In an acknowledgment that a season pass just isn’t getting customers what it used to, Vail Resorts has discounted next season’s Stevens Pass ski pass to $385 for customers who purchased one this season.
Stevens Pass Interim General Manager Tom Fortune sent a letter to pass holders on Monday offering the discount at the resort in Washington, which amounts to $150 off the price of this year’s already-discounted pass.
Fortune, in his letter to pass holders, was careful to point out that season passes are already “highly discounted products that provide access all season long,” and “pass holders accept the possibility of limited terrain and variable conditions in exchange for significant discounts.”
Refunds are only provided for certain resort closures or personal events such as job loss, injury or illness, Fortune said.
“That said, we acknowledge that Stevens Pass has experienced very unique challenges this season – unique in comparison to any prior season, unique for the region, and unique when compared to the 36 other resorts our company operates throughout North America,” Fortune said.
But the challenges Fortune pointed out have not been unique to Stevens Pass, as evidenced by a letter to customers from Vail COO Beth Howard in December.
Many of Vail’s usual amenities are still not yet being offered this season, including lift access to the far reaches of Vail Mountain via the Mongolia Platter surface lift (No. 22), as well as the amusement park activities at Eagle’s Nest like Vail’s Forest Flyer rollercoaster and state-of-the-art tubing facility with enclosed magic carpet (No. 28).
Howard said this holiday season at Vail Mountain was the most challenging she has ever faced in her 37 years in the ski industry. She said while the mountain is staffed, COVID-19 has kept Vail from operating in full.
“(COVID-19) is why Pride Express isn’t running, why some of our retail stores are closed, and why some of our food & beverage operations have been slimmed down,” Howard said.
Offerings paired down
Pride Express opened on Jan. 14, along with Pete’s Express (No. 39) in Blue Sky Basin, but the Dawg House restaurant at the bottom of Pete’s Express did not open along with the lift this year.
No food service is currently being offered at Belle’s Camp and Earl’s Express (No. 38) is not yet running for the season in Blue Sky Basin.
Vail Mountain does not yet have its terrain park open for the season at Golden Peak, but the mountain did open a new “skills zone” near the bottom of the Avanti Express Lift where guests can practice carving, off-piste skiing, and bumps, berms, spines and rollers.
No Nastar or Epic Mix Racing option is being offered at Vail Mountain this season.
No food service is being offered in the former on-mountain dining area near the bottom of Chair 2, but a new Avanti Performance Center in that area has been “equipped with leading-edge tools to enhance the lesson experience and unlock all of a student’s potential,” according to a press release from Vail Mountain. “Instructors can take Ski and Snowboard School guests through a series of indoor training tools that replicate movements essential to mastering skills, and also review their skiing or riding on large monitors to accelerate their improvements.”
And in other areas of the country where Vail Resorts operates lifts, similar concerns are being offered, and not everyone will be satisfied with a discount on next year’s offering.
In New Hampshire, Vail Resorts-owned Mount Sunapee turned away guests at the parking lot this season and canceled already-booked lessons for guests who had been counting on them. Sunapee General Manager Peter Disch on Jan. 13 said the ski area’s problems include “staffing challenges, particularly around snowmaking, our food and beverage, and our rental teams.”
Also in New Hampshire, Vail Resorts-owned Crotched Mountain stopped operating on Mondays and Tuesdays this season, upsetting guests there.
In Ohio, Mad River Mountain reduced skiing hours due to staffing restraints, a situation which made headlines in the Wall Street Journal.
Ohio skier Ali Carine told the Wall Street Journal she doesn’t want a refund and instead, she offered a quote which the journal used under its headline.
“I want you to open my mountain,” she said.