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December 12, 2008

Season Pass Deals - Vail Resorts Gets It

Vail sells "Epic Passes" with unlimited skiing at all VRI resorts and makes a killing:

The hue and cry over the unwashed rabble likely to snap up cheap ski passes and invade Vail this winter, clogging our roads and jamming our ski slopes and parking garages, has morphed into the “All the Love” ad campaign as quickly as you can say “economic downturn.”

And Vail Resorts, which bore the brunt of the controversy after the announcement of its unlimited, six-mountain, $579 Epic Pass last spring, revealed Tuesday it sold nearly 60,000 of the season passes, prompting accolades from some analysts who foresee a brutal year for the ski and tourism industries.

“Front Range riff-raff” comments from a former Vail business leader and concerns about parking on the part of some town officials seem like distance echoes from a different era – even though the debate occurred just seven short months ago...

In a conference call with investment analysts Tuesday, CEO Rob Katz said the company reaped about $32 million from the sale of just over 59,000 Epic Passes – good at Arapahoe Basin, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Heavenly (Calif.), Keystone and Vail ski areas.

Overall, Vail Resorts took in nearly $91 million from the sale of about 204,000 of all of its season pass products, including the discounted Colorado Pass. And there has been almost no discussion of parking problems, traffic woes or Front Range customers who tend to spend less than out-of-state destination visitors.

And they ski a lot more days too. It is a tough sell. Sell more passes for less money to people that will use more days and spend less on mountain versus leaving lifts idle and keeping the riff-raff out.

Every dollar counts, even if it is a smelly hippie dollar from some scruffy dude's wallet that he keeps in his van with his ski dog--Mutt.

And more of the folks at Vail will be US citizens thanks to changes to Visa rules:

ail Resorts, which annually requires 1,900 H-2B visas, hoped to benefit from a cultural ambassador programme used in other resort areas such as Disneyland after the nationwide cap of 66,000 H-2B visas for America was reached earlier in the year.

“The requirements for the visas are very specific, and USCIS wanted to make sure Vail Resorts’ program met the visa’s specifications,” said Kristin Williams, a spokeswoman for Vail Resorts.

“Immigration officials wanted more information about Vail Resort’s cultural exchange program before any more visas were issued.”

Under the programme, instructors are introduced as cultural exchange ambassadors and share their native languages and cultures with guests.

A provision allowing returning worker permit holders to be exempt from the cap expired this year, meaning that many international restaurant workers, ski instructors, lift operators and other mountain workers were unable to return this season.

This recession provides a real wake up call to the industry. Foreign workers at low wages combined with high dollar destination guests combined with high real estate sales profits has been the business plan for places like Vail. But when the economy slows, it is time to get back to the Riff Raff, the locals, the ski bums, and the basics. Prices come down. Folks that ski are more passionate about it. Profits are down for the industry (that didn't make a lot of profit anyway).

Looks like American Ski Co got out at the right time. The industry is getting shaken up.

Posted by Justin at December 12, 2008 04:55 PM


Many resorts are marketing 2008/09 season passes at discount prices currently. Unfortunately, most season passes are non-refundable and non-transferable if they cannot be used. However, skiers can protect their investment in a season pass with SkierGuard, the insurance program for frequent skiers and riders. Coverage consists of the following benefits:

1. Loss of Pass Use
2. Emergency Evacuation
3. Accidental Death/Dismemberment

Loss of Pass Use responds to sudden illness or injury which prevents a passholder from using his/her pass for at least 30 days. The cost for all coverages is 6% of the pass price plus a $4 processing fee. Details at Many of your readers would be interested in this protection, which can save them a bundle in event of a covered loss. We suggest that you consider reporting on SkierGuard because it would be a newsworthy subject for blog.

Posted by: Ron Iverson at December 16, 2008 12:10 PM