What’s New With Muli Resort Season Passes
Once upon a time, ski resorts were owned by entrepreneurs and wealthy families. Occasionally, the wealthy families grouped together to raise capital and purchase and develop additional ski resorts.
Today many of the best-known ski resorts are owned by large corporations. Public companies, like Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN). Some of Vail owend properties include Vail, Beaver Creek Resort, Breckenridge, Park City, Heavenly Valley, Stowe, Whistler Blackcomb, Crested Butte and Okemo. Alterra Mountain Company (acquirers of Intrawest resorts) resorts include Squaw Valley, Mammoth Mtn, Deer Valley, Steamboat, Winterpark, Stratton and Tremblant. Boyne USA’s resorts include Big Sky, Brighton, Loon and Sunday River. Powdr Corp resorts include Copper, Killington and Mt. Bachelor. These corporations not only own or operate the mountain, they generally own or have rights to adjacent real estate assets (land, properties, hotel, etc.).
These corporations are well capitalized and looking for large investment returns for their owners. Their profit holy grail are not lift ticket sales; it’s real estate profits. Well-capitalized corporations have the financial and people resources to address the real estate industry from a vertical perspective. They can plan, acquire, finance, develop, and manage properties. They can generate revenues and profits doing all or a portion of these.
The recent consolidation of the ski resort industry by players like Vail Resorts, Intrawest, KSL Partners and Henry Crown and Company reflect this strategy. No doubt the big boys are contemplating more deals as you read this.
The lynchpin of this strategy turns out to be skier visits. More visitors require more hotel rooms, homes and condos. This requires more management services. As demand increases, prices for all of these tend to rise. As prices rise, there are additional opportunities for these corporate owners to capitalize. These include public offerings, the creation of real estate investment trusts and asset sales.
Bottom line: resorts want you to visit. To ensure optimum skier visits, these corporations are offering multi-resort passes. These offers are in turn requiring that smaller resorts and unaffiliated resorts (not owned by a corporation) also participate in these offerings. The times couldn’t be better for someone embarking on a Great North American Ski Adventure. For less than the price of a season pass you can now ski at 15, 25 or more resorts.
The largely unrestricted, multi-pass resort options began years ago with Vail Resorts. Prior to Vail, there were regional coalitions and partnerships with between various resorts offering their season pass holders free days at coalition resorts. But it wasn’t unto Vail resort offered a pass for virtually unlimited skiing at all of their resorts (many were among the best known in the industry) that avid skiers could have a multi-resort option across five well-known resorts in multiple states. The Epic Pass made its debut in 2008 and changed the way the industry viewed multi-pass resort offerings.
Every corporation owning multiple mountains is following suit. Smaller, destination resorts are picking a team to play on. Things are looking very good for the skier looking to ski at lots of resorts or grab an unrestricted ticket at a destination mountain at half the price of what the season ticket used to cost.
I was an early Epic Pass holder and owned the pass in 2012 when Vail added Kirkwood to the mix. It’s hard to explain the excitement that generated, but let me try. I was holed up in my sister’s home in Minden, NV, a few mile South of Carson City. Vail owned Heavenly Valley and Northstar at the time, as well as its Colorado Resorts (Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone). Heavenly held sentimental memories for me. My cousin was married to Chris Kurasa, an early owner of Heavenly, and I had spent time skiing with him in Lake Tahoe and at Mammoth. Heavenly is a great mountain, especially when it has lots of snow. You can get really good massages and sushi at NorthStar. I was contemplating spending a few days in Colorado to break up the Heavenly experience. In January of 2012 rumors about Vail buying Kirkwood became pretty intense. I remember thinking, it would be awesome if Vail pulls it off: they’d certainly at Kirkwood to my Epic Pass. In February Vail and Kirkwood announced their deal and I was skiing Kirkwood. I remember having to go into the ticket office, show my Epic Pass and get issued a day ticket for Kirkwood. Inefficient, but amazing. Kirkwood was free to me to ski. There was something powerful about the ability to ski Kirkwood, Heavenly or Northstar with a single pass. From meeting friends who could show up at any of these resorts, to picking the mountain that had the very best conditions after a dump.
Vail wowed me and their innovation had me considering them every year. For the 2013/2014 season I was planning on skiing out of Salt Lake City and looking at options. I was looking at pass options in March. The Alta/Snowbird pass was well over 1,000. Vail was in a battle with Park City to acquire their lease to their mountain. I waited, and Vail ended up acquiring Park City and adding them to their Epic Pass. I would not have chosen to ski the Canyons. But with Park City added, what the heck. I could grab a few discount tickets to the resorts in big and little cottonwood.
Here’s the bottom line on these multi-pass ski resort passes. They are generally worthy of consideration when:
- You want to visit a lot of ski resorts and a number of them are included in the multi-resort pass
- You have a single geographic area in mind, you’re on a budget, and the multi-pass offers two or more options worthy of skiing and your other options don’t
The Multi Resort Passes
We’re breaking the multi-pass resort options generally fall into two categories: national and regional. Any pass triest try to offer resort priovileges across more than five states or a single country getw national status.
In general, these passes change frequently and prices can move around depending when they are purchases. Our comparison grid compares resorts. We suggest that once you’ve found a pass with resorts you plan on skiing you go to that passes website for current pricing and privileges.
Benefit Categories Used Muli-Pass Ski & Snowboard Options
These are the resorts, and occasionally a benefit for heli skiing, that the pass covers. Passes often put destinations into different passes. The break down might be geographical, numerical or a combination.
Restrictions (sometimes referred to as Access)
These are the limitations at the Destinations. Limitations include things like number of days and blackout periods. Blackout periods are usually the major holidays like Christmas, Easter, and President’s weekend. Some of the passes even offer unlimited access at resorts turning the pass into the equivalent of a season pass for those resorts. That’s right, a season pass for multiple resorts at a discount price.
“Friends and Family” discounts. These are usually a percentage discount 10 – 50% for a certain number of days for your friends and family.
Discounts for lodging and rentals.
Discounts at participating resorts when your free Access is used up. For example, a pass may offer 50% off a regular ticket once your free days have been used.
Click here for the 2019 / 2020 Multi Resort Season Pass Comparison.