Ski passes to remain at $885 for 2003-04

Early season price good through Aug. 18

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Hardcore skiers and snowboarders looking forward to winter have added incentive this year to buy season passes early.

The Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. announced Thursday it will hold the line on the price of a season pass at $885 through Aug. 18, but the autumn price bump will go up to $1,105. The price of an unrestricted season pass goes up again Nov. 24 to $1,450.

Even as the ski area holds the line on early season pass sales, it is bumping the lowest price for value passes by $20 and leaving autumn prices where they were last year. The early season price for a 20-and-10 value pass this year is $719, compared with $699 last year and $645 for the winter of 2001/2002. The 20-and-10 pass permits 20 days of skiing during the middle of the season and 10 additional days split between early and late season.

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth said ski area executives determined the unrestricted pass is the most sought-after by its local customers.

"I don't know any business in town whose costs aren't going up, and ours are, too," Wirth said. "But from a unit sales standpoint and from a revenue standpoint, the adult season pass is by far what local and Front Range customers buy from us."

Wirth said the number of skier visits attributable to destination skiers was off last winter. It was local and Front Range skiers' frequent use of their passes that allowed overall skier visits to remain flat over preceding years at just over 1 million.

"We want to keep that positive momentum going and we think we'd see a decrease in units sold if we raised adult season pass prices to where they are in places like Jackson Hole," Wirth said.

The ski area's newest pricing policies continue to reward families with children 12 and younger. Youngsters who turn 13 this year will find the cost of a teen pass has gone up again.

Steamboat's family pass program returns for its 18th season, letting parents obtain one free 12-and-younger youth pass when they purchase an adult pass. Wirth pointed out that under the program, a family of four with children in the right age group can purchase four passes at a rate of $442.50 per person, if both parents purchase an adult pass. Last winter, 950 children had passes under the program, according to Ski Corp.

A teen pass will cost $475 this year. That's up $155 from two winters ago.

The decision to increase the price of value passes and teen passes was made after a thorough analysis of the habits of skier and riders last winter, Wirth said. Ski Corp. looks at average usage and median usage for all of its pass programs, combining price points and yield per use to adjust rates each winter. Ski Corp. also analyzes what other ski areas are doing. Given the trends, Wirth believes the price increases are justifiable.

"When you look at other resorts, there is nobody who offers what we do in terms of Kids Ski Free," Wirth said. "We could not find another ski resort that offers a pass like that."

Steamboat skiers are sensitive to the Buddy Passes that drop the price of a season pass at Front Range destination ski areas such as Copper Mountain into the $300 range.

Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond has consistently said that Steamboat's economic model doesn't allow it to offer season passes at the rates offered by ski areas that are competing for day skiers from the Front Range. Steamboat's share of Denver/Boulder skiers rose again this winter, but most of those guests arrive only for long weekends. For skiers and riders who ski as often as possible, the adult pass translates into a daily rate as low as $6.37 per day, Diamond pointed out.

Another adjustment made by the ski area this winter is the restoration of the 20-and-10 value pass to the merchants program, but only until Aug. 18.

The merchant pass allows members of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association to buy season passes for their full-time employees. Workers can then pay for their passes by installment.

The 20-and-10 program was dropped last summer because Ski Corp. officials concluded there was only mild interest. They received as many as a dozen phone calls registering disappointment and the program is back this year.

"We listened to our customers," Wirth said. "You discover how passionate people are when you eliminate something."

Again this year, a two-tiered pricing system on merchant passes will create a significant incentive for chamber members to contribute financially to the ski season airline guarantee program referred to as "Fly Steamboat."

Businesses that support Fly Steamboat will be able to purchase a merchant pass at $885 with a $100 deposit. Those who do not participate will pay $1,195 and be asked to put up a $400 deposit.

Steamboat will not release the price of an open rate, single-day ticket for 2003/2004 for another 10 to 14 days. The price of a one-day ticket last winter was $64.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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