Our view: Ikon Pass re-shapes Steamboat’s place among destination ski resorts | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Ikon Pass re-shapes Steamboat’s place among destination ski resorts

The most significant takeaway from the Feb. 22 announcement of the terms and prices for Alterra Mountain Company's new $899 Ikon Pass is that Steamboat Ski Resort, the business that has defined Steamboat Springs' identity as a destination resort for 50-plus years, is part of a group of mountain resorts that is well prepared to go toe to toe with Vail Resort's industry-dominating Epic Pass.

That said, for most dedicated local skiers, the new pass is a huge plus. It's difficult not to like a 22 percent price decrease for a season pass, combined with unlimited  access to nearby Winter Park and Copper Mountain, along with access to some of the greatest ski mountains in the country. Winter Park's steep mogul runs will offer Steamboat skiers a change of pace, and Copper stands to lengthen the ski season at the front end of most winters.

Still, competing with Vail and its magnificent mountain just down the highway from Steamboat, not to mention Whistler/Blackcomb, which is on every skier's bucket list, may be a bigger deal.

Vail Resorts COO Rob Katz changed the destination ski resort industry forever when he introduced the Epic Pass, and we believe that Steamboat is fortunate to have become a part of a new family of resorts with the combined resources to compete in the new destination skiing landscape.

Steamboat Pilot & Today readers whose living depends on the local resort economy and those who live to ski should be celebrating the rollout of the Ikon Pass. But the understandable reaction in Steamboat is, "What does it mean for my household?" 

The Ikon Pass costs essentially $250 less than the 2017-18 Steamboat season pass, when purchased from March 6 through April 9. And for that price, the pass includes lift privileges at 13 other destinations — a list that includes ski areas like Mammoth Mountain, Big Sky, Jackson Hole and limited access to Aspen Alta Snowbird.

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For college students and members of the military, the pass will cost $719.

As one enthusiastic Steamboat skier put it this week, there are people in Steamboat already planning road trips around the Rockies for the 2018-19 ski season.

For some other dedicated Steamboat skiers and snowboarders, there will be some decisions to be made, and those enthusiasts don't have all summer to make up their minds.

Senior citizens 70 and older will find themselves paying more for a season pass than the $699 they paid this year. We are concerned for seniors of modest means, living on a fixed income. But after learning this week that Routt County leads the nation percentage-wise for its influx of seniors, we understand why the ski area's new business model cannot continue to offer discounts to affluent retirees.

Parents who purchase an Ikon Pass will no longer be able to add one youth season pass with the purchase of their "season pass." Each adult who buys an Ikon Pass will be able to purchase a $199 pass for a single child, 12 or younger.

There will also be a big adjustment for adults who, in the past, have been content to purchase an eight-day or 15-day pass for the season. Those products are going away, as is the payroll plan for merchant passes. 

And the early deadlines for the purchase of the Ikon Pass could cause a segment of Steamboat society to reach for their credit cards and bear paying the interest.

However, in the bigger picture, we think the ability for Steamboat, with its robust direct flight program, to tap into avid destination skiers from other resorts in the Ikon solar system will have the greatest impact on our resort economy in the long term. 

The Ikon Pass has potentially broadened Steamboat's customer base almost overnight.

At issue: New pass delights Steamboat’s most avid skiers, gives pause to others.

Our view: The greatest significance of the Ikon Pass is a strong alliance that will allow Steamboat Resort to continue to compete in a new era.

Editorial Board
• Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher

• Lisa Schlichtman, editor

• Tom Ross, reporter

• Hannah Hoffman, community representative

• Bob Schneider, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.