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.
— Jason Blevins (@jasonblevins) February 19, 2017
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.
— Sierra Davis (@Sierra_SDavis) February 19, 2017
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.
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.
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