In 2019, the price of a season pass at ski resorts across the country makes a ski vacation more affordable for all types of skiers. At first glance, costs have skyrocketed since lifts were first offered. With the right variables, however, frequent skiers can spend less on a lift than a skier did anywhere between 1950 and 1990.
Daily passes or single-use lift ticket prices have risen dramatically. For the occasional skier – one who hits the slopes once or twice a year – a quick ski excursion might remain pricey. This is because frequency equals savings. Season passes now offer skiers unlimited lift use for less per day than skiers had access to several decades ago. The catch is, skiers must use their passes several times per month or season to capture the savings. They must also purchase their passes much earlier. The cost of a walk-up, single use lift ticket nowadays is outrageous when compared with buying in advance and online or golden age pricing.
In 1979, Aspen skiers could purchase a lift ticket for $16. In 2016, that same ticket cost $149. At Vail, the cost for a lift has risen to $200. This increase is true across the board at Colorado resorts. This is because ski resorts have evolved significantly since the very first ski lift was installed in 1936. The first resorts were comprised of small hills and rope tows. Today’s resorts offer an increasing number of comforts and amenities, such as lights on trees and enclosed lifts, full course meals in heated lodges, and shopping. The International Skiing History Association claims that the modernizing of ski resorts was made possible by an exponential increase in lift ticket prices between 1951 and 1965 [paraphrased info from https://snowboarding.transworld.net/photos/when-did-ski-resort-lift-tickets-become-so-expensive/]. The energy and people power required to maintain high functioning resorts is expensive and somebody has to pay for this.
In spite of the skyrocketing costs of lift tickets, the ski resort industry has developed a number of price point options for beginner as well as frequent, veteran skiers. For example, Liftopia and other websites offer presale and discount lift tickets. The real savings come, however, in the form of multi-resort season passes, which were first introduced in the early 2000s. Associate Professor at Colorado State University’s Master of Tourism Management program and former executive vice president of Vail Resorts, Mark Gasta, claims “[the season pass broke] an industry paradigm. It was going from saying, ‘I’m going to charge as much as I can per guest,’ to, ‘actually, no, for those that give us their loyalty and make decisions in advance, we’re going to offer a deeply discounted product and access to multiple resorts.” [quoted from: https://snowboarding.transworld.net/photos/when-did-ski-resort-lift-tickets-become-so-expensive/] For example, Colorado skiers can purchase the Epic Pass with unlimited access to 19 Vail resorts for the entire 2018/19 season for just $929. That’s with no restrictions. Less expensive passes are available for those who won’t be hitting the slopes as often [info from: https://www.onthesnow.com/news/a/619177/buyer-s-guide-to-the-epic-pass].