Dear People Who Write About Skiing,
First of all, thank you for all the coverage you give this sport.
I honestly and truly appreciate it.
There are a million other things you could write about – scan Facebook’s “trending” sidebar for a sensationalized few – but you consistently give this industry space on your editorial calendar and for that I am thankful.
But there’s a weird thing I keep seeing in your pieces that I wanted to bring up today and it has to do with pricing.
Yes, the infamous cost of skiing.
Here’s how it goes. You see Vail’s lift ticket that costs $139, you tried to take a recent Tahoe vacation and it cost an arm and a leg, or you surveyed readers from Aspen and Breckenridge and they said so.
With these facts and perspective, the quick conclusion is that skiing is pricing out the middle class.
But you said, “skiing”. So would you agree that “skiing” is to “sliding down a hill on snow” as “dining out” is to “eating food in a restaurant?”
Okay, let’s build on that.
Pick the fanciest restaurant you’ve ever been to. Got it? Now, what if every restaurant as fancy as that one tripled their prices. Would you be forced to cook every meal for yourself until the day you die?
Of course not. Because one business, or even a class of businesses, does not represent an industry as a whole. Triple the prices at La Caille and the Jones family can still eat at Ruby Tuesday every week like they used to.
See where I’m going?
Vail charges $139 at the window for a lift ticket. That’s skiing’s fancy restaurant.
For the same price – $139 – I could ski for three full days at Ski Cooper just down the road. That’s skiing’s Ruby Tuesday.
Or with some planning a family of four could buy Loveland 4-Packs, stay at the Super 8 in Georgetown, and spend $800 for their entire ski vacation – less than the cost of one night at Vail’s Arrabelle.
“But hold on a second,” you say, “you can’t compare Ski Cooper to Vail or Super 8 to the Arrabelle. Right? That’s crazy. That’s like comparing a ritzy restuarant to…oh, wait…Ruby Tuesday.”
You see, mass media keeps confusing luxury skiing with normal skiing.
Likewise, luxury ski vacations somehow become the archetype for any type of ski vacation.
I’ve only found pricing history for New England, but take a look at what average lift ticket prices look like over the last 25 years when you simply account for inflation:
It’s why I could write this article while staying in a $60 hotel room sandwiched between two days of awesome spring skiing that cost a total of $45. Count it up, that’s $105 for a non-luxury ski vacation.
So is skiing pricing out the middle class? No.
Is luxury skiing pricing out the middle class? In many cases, yes.
There’s no doubt skiing is struggling. One theory as to why suggests skiers have grown accustomed to luxury skiing and, once priced out, aren’t willing to switch to middle-class skiing that lacks the polish of an Aspen or Whistler.
But perhaps there’s another theory.
Perhaps people don’t even realize that middle class skiing even exists. Or, if they do, they don’t realize how good it really is.
I mean, if you didn’t realize it and haven’t talked about it, there’s a good chance they didn’t either.
But it does exist and it’s awesome. All of my best memories on snow have been found at mountains without the high speed lifts, without the ritzy lodges, and without the $100/day lift tickets.
Luxury ski vacations are incredible, but skiing is so much more than that. And once you get outside of that world, you’ll be shocked at how affordable and awesome it can be.
If only we knew someone who could help tell this story.
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