skip to main content
Got 2 minutes? I'd love your advice. Take the 2018 SlopeFillers Survey→

Maybe it’s time to start calling luxury skiing what it is.

divider image for this post

A few weeks ago Jason Blevins of Denver Post fame shared a photo of the latest in the “how high will lift ticket prices get this year” game.

We know it’s coming, but it still leaves your jaw on the floor.

But what I want to address today is not the price of lift tickets.

I’d done that many times including a three-part series comparing absurdly priced doughnuts to absurdly priced lift tickets.

What I want to address is what the skiing population and much of the greater industry thinks when they see these intentionally-inflated prices.

Let me be clear, the problem here is not the price of the lift ticket.

The problem is that we don’t have any other way to talk about skiing besides that single word – skiing – or similar references like “our sport.”

I’ll try to explain.

Like ski areas, there is a full spectrum of cars on the road from the Geo Metro I drove after high school to the Tesla I daydream about.

Yet, despite the thousands of models out there, the car industry can be broken down into roughly three categories.

  • Compact
  • Midsized
  • Luxury

The automotive industry has used these labels and, to be fair, a few others, over and over and over. And by so doing, they’ve been able to compartmentalize their industry into buckets. Groups. Common sets of similar styles or prices.

Same Story, Different Result
Now, let’s say in a few weeks Mercedes comes out with an amazing new car and this is the headline:

“New Mercedes GB Class starts at an eye-popping $175,000.”

Would car buyers and car industry pundits cry “this is terrible, it’s pricing people out of buying a car!” Of course not. But why? I think this oversimplies it, but I do believe it’s in large part because the automotive industry has drawn clear lines between their products.

Changes in one bracket don’t impact the rest.

Just like a restaurant raising the price of a meal to $500 doesn’t raise a cry of alarm among foodies, a car with a six-figure price tag doesn’t make me concerned I can afford a new one if needed.

But that’s not how it is in skiing. When Vail raises their prices, we collectively recite the decades-old response that “we’re pricing people out of the sport.”

And in some ways, we are. Because without lines between our products, the media and consumers have no way to separate what Vail does from what Howelson does. Which is a problem.

Maybe that needs to change.

Maybe we need to start by calling luxury skiing what it is. Maybe we need to start labeling resorts the way you’d label cars at the rental counter (economy, midsized, etc.) or restaurants in a dining guide ($, $$, $$$, etc.).

Vail is going to keep raising their prices for a simple reason: it works. If we don’t want the luxury perception of skiing to be the only perception of skiing, maybe it’s time to do something about it.

  • Ross Walker

    If you’re a value ski resort, for instance, our lift tickets are $74, how do you communicate that you are “economy” without cheapening the brand? We have less terrain than higher cost resorts, but we cater to a specific demographic, beginners and families. We wouldn’t want these folks to think they’re vacationing in a honda civic.

    • That’s the big question. We have small skiing, we have luxury, what do we call the stuff in the middle? I don’t think $74 would be economy, but I think there’s a word there that paints these resorts as real, good, pure skiing without the fluff (and cost) of luxury.

      • Ross Walker

        Thanks for the insight Chris and Gregg!

    • Chris O

      Probably the first word that comes to mind is ‘family’ – market as a family ski resort. that’s probably how I would go about it; this may be more about the luxury resorts properly branding themselves as luxury. So you would have ‘Ski Resorts’ and ‘Luxury Ski Resorts.’ I don’t think any ‘Family’ oriented ski resorts would worry about having a ski up Starbucks, but a Luxury ski resort would!
      So maybe Vail needs to add a Ski up Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse? Ski up Cheesecake Factory? Lowery’s Prime Rib? Those brands would certainly scream luxury which is the type of client who could and would actually afford $200/day to ski.

Get the weekly digest.

New stories, ideas, and jobs delivered to your inbox every Friday morning.

Take the 2018 ski resort social media marketing survey→