I put myself through college by selling a home snowmaking machine design I had created in high school. Along the way, I learned more about marketing than I ever did in the classroom.
One such lesson came from a year where a new design meant that some of my parts had to be custom machined. Instead of being able to stop by a local supplier on a whim, I had to order a bunch at a time a couple of weeks in advance. Between volume discounts and my bank account, buying 25 at a time seemed to be the best bet.
My strategy at the time was to capturing as many email addresses as possible during the summer and then do a big launch as the weather cooled down in the fall. So my email to that waiting list in November went something like:
“Home snowmakers now in stock, only 25 available!”
Before I tell you what happened, let’s back up a year when I did have virtually unlimited stock. I had built a similarly-sized list of roughly 2,500 people during the summer, but my message was closer to:
“Home snowmakers now in stock, save 10% when you buy early!”
That email had sold, if memory serves, only about 7-8 snowmakers over the course of 3-4 days. When I only had 25, however? And at full price?
I sold all 25…in less than 24 hours.
So for the rest of my home snowmaking days, instead of selling “unlimited” snowmakers, I sold them in batches of 25 and increased total sales – in both quantity and revenue – to levels I had never reached when I was selling “unlimited” inventory.
Scarcity is something our industry knows the power of first hand and, yet, has never truly embraced. We know, for example, that a quantity-based season pass sale will sell passes faster than a deadline-based sale.
The same goes for lift ticket discounts designed quantity-based tiers.
But there’s always this idea of (technically) unlimited inventory behind the scenes. Those passes and tickets will still be available long after the deadlines and pricing tiers have come and gone.
Which brings us to Arapahoe Basin. The Legend is opening a new chapter for their resort. Here’s how Al put it in their recent announcement.
“COVID forced us to learn in a few months what probably would have taken us five years to learn otherwise. Next season we are going to continue to restrict our pass and ticket visits…we are going to sell 10% fewer unrestricted passes next season than we did this season. On top of that, we will continue to limit the number of lift tickets sold each day and all tickets must be purchased online and in advance. No lift tickets will be sold on site. We anticipate selling out of weekend lift tickets on a regular basis. “
There are three things I love about this.
#1) Experience vs Crowds
Just a stones throw from Arapahoe Basin is Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, and Beaver Creek. All of these resorts had insane lines this last year which are likely only going to get worse next season. In other words, they’re doubling down on quality as the resorts around them double down on quantity. I’m really excited to see what they do with this increasingly stark contrast.
#2) More Predictable Revenue
Think about this. If Arapahoe Basin is only going to sell a set number of season passes, a set number of lift tickets, and they plan on selling out of both, Arapahoe Basin is going to have one of the more predictable, easy-to-forecast financial outlooks of any resort in the country. I may not be a great businessman, but I know that sometimes high predictability is better than high potential when it comes to running a successful, financially-sound business. Al’s done the math, he knows what he needs to hit and he can hit it with this approach.
#3) Pricing Power
Let me return to my snowmaking story again. Do you know what I stopped doing almost entirely once I switched to selling snowmakers in limited runs of 25? Discounting. Instead, I had so much demand vs supply that I could raise prices. Arapahoe Basin is giving themselves pricing power at a time when discounting seems to be the only way resorts attempt to lock in revenue or get folks to buy. Will Arapahoe Basin discount? Maybe. But once they see the numbers, they may realize they don’t have to in order to sell out. And like Powder Mountain has trained their skiers by being consistent with drawing a line in the sand and sticking to it for the sake of the skiing, I think their market will catch on quickly as well.
I am super excited to see how this unfolds this year. Are they the first to limit pass or ticket sales? No. But they’re the first regular, non-outlier ski area (ie, not Deer Valley, etc.) to restrict both (at least that I know of).
Not every resort is in the type of market – both competitively and the sheer abundance of skiers – that Arapahoe Basin is so this doesn’t necessarily make sense for every mountain. But I think it’s a great move for The Legend. They are giving themselves pricing power, branding power, and loyalty power that other Colorado resorts won’t be able to touch.
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