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I have to admit, I really don’t understand Epic’s partnership push in Europe.

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As of September 1, just in time for their labor day pass deadline, Europe is Epic.

The move is an interesting one on a few fronts.

But as I think through this partnership I, for lack of a better term, am simply not getting it. Let me see if I can explain.

#1) Not New
The first thing is that it’s not really new. So while it’s cool to be able to ski in Europe, this is not the first time you have been able to do so. In fact, it was in Europe that the Epic Race ran aground.

#2) Not Unique
But even still, it lacks the PR value it might have had because it’s not even that novel. Hence the use of “significant” instead of “only” in the release:

“How do you pack more value into a ski pass which already includes world-class destinations like Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Park City and Heavenly? Make it the only multi-resort pass to offer significant access to European skiing and snowboarding.”

Again, it’s cool…but not unique.

#3) Not Most
Then I thought they might be looking for a way to compete with The MAX Pass’s whipping 32 resorts.

But even with Europe that doesn’t close the gap.

#4) The Big One…
Skiers are humans. Even crazy wealthy ones. Which means they have one inevitable constraint: time.

Vail Resorts skiers have money, there’s no doubt about that. So the most confusing piece of this to me is why Vail is okay with giving their passholders a place that takes a lot of time and a lot of money to visit and ski.

The pass make a ton of money, but it works because the wealthy skiers that purchase it also buy $1,000/night lodging. Offering these people a place to ski that isn’t owned by Vail feels like a grocery store selling cheap milk and then giving you the option to buy the rest of your groceries at the store across the street.

Vail’s model has been own everything in the system so they get all of the value in that system.

Two explanations?
When you consider those downsides, the only two explanations in my mind are:

  • A) They’ve got a deal worked out with these European resorts that returns a massive amount of the value back to Vail…
  • OR, B) they’re taking nothing from the resorts and simply testing the destination pass market in Europe by building in tons of non-USA value right before a big deadline and fall sales push.

If it’s “A” I can’t see that ever working to Vail’s benefit (vis-a-vis that same person spending that time at money at Beaver Creek) unless the share of those transactions is so far skewed to Vail that the European resorts are getting completely screwed every time an Epic Passholder shows up (which I don’t think they’d agree to).

If it’s “B”, the next 12 months will be very, very interesting to watch as news of VR’s next acquisition(s) starts to surface. But if it was B, wouldn’t they have seen that value from their European partnerships 4-5 years ago? And wouldn’t they have done something, anything in that regard in the interim?

I dunno.

If you see something I’m not, I’d love to hear it because…yeah…I’m not following this move. At all.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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