News & Opinion | March 17, 2019 5:00 am

How the Mega Skiing Pass Is Actually Killing Skiing

The season pass is having a heyday, but is it actually hurting the sport?

(Getty Images)
Getty Images/Aurora Open

Next winter, avid skiers will be able to buy the Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass. For less than $1,000 ($939 to be exact), the pass gets you access to 67 resorts. Meanwhile, for $10 more, Alterra’s Ikon Pass, will get you access to unlimited days at 14 North American resorts.

While this consolidation occurring across the skiing industry is great for core skiers, Outside Online writes that the relatively cheap passes do not exist in a vacuum, and have actually created more problems for those who live in ski towns.

Vail and Alterra grew by acquiring other resorts, creating “homogenized ski areas and coddled, tepid so-called ‘experiences’ for weak skiers with strong wallets,” writes Outside OnlineReal estate prices have risen since Vail’s 2017 acquisition of Stowe, in Vermont, and people who support small ski towns are being priced out. Meanwhile, thousands of tourists — meaning heavier traffic, more buildings being put in, and potentially a lower quality of life — could have significant environmental impacts.

But one of the biggest casualties is the single day lift ticket. To even get a day pass at Vail, you’ll spend $209, compared to a day pass at the world class mountains in Norway, Argentina, or Japan, where you spend $55, $40, or $50, respectively.

“The U.S. ski industry is facing… increasing prices, paid by a declining number of customers,” analysts wrote in the 2018 International Report on Snow and Mountain Tourism, according to Outside Online. “This tends to make ski[ing] less affordable… especially for the beginners, who usually purchase daily passes…. The business model of the large U.S. resorts [can be summarized as trying to get] always more money from always less customers.”