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Travis Mayer
Behind the Scenes: Making the Max Pass

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GREGG
BLANCHARD
       

The MAX Pass came out of nowhere with a unique strategy built on new tech and designed based on lessons from the past. This week I’m covering three aspects of how this pass, sale, and brand came to be.

Today’s perspective on strategy comes from Intrawest’s CFO, Travis Mayer.

Gregg: How long has the MAX Pass been in the works?
Travis: We started talking to the Boyne and Powdr guys about the idea of joining forces to create a new pass shortly before Thanksgiving. We all got together in Denver in mid-December for a brainstorming session, and the idea came together pretty quickly after that.

Gregg: Where did the idea first come from and how long did it take to go from an idea to the “let’s actually build this” stage?
Travis: The genesis of the idea was an observation that the level of pass penetration in many regions of North America, most notably the East, remains incredibly low. For example, in Colorado approximately 60% of active skiers and riders buy a season pass; in the northeastern US fewer than 30% of active skiers and riders are pass holders. A similar disparity exists in the Northwest, eastern Canada, and other regions that are home to large numbers of skiers.

In combining our portfolio of resorts on one pass, we have created an entirely new category of pass product that we believe will convince more folks in these regions to buy a pass instead of a handful of day tickets. The M.A.X. Pass provides a customer an unprecedented level of flexibility to do day trips and weekends at great resorts near home and also take a longer trip to world class destinations farther afield—all on one pass, at a great price.

Gregg: Talk a little bit about how three resort groups came together to work like this. Was it a tough sell or was everyone already thinking of some sort of response to the EpicPass, etc?
Travis: The coordination was amazingly easy. We quickly coalesced around a common vision of the opportunity and the appropriate product to offer the market. As I mentioned before, the pass isn’t necessarily a direct response to the Epic. Instead, it is intended to be a new product that will motivate people who haven’t bought a season pass in the past to buy a pass next season. By giving these people a bunch of great resorts to explore, we hope they will ski more and enjoy a low cost per day of skiing. A scenario where everyone wins.

Gregg: The Mountain Collective is so as its own pass product but only 2 days at each mountain. The Powder Alliance can only be purchased as an add-on to current passes but only gives 3 days. The EpicPass is it’s own product and is unlimited. Talk a little bit about why you chose the model you did that offers the pass as both standalone but also a pass upgrade and enough days (5) to make for a solid vacation?
Travis: We decided to offer 5 days at each resort to give customers the ability to ski a few weekends at any individual participating resort or take a week-long vacation (with one rest day), which appears to be the new normal for week-long western trips. We don’t think 2 or 3 days is long enough for a week long western trip.

We wanted to offer a very affordable add-on to our existing passes to provide our current passholders the flexibility to experience other great resorts in addition to their home resort.

Gregg: How did the success and lessons learned from the Intawest passport play into the planning and model used for The MAX Pass?
Travis: Our experience with the Passport validated our view of the East to West opportunity and helped us determine that 5 days was the appropriate amount of skiing at each property to give customers the desired flexibility to vacation how they want, when they want.

Gregg: This is the first such pass effort that ties the west to the east. Talk a bit about what you feel that does for the strength of this pass’s value in the marketplace, especially vis-a-vis other pass products?
Travis: If you are an adult who buys the pass in the spring for $699 and skis 15 days next season—some local weekends and maybe a destination trip in the Rockies—you will be paying ~$47 per day to ski at some of the best resorts in North America. That’s less than half the cost of a window ticket at some eastern resorts and one third the cost of a window ticket at some western resorts. If you ski more, it’s even a more incredible deal.

Gregg: What was the biggest challenge in making this pass a reality?
Travis: It always takes time to work through the details and complexities of bringing a new product like this to market. Given that we had three partners at the table, one would have expected this to be much more difficult than it actually was. We have a lot of respect for the teams at Powdr and Boyne. They are smart, analytical, creative people who consistently deliver great guest experiences at their resorts. Given the mutual respect in the partnership, we quickly got everyone rowing in the same direction.

Gregg: What’s the future? If Peak Resorts comes knocking can this expand or is does the current scope match your current goals?
Travis: We will consider adding new resorts to the pass in the future if we think they complement the existing portfolio of participating resorts and increase consumer value.



  • Great article, Gregg. It is great to see a product reach into the east. Those folks take destination visits out west, and it’s a smart play to keep them in the family.

    One correction…
    “This is the first such pass effort that ties the west to the east.”
    Pictured below is my American Skiing Company “Ski America” pass from 2000-2001. It was valid at Sunday River, Sugarloaf, Attitash, Killington, Pico, Mount Snow, Sugarbush, Haystack, Heavenly, Canyons, and Steamboat.

    • Good catch, Digi. I don’t know why I always forget about ASC when my EpicPass actually hangs from an ASC lanyard from (The) Canyons back in the day.

      One day I really need to go back and do a whole series on ASC, the Ski America Pass, etc. In other news, awwwwww…young, Digi :)

      • Oh man, a three part TBT on the rise and fall of the American Skiing Company would be a wild one. I know a lot of people that would happily contribute to that airing of grievances. And yep, there it is – my 2nd season in marketing at Sunday River.

        Here’s another gem from the old ASC days.

        • Love it.

          Maybe this summer (post DSummit), I’ll make it happen.

  • Correct me if I’m wrong here, I believe Boyne, Powdr, and Intrawest all run RTP|ONE as well. That certainly makes things much easier from a ticketing, reporting, and redemption side of things since you’re not dealing with multiple access platforms.

    • Trevor Crist

      Dave, If only it were that easy. ;-) Several of the Boyne resorts run on SiriusWare, and Blue Mountain runs on Cenium.

      • Wait, whaaaaaaa? Trevor, you think Blue is the test instance for Cenium before a larger rollout? All I really know about it is that it is an ERP with a hospitality management component, and sits on Dynamics.

        • Trevor Crist

          Cenium was there before Intrawest took over Blue, so it’s ‘legacy’ (in quotes, because it hasn’t been installed there very long). You’re correct that it’s built on Dynamics — and for that reason CFOs in particular seem to like it.

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