One of the interesting aspects of the conversations around Windham Mountain’s new “semi-private” direction is that semi-private isn’t all that new.
Guest have long been able to get a private lesson, have a private room to sleep in at night, pay more for exclusive dining or book a dozen other things that aren’t part of the traditional skiing experience and only reserved for those with the disposable income to afford them.
With that said, I think I see a hand raised in the back:
“But what about POWDR’s Fast Tracks and Winter Park’s Early Ups products? What do those feel so different?”
It’s a fantastic question and I think the answer is simply that while the Jones family staying slopeside after a private lesson doesn’t impact my ski experience, Fast Tracks and Early Ups do in the form of a slightly longer wait time or fewer groomers / untracked once I get on the mountain.
This is an important distinction that is sometimes lost in the debate. The idea of selling exclusive, premium experiences to folks with more money is nothing new. After all, resorts are unique in that extremely wealthy people and extremely normal people ski side-by-side at the same mountain, pay the same rates, and have roughly the same experience. And resorts, as businesses, have every right to get more share of the wealthier group’s wallets.
But for the most part these perks don’t impact the experience us normals have.
So while I’m curious about the innovation that we’re seeing around products that do impact others’ skiing experience, I’m even more curious about the resorts who are finding more ways to offer things to higher-paying guests that don’t impact others’ skiing experience.
And one that I think is really interesting is what Cascade Mountain just started doing and what Titus has been doing for a few years now: making small, day-use cabins with private parking available for rent.
No more hunting for tables at lunchtime if you’ve got one of these. In fact, we’ll even bring lunch TO YOU. Coming this season, our brand-new ski in, ski out day rental cabins. It’s a new home base for your whole crew! pic.twitter.com/lldaXcZqsr
— Cascade Mountain (@CascadeMountain) October 21, 2023
Private parking already exists, but private parking tiptoes the line between impacting others’ experiences because your visible, normal-looking-but-private spot may be causing me to park further away. But renting a cabin that’s up in the trees or off to the side? And a cabin that happens to includes a few parking spots? I think this does a much better job of separating theses ideas and decreasing the impact on other skiers.
And the up-front cost for these isn’t high. A simple design, heat, a few couches, electricity, and you’re done. Titus has a private restroom for their rentals – but it’s not in the cabin itself – so these units don’t even require plumbing. And at $99-$199 a night for basic and $249 for larger deluxe options, the payback on these has gotta be pretty quick.
Titus believes so much in this idea, they’ve actually trademarked the name; Skibanas™. And while similar on paper, Cascade is also adding their own angle by putting these slopeside and offering food delivery right to your doorstep.
Again, ski resorts are businesses, so finding ways for wealthier guests to pay more for their experience is a fair road to wander down and explore. But I think it’s important to make sure we remember that are actually two roads.
Owned versus forest service land will play a role, the response from skiers with their wallets (not just online) will play a role, and the balance resorts feel comfortable with regardless of the financial impact will play a role. We could see a hundred flavors between Yawgoo Valley and Yellowstone Club or we could find our way back to where we started.
Either way, I’m curious to see where this goes and I applaud Titus and Cascade for finding something that is both exclusive but low impact on other skiers’ experience.
Curious to see where this trend goes from here.
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