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How Big Season Passes Power the Mountain Community

The influx of “Big Pass” offerings has forever changed the North American ski resort industry, and more recently made an entrance into European resorts. In light of the recent mergers and acquisitions, and the growing market power of skiing empires, what can one expect for the mountain community? How is the pricing strategy actually developed? What are the risks and opportunities for pass holders, and for the resorts? Will this trend keep growing? And, how are non-participating ski resorts responding to this new trend?

This session is scheduled for Tuesday, May 23rd, 2:15 pm in the Pinnacle Ballroom at TopNotch Resort in Stowe.

In this session, four experts will explore the topic from their own perspectives:

Among the optimists, Parker Riehle, President Ski Vermont Association, welcomes Vail’s entry into the Northeast market, especially for consumer benefits and the public’s perception of skiing as a whole. Riehle’s hope is that VR’s presence will change the dialogue on the cost of skiing. By introducing the Epic Pass to the Northeast, and the pricing adjustments that have already been made by Stowe’s neighboring resorts, he foresees a shift in public dialogue—from “expensive and only attainable for the few,” as it has been in recent years, to “affordable for many.”

If Vail Resorts’ deal for Stowe Mountain Resort is finalized as expected, the Epic Pass will include its first East Coast resort, an addition that will certainly increase sales beyond the 650,000 passes the resort operator sold in 2016-17. Shawn Owens, Resort Sales Director at Stowe Mountain Resort, will review the Season Pass strategy and growth at Stowe during the past four years, and discuss pricing strategy for Stowe, Mountain Collective, and Epic Pass products in 2018. Shawn will conclude by sharing service and delivery lessons learned in 2017 to carry over to 2018 and beyond.

Having worked in both the European and US markets, Laurent Vaucher, General Manager at SKIDATA Inc., discusses the major differences in pricing strategy between the two markets. The European market is closely observing how their American counterparts maneuver through the pricing maze. As a result, many ski resorts are starting to consider some forms of consolidation, especially in Switzerland. Will a significant drop in the season pass price entice enough guests to visit the mountains to compensate for the potential loss of income? The challenge is real; culturally, logistically, and operationally. Time will tell if the new pricing strategy will work for the European market.

In light of the consolidation we have seen in the industry, Sugarbush Resort’s Win Smith, Chairman and CEO of Summit Ventures (which owns Sugarbush Resort) and President of Sugarbush believes there remains a place for the family-owned and operated resorts such as Sugarbush, Smuggler’s Notch, and Wachusett in the East, and most of the Mountain Collective resorts out west. He will discuss Sugarbush’s position, challenges, and emerging opportunities.

Gregg Blanchard, Marketing Director at Inntopia will facilitate the session. Gregg joined the company as part of the Ryan Solutions acquisition in 2016. He’s also the creator and editor of SlopeFillers, a resort marketing blog and toolset used by thousands of resorts marketers each week. Gregg is known for his level-headed, unique perspective on marketing topics and industry trends and is a regular contributor to industry publications. Gregg lives in Eden, Utah with his wife and two children and is a proud passholder of Nordic Valley, the state’s smallest ski area. Make sure to also attend his breakout session, Behind the Scenes for Slopefillers’ Upcoming Rebrand.

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