Our View: New First Tracks structure balanced, thoughtful
March 20, 2012
There's an old saying in the Colorado Rockies that all's fair in love and powder.
If one subscribes to that axiom, then we would submit that the structure of the new expanded First Tracks program by Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. was created with fairness in mind.
We know our readership well enough to surmise that there are some powder hounds out there who are disgruntled by the "pay for powder" policy. But after studying the terms of the new program, we think it protects some premium powder areas of Mount Werner for the general skiing public. Further, we have concluded that the fee structure makes it plain that it was set up with the idea of attracting broad participation rather than making it ultra exclusive. At the same time, the number of skiers and snowboarders who can participate in First Tracks each day, as well as the number of runs available, is limited.
First Tracks is a program that allows skiers to get a jump on the competition, so to speak, in order to be assured of untracked powder when the weather cooperates, or in some cases, to be assured of skiing untracked corduroy snow.
Beginning in 2000, First Tracks skiers were allowed to board the gondola at 8 a.m., 30 minutes before it opened to the general public. Originally, First Tracks skiers were accompanied by a guide. They now have the option of heading up the mountain without a guide. The number of ski lifts running for First Tracks also has expanded in recent years to include the Sundown Express, Sunshine Express and South Peak chairlifts.
Despite the use of those lifts in the Priest Creek area, First Tracks skiers do not have access to the hallowed tree skiing in Shadows and Closet, nor can they ski Storm Peak face.
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A First Tracks ticket this season cost $29 and included a $5 breakfast voucher.
Beginning with the 2012-13 season, skiers who buy a season or 15-day pass will have the option of adding a First Tracks upgrade in the form of a 10-day First Tracks pass for $179 or a season upgrade for $219.
We understand that some people will not think they can afford the upgrade. But when compared to the early-season prices of $959 for a season pass and $719 for the 15-day pass, the First Tracks addition is attractively priced for people for whom magical powder days make a ski season memorable.
And after all, the ski area is in the business of selling memorable vacation experiences to a relatively affluent clientele. We learned from last fall's vote on the sales tax to support airline service that a significant majority of city voters connect their own economic well-being to the viability of winter tourism here.
By extension, if offering those same travelers a better chance at skiing untracked powder will help the resort economy deliver on its promise of creating memorable vacations, the benefits will trickle down to all of us.
It's also the case that Ski Corp.'s relationship with the community is defined by programs like season pass prices and the ability of parents to get a free season pass for youngsters with the purchase of an adult season pass.
For the most avid local skiers and snowboarders who wouldn't think of going without a 15-day or season pass, the expanded First Tracks program allows them to buy down the cost of assuring themselves of an untracked run or two on the best days of the ski season.
If one skied 50 days on a 2012-13 season pass with the full First Tracks option, the opportunity cost of that $219 fee would be $4.38 for each of those 50 days. Of course, it's unlikely that all 50 will be powder days. So, assume 15 powder days and the cost for each of them would be $14.60.
Is it worth it? Skiers and snowboarders can decide for themselves.