Forbes: Three Great Ways To Save Big On Skiing, Ski Trips This Winter
08/14/2012 by Larry Olmsted
At 11AM EST today, or about fifteen minutes ago, skiing got a lot cheaper.
It used to be that season passes at ski resorts were mainly for locals, a way for those within driving distance of the slopes to save on repeat business. At some top resorts a season pass cost well over $1000, and for the math to work, you’d have to ski something like 12-15 full days, which few out of town visitors do.
But that’s all changed with two big advents in the ski industry: consolidation and technology.
Today’s new product is called the Mountain Collective Pass, and it allows four otherwise independent ski resort operators to bundle together, using the internet to their advantage. These are marquee resorts, some of the largest, most famous and venerable on earth: Jackson Hole, WY; Alta, UT; Squaw Valley & Alpine Meadows, CA; and the four resorts of the Aspen Skiing Company, Ajax (Aspen Mountain), Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass.
A personal favorite of mine, Jackson Hole, WY, aka "The Big One," is part of the new Mountain Collective Pass.
The Mountain Collective Pass costs $349, and includes two free days at each of the four entities (all the Aspen mountains count as one resort as do the siblings of Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows each) plus unlimited 50% off lift tickets at all of them after the complimentary days are used. There are no blackout dates and other minor benefits, such as discounted lodging deals at each resort.
Obviously this is a great deal for anyone considering visits to multiple ski areas on the list: with lift tickets at these big mountains running around $100 per day – or higher – just the two free days at each pays for itself simply by visiting any two of the destinations this winter, say Aspen and Jackson, or Alta and Tahoe. But you don’t even have to do that to come out ahead – the typical family ski vacation can save money on just one single ski trip. It is actually the discount that offers the real savings, not the free tickets.
Here’s the math: last winter Aspen charged $595 for a 5-day adult ticket, the type commonly purchased by vacationing visitors on a ski week. That is not likely to get any cheaper this season. On the other hand, with the Mountain Collective Pass, the first two days are free, the rest half price or $52 daily. So 5-days cost $156 plus the purchase price of the pass, or $551 total – $44 less than just the five day lift ticket alone. Every additional day skied at this or any other area covered is half off and money in the bank. The pass can pay for itself on a single visit, but make your stay longer than 5 days, or come back again, or visit any of the other areas covered, even for just a weekend, and suddenly the savings ramp up quickly. You save the most when skiing in shorter chunks, single days or weekends, for which lift tickets are dramatically more expensive than 5-7 day passes. The pass must be purchased before November 19 or the price will go up.
Often the most popular ski resort in Colorado - and for good reasons - Breckenridge is part of Vail Resorts' Epic Pass, one of the best deals in ski travel.
The Mountain Collective Pass is sold through its own website, and also on Liftopia, a relatively new site that also sells discounted tickets of various types for individual mountains all over, from New England to Canada, Utah to New Mexico, as well as South America, Alaska and the Alps. Deals are currently a bit limited since it is so far form ski season, but as examples they are offering single day tickets for most days in December at Utah’s famed Snowbird for about half price, or $47, and multiple day tickets to Stratton Mountain in Vermont on select December and January dates for 31% off. Liftopia is always worth checking before a ski trip, even if it is just for single day or weekend.
While these two efforts, The Mountain Collective Pass and Liftopia, utilize the internet, Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass packs its punch through consolidation and the sheer size of its parent, Vail Resorts, the largest ski operator in the nation. It’s holdings include Vail, CO, the nation’s largest single mountain ski resort, and Breckenridge, CO which along with Vail are the two most popular and visited U.S. ski resorts. The company also owns Beaver Creek and Keystone in Colorado, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in Lake Tahoe, and has an agreement for pass holder access at Arapahoe Basin, CO.
Like The Mountain Collective, the Epic Pass can pay for itself in a single trip, and is an utterly fantastic deal for locals, repast visitors or frequent ski travelers, given its diversity. There are several iterations aimed at locals, those who ski primarily in Summit County, CO (Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin) or mainly in Tahoe (Northstar, Heavenly, Kirkwood). But for most people around the country the chief product is the full Epic Pass, which has no blackout dates or restrictions and can be used at any of the eight mountains. Other benefits include six discounted “Ski With a Friend” tickets for companions, and automatic enrollment in Epic Mix, the hugely popular online and social media program of Vail Resorts that tracks all your skiing stats, including days, runs and vertical feet.
The full Epic Pass for unlimited skiing with unrestricted dates at eight major resorts costs just $659 for adults and $339 for children – roughly half the price of season pass at some single ski resorts. In contrast, a 7-day peak lift ticket (Christmas to New Year) for Vail and Beaver Creek, the company’s priciest mountains, costs $700. It simply makes no sense in this case not to buy the Epic Pass. In general, wherever and whenever you go, it will pay for itself in eight days of skiing or less.
Season passes are no longer just for locals – consider one of these money saving and more flexible options when planning even a single destination ski trip this winter.
Pray for snow!