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Perspectives
Three thoughts on POWDR’s new Fast Tracks lift line product.

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GREGG
BLANCHARD
       

Some people have said over the years that I have a “level headed perspective” on resort marketing,

If that’s true, though that truth may debatable, I’d likely owe that to the fact that I usually wait a couple of days after something important happens before I write about it.

Well, POWDR just announced Fast Tracks.

And it’s been a couple days.

So let’s get into it.

Three Things

As I’ve thought over this idea of letting folks pay for a faster line at the lift and read the responses to the news, I think the responses are totally fair. But I also think the product is also fair. There are three reason I do.

#1) Skiers are Used to Folks in Faster Lines
The first is that there is some precedent for this already: ski school lines. Is it kinda frustrating when you’ve been waiting for a lift for a few minutes and an instructor and their students just zip right on up to the front in their dedicated line? Sure. But skiers have gotten used to that and, odds are, skiers will get used to this idea too. They’ve seen it amusement parks and various other venues, and now they’ll see it at resorts.

#2) Progression of a Trend
If you want to stay slopeside, you pay more. If you want to eat slopeside, you pay more. If you want to park closer or not have to share an instructor with other students or get fancier skis at the rental counter, yeah, you pay more. Skiers have long paid more for things that improve their individual experience. On the flip side, skiers have, for decades, consciously weighed the balance between some better, more expensive skiing experience and some worse, less expensive skiing experience and chosen the latter.

#3) Timing Creates Opportunity with Less Risk
I’ve seen a few people hit the timing of this and point out that it’s a punch in the gut to season passholders. But I also think the timing is really smart because they’re launched it after the bulk of those pass sales have ended and before the next bulk begins. This gives them essentially 5-6 months of learning before they sell passes again. If things go terrible and passholders are still pissed come spring, then they can pivot as needed to keep passholders happy (and spring pass sales up) while building on whatever momentum the product has in their market.

*Asterisk #1) First Chair
Let’s also add a couple of caveats here. I think this could become a much bigger issue if resorts don’t let the first person in line – fast tracks or not – to get first chair. If first chair becomes something people can buy – or at least buy an advantage – then I think this could get trickier than I’m laying out.

*Asterisk #2) Passholder Perks
But, these Fast Tracks days could become a nice little bone to throw passholders if needed to address frustrations based on the first data that come in. Just like you might get 4 discount tickets for your friends, a pass might include 2-3 Fast Track passes you could use throughout the season as needed.

Inevitable?

In a way, this sort of product feels inevitable.

As much as we like to talk about equity in skiing, there’s very little of that. Instead, we give folks options and then we all book what we can afford for a certain amount of the full experience to check enough boxes. It’s why someone will spend $2,500 for a week slopeside at Granby Ranch and others will spent $2,500 for a week skiing Vail but staying an hour away in the Best Western in Eagle.

This is a progression of that, but I also don’t think what we’re seeing today with Fast Tracks will be what we’re seeing next year or in five years. The industry will continue to learn, to pivot, to figure out where the line is between charging for something (so we help the business) and charging for too many things (so we don’t piss off the guests).

Maybe this crosses the line. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe the benefits to the bottom line outweigh the impacts to the experience of folks who don’t buy. But like I often say, there’s only one way to find out.


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