Thursday, May 8, 2014

Adirondack ski areas by the numbers: Season Passes

ORDA's Ski3 pass gives access to Gore, Whiteface and Belleayre.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.
The 2014-15 ski season is more than 6 months away, but now is the time to consider purchasing a season pass if you want to take advantage of early purchase discounts. The decision is easy for our family: we want the flexibility of skiing on holidays and weekends, and we know we’ll ski at least double the number of days it takes to break even on the cost of our passes. So we’ve already plunked down our cash to take advantage of the best pricing on next winter’s Gore-Whiteface-Belleayre Ski3 passes.

Pricey? You bet. But considering the fact that we’ll get enough use out of our passes to drive our per-person per-day cost down to about $20, I consider it a good value. And compared to season pass pricing in Vermont, our Adirondack passes are a bargain.

Season Pass Breakeven, 2014-15

Daily
lift ticket
Season
pass
Breakeven
# of days
Whiteface
$85
$759
9
Gore Mountain
$75
$759
10
Titus Mountain
$45
$449
10
West Mountain
$45
$399
9
Willard Mountain
$40
$325
8
Oak Mountain
$36
$290
8
McCauley Mountain
$30
$259
9
Killington, VT
$89
$1099
12
Sugarbush, VT
$89
$1049
12

Fortunately, a season pass doesn’t have to be pricey. For skiers that don’t need or want a big mountain like Gore or Whiteface, the smaller Adirondack ski areas provide a local, affordable alternative. Titus, Oak, McCauley, West and Willard offer season pass products that run about half the price (or less) of Gore and Whiteface, and these mountains typically also offer family pricing discounts that bring the cost down even more.

An interesting industry trend has been the proliferation of multi-mountain passes and partnerships. This trend has been most prevalent out West, where Vail’s EPIC pass is considered the leader (more than 300,000 were sold last year). For $729, an EPIC pass buys unrestricted access to nearly a dozen resorts including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, A-Basin, The Canyons, Heavenly and Kirkwood.

Not only are more mountains partnering up for their pass offerings (Rocky Mountain Super Pass, Powder Alliance Pass, Tahoe Super Pass), the deals have gotten more creative. Consider the Mountain Collective pass, which for $369 entitles the passholder to 2 days at each of 6 Western resorts (Alta/Snowbird, Aspen, Jackson Hole, Mammoth, Whistler, Squaw/Alpine Meadows), with additional days at 50% off. The trend has been spreading east with, for example, Killington offering 3 free days at Okemo and 5 western resorts as a bonus to its passholders. There’s also the Intrawest Passport, new for 2014-15, which offers 6 days of skiing (no blackouts) at each of 6 resorts (Stratton, Mont Tremblant, Winter Park, Steamboat, Snowshoe WV, Blue Mountain). The first adult passport is $549, the second adult is $399, teens are $199, and kids under 12 are free (prices have since gone up slightly since the pass’s debut last month). I actually considered the Intrawest Passport as a possible alternative to Gore – Whiteface passes for our family.

In one sense, ORDA has been ahead of the curve: interchangeable Gore – Whiteface passes have been around for years (Belleayre was added to the mix last winter). But as ski areas nationwide have found increasingly creative ways to offer value to their passholders, maybe there’s an opportunity in the Adirondacks too. For example, how about including 2 days at Gore or Whiteface with every Titus, Oak, McCauley, West or Willard season pass? Not only would ORDA benefit from the ancillary spending that accompanied the free Gore – Whiteface visits, they just might convert some of those skiers to passholders when they eventually outgrow the smaller mountain. It’s better than sending those dollars to Vermont.

Season pass comparison fine print:
  • Daily lift ticket prices are adult weekend rates from the 2013-14 season. 2014-15 rates are not yet available.
  • Season pass rates are for the 2014-15 season, for adults, with no blackout periods.
  • Season pass rates reflect early purchase discounts currently available and are subject to change.
  • Season pass pricing was not available for Hickory and Big Tupper at the time of publication.
  • Killington and Sugarbush are included as a frame of reference for Vermont pricing.

4 comments:

  1. Darkside ShamanMay 9, 2014 at 3:11 PM

    Jeff:
    Passholders at McCauley, Oak, and I think Titus and maybe SnowRidge and Royal, can ski free at Whiteface and Gore on non-holiday Wednesdays throughout the season. This has been going on for years.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for making that point DS. I think there's a similar arrangement with Greek Peak too. My point is that the perks /partnerships have not only become substantial, they have also been creatively and aggressively marketed, and I wonder if there's an opportunity to do more in the Adks. No doubt the smaller areas that struggle to survive could use the boost.

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  2. SANY (ski area of ny) sponsored 2 days at of greatly discounted tickets, under $20, at Gore this season, and the turnout was very good. Unfortunately, Gore was either unaware of the crowds that would arrive, or they were just being themselves, as the wait and the confusion as to where the discounted tickets could be purchased delayed most from getting on the mt until 10am. Gore also did zero promotion of the first day on their website, which btw is pretty poor.

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    Replies
    1. Yup. The SANY promotion was good, I think it was $12 lift tix at just about every NY ski area. But it was just a one-time event (well twice actually), on a Thurs (if I remember correctly). I'm thinking more along the lines of a passholder incentive program that gives value throughout the season. I'll try to formulate more of a specific proposal in another post for next week. Thanks for reading and commenting DS!

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