As we stare down the dog days of summer, anxious skiers and riders are curious when they can get next back on the slopes. In a normal year pre-purchasing your season pass in the spring or early summer for a better rate has become the norm. A wide majority of ski areas dramatically reduce pass prices for early birds, all in an effort to lock in core customers and secure revenue regardless of snow conditions.
The coronavirus pandemic has set a new precedent for the ski industry as it tackles how to reassure customers they will be able to operate next winter. Frankly, skiers and riders still don’t know what the new landscape for visiting ski areas will look like come next winter. Potential travel restrictions and overall financial uncertainty are huge issues for the industry to overcome. In response, ski areas across North America have focused on creating incentives for returning pass holders and economic protection against another canceled ski season.
Vail Resorts extended discounted pass sales through Labor Day on the wildly popular EPIC pass, dramatically longer than the typical spring cutoff. Meanwhile, Alterra Mountain Company is offering what it deems “adventure assurance” on its IKON pass; so if you decide to skip next season you can carry over your unused 2020-21 season passes to the 2021-22 season. Vail and Alterra are both also trying to ease fears of a premature shutdown like last season with prorated refunds if the season doesn’t meet its normal calendar.
The head of Alterra Mountain Company, Rusty Gregory quipped that “pass sales were shockingly strong”. A surprising turn for an industry that has been reeling with the fallout of a premature closure during the busy spring break and late-season periods.
Ski areas in Australia have provided a cautionary tale for the upcoming North American season. Following unusual late opening ski areas in New South Wales are open at just 50% of normal capacity with strict social distancing requirements in effect. NSW ski areas are fortunate to be open at all, as resorts across Victoria closed under a week after reopening. The combination of travel restrictions and rising COVID-19 case numbers effectively shuttering the ski areas in Victoria for the remainder of the season.
The new frontier for skiing in the 2020-2021 season will most likely be far from anything we’ve seen before with reduced capacities, less apres and more local guests. Whether it be skins or season passes we at Unofficial Networks will do what it takes to get on the slopes and make some turns responsibly this coming season.