Q: Do season pass deadlines really influence skier behavior?

It seems the month of March is like a green light for the next winter’s season pass sales to begin. Prices are chosen, copy is written, buzz is built and deadlines are set. Speaking of deadlines, that’s the one thing almost every resort uses: buy before this day for the best deal. The question we had was simple, do they work? Do skiers decide to buy when you announce the pass sale or do they wait until the last minute?

The Setup
For this analysis, we took 12 resorts who had a clear starting date and deadline for their first round of pass sales during Spring 2012. Each sale lasted an average of 56 days, the longest going 92 and the shortest 44. We broke the analysis up into pairs of numbers for quick comparison. Those pairs were how many passes were purchased:

  • during the FIRST WEEK of the sale
  • during the LAST WEEK of the sale


  • during the FIRST DAY of the sale
  • during the LAST DAY of the sale

Let’s start with the first and last week. On average, the first 7 days (12.5% of the 56 day duration of the sale) only accounted for 5.14% of total sales during that promotion. The last week, on the other hand, saw 54.41% of all purchases – more than 10x the first week.

The trend is clear, but how does the first day compare to the last day? Twenty-four hours is 1.8% of the total 56 day sale, but the first day only sees 0.85% of total sales while the last day accounts for 20.84% of total sales – more than 24x that of the first day.

The lesson is clear, skiers react to deadlines.

What This Means
The first takeaway surrounds the first few days and weeks of your sale. Even though you’ve sent the announcement to your list, posted it on social media, pushed out a press release, etc., very few people will buy right off the bat. Don’t panic if you see low numbers.

Second, deadlines work. Focus extra marketing resources and attention on that last week and final few days of a promotion. That’s when the motivation exists that will get people to buy. It’s little wonder why Vail Resorts used 4 deadlines and one deadline extension during their Spring EpicPass promotion that only lasted nearly identical 55-60 days.

What you may want to test is various length of promotions. Vail uses two-week segments which might be a good starting point. Next season, instead of a single promotion, try creating a few tiers of pass values, each with its own deadline, and compare total sales when all is said and done.

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