The Snow Gauge

Running the rule over the ski & snowboard industry since 1995

More pass discounts, please resorts!

Posted by on Jun 17, 2016 in Australia, United States | 1 comment

Snow Money

How do Australian ski resorts get new and casual skiers and snowboarders into the sport? Mt Hotham is doing a good deal this winter with a beginner pass but there’s still plenty of work to be done.

I don’t fall over myself to simply praise ski resorts – that’s what their social media and press releases are for.

But I will say this: Mt Hotham’s ‘Brand New Day’ $49 initiative to get new skiers and snowboarders into the sport is a good one – albeit only for a day.

If you weren’t aware on Saturday, June 25 they’ll be doing a deal where new riders get a pass and full day lesson as well as all gear (sans clothing) for the above mentioned price. Not bad eh?

But it also got me thinking. Couldn’t we be doing more to get people into the sport and also offer the odd carrot to casual skiers and snowboarders too?

I’d love to see similar deals spread not only to other resorts but across say a week. Of course it can be early in the season when there’s limited terrain open – but just how beneficial would it be for someone new to the sport to get five days on the mountain at a substantially discounted rate? And then tie that in with a discounted pass for them to come back another time.

I figure at that point you either have them or not – so the discounts can ease off from there.

While there are a range of discounts for absolute beginners I’d argue that the casual skier or boarder is given something of a bum deal – and it seems to be a trend, particularly in North America.

Worth learning to ski at Mt Hotham so you can eventually get some of this …

There was an excellent story which originally appeared in the American Powder magazine at the end of 2014 which posed the not unreasonable question: “Are beginners and infrequent skiers, no matter how committed they are at heart, being priced out of the sport?”

And in it came plenty of food for thought. The following observation was particularly on point:

“To establish value for a season pass, it helps to sell expensive day tickets. That is why it costs the same amount to ski six days (at peak price) at Vail as it does to ski 150—and why season passes are marketed to destination travellers so heavily now, in addition to locals and weekend skiers.”

When I spoke to the affable Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz when he was in Australia recently he certainly didn’t shy away from the fact his company had embraced that theme park model where there’s comparatively excellent value in a season pass but you feel like you have to sell a kidney to buy a day pass.

“For the person who wants to ski who shows up the day of skiing and walks up to the lift ticket window we don’t give a discount,” he told The Snow Gauge.

“We’re really trying to push people to plan in advance and that helps everybody – it creates long-term sustainable revenue for the resort but also for the community, the hotels, the retail shops … when you look at the aggregate we have made skiing more affordable but yes we do tend to shy away from the person who just walks up without any advance (to ski or snowboard).”

Shaun White

Of course I want a season pass. I’m not here for a haircut.

Day pass prices haven’t gone through the roof here in recent years (there’s been modest increases) but let’s be honest – they came from a pretty steep base. But that’s not to say we don’t see them getting pushed up significantly again, particularly if the US model is the example.

In the US a day pass at some of the top resorts during the busiest times over 2015/16 could top $AUD235. Ouch!

Back in May I couldn’t even find a Perisher day pass price online – because they hadn’t (publicly at least) locked in their prices. Speaking to their marketing department it is pretty clear that they no longer consider them the marker for costs. And that may be true to a point.

But not everyone wants a season pass – and resorts should find ways to cater a bit more for those who don’t. Thinking caps on …




1 Comment

  1. too hard to get to Australians resorts from Brisbane & rest of Queensland. Sure NZ has virtually no on snow accommodation but there are plenty of nonstop flights from Brisbane & Gold Coast to Queenstown.

    Nothing seems to connect at Sydney to go to Cooma & using new nonstop flights Brisbane to Albury starting today, mean in August for example, you must fly home at 10am, which means if you are at Mt Hotham you must depart by about 6.30am or at Falls Creek by about 7am & there are no coach transfers at these times. Via Melbourne is a joke as that takes about 11 hours in total. Brisbane to LA nonstop is only 12 hours.

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