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Three things to consider when designing uphill products for 2020/21.

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At this point, I think it’s a bit of a foregone conclusion that uphill needs to be on your radar if your market and resort make it a possibility.

But there’s are a few subtle questions that are important to answer as you design a product for those who want to regularly get some turns in under their own power this season:

“Do we charge passholders for an uphill pass? If so, how much? Is there anyone we do not charge?”

There are likely going to be a lot of factors at play as you make these decisions, but me share a few things to consider.

#1) Norms & Other Resorts
In other years, these were less of a focus which means they didn’t get much coverage in media and marketing. In other words, there was no chance for any sort of “norm” to filter out of what the industry does.

This year? Many more resorts are talking about it. And while it’s hardly overwhelming the conversation in ski media, the closest thing to a norm appears to be making uphill passes free for passholders.

#2) Pricing Appropriately
And then comes the price. My initial experience with this is more anecdotal, but I looked into an uphill pass a number of years ago at the resort where I was a passholder. The result? I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. Not because the pass wouldn’t have been free, because of how much it would have cost: the price was more than 30% of what I’d paid for my lift-served pass.

For some context, Whitefish is charging about 10% of their pass price and Jay Peak is just over 6%. And keep in mind, both of these resorts make these passes free for passholders. You could use a little revenue, but you don’t want to piss people off.

#3) Loyalty & Reasons
This is a tough one to design for. On the one hand, you are likely in a situation where you need to sell more passes, not give folks a reason NOT to buy. But you also have a group of skiers who may not be able to renew (or may not feel comfortable doing so) for a variety of reasons including health, job situation, etc. People who may have been incredibly loyal for years or decades.

I’ve talked a lot about preserving loyalty and traditions during COVID. One card to play in that game could be what super-loyal passholders have to pay (or not pay) to get an uphill pass this season if they can’t renew.

Savvy Moves
Overall, it’s cool to see how well resorts are handling the uphill access conversation this year.

We haven’t seen this kind of interest before as an industry, but from my perspective mountains and their marketers are navigating these products and messages really, really well. Definitely one to keep an eye on this winter.

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