
West of Salida, Monarch Mountain Ski Area has been partnering with other resorts on reciprocal free access since 2007; adult season passes now start around $500.
“It’s harder for us independent guys to compete, because we’re not in the real estate business, we’re in the ski business,” Monarch spokesperson Hayley Houlihan says. Having reciprocal relationships with more than 30 resorts is a differentiator. “The cost [of the pass] doesn’t go up, but the perceived value goes up exponentially.”
The big offseason news: Monarch joined the Powder Alliance, a partnership of 19 resorts across the West. So did Loveland Ski Area near Georgetown, a longtime Monarch partner. It also added a number of independent resorts to its season pass, including Ski Cooper near Leadville and Sunlight Mountain by Glenwood Springs. Adult season passes start at less than $400.
“We’re seeing a pretty steady increase in season passes,” says John Sellers, Loveland marketing and communications director. “Not everybody’s in the market for a $700-plus season pass.”