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Season Passes (All)
Are Vail Resorts’ False Deadlines Hurting their Power for Everyone Else?

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Every year, Vail Resorts is selling over 300,000 EpicPasses. A number that is not only staggering, but growing. Who knows, with their recent French partnerships and Canyons Resort lease, they could hit half a million within a couple years.

So when they massage the wording of their season pass sales to create false deadlines over and over again, we have to ask what the effects will be.

Not just on EpicPass holders, but on the industry as a whole.

This Year
I got this in my inbox on August 30, 2013.


The headline is designed to do one thing: get people to buy now so they don’t have to pay more later.

But when is later? Well, the email is designed to create that sense of urgency for four days in the future. Yet, when I saw this on September 3, 2013, I wasn’t the least bit surprised.


And why wasn’t I surprised? Well, using the same “lowest guaranteed price” tag line last year, they burned through four “deadlines” before “lowest guaranteed price” actually meant “lowest price”. The labor day deadline looked the same as all the others, but the next day the price had jumped $20.

Keeping Skiers Guessing
This year we saw the same build up. But, after labor day, the price didn’t budge. It’s like a game of Russian roulette, you never know which pull of the trigger will actually kill that price off to make way for a new, higher one.

Maybe that’s their plan. Be so vague about the offer, that they can be technically honest but keep people guessing over and over and over. The constant uncertainty, in theory, creates the same motivation as a real deadline but is reusable. In that sense, it’s a pretty clever strategy.

Once they feel people no longer trust the deadline, I pull a fast one and hit the reset button.

The Downside
Last year, I summed up my thoughts on this strategy like this:

“If I cry wolf and you hurry to my aid only to find a stuffed animal, what I said is true but it hurts the meaning of me “crying wolf” in the future.”

That’s what I fear will be the long-term effect of this strategy. Again, not just on Vail, but on everyone.

Other resorts may be sticking to their deadlines, but because many of their guests are on the massive email lists and social following counts of Vail Resorts’ mountains, those deadlines may lose their punch because of actions they have no control over.

UPDATE 9/12/13: Just got an email informing me that prices DID actually go up on the 3rd which is odd because the screenshot above was taken at 4:34pm on the 3rd after other copy on the page had changed (aka, my browser wasn’t showing me a cached version of the page).

So, the “lowest guaranteed price” did actually mean “lowest price” this Labor Day as it did the last Labor Day. Doesn’t change too much in terms of the past use of “lowest guaranteed price”, but good to know that it’s not quite as random as I thought. Either way, the price is now $709.

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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