Utah ski resorts align, meaning consumer-friendly prices on passes
Competition • Resort alliances mean consumer-friendly pricing for ski passes.
Published: August 26, 2013 09:05AM
Updated: August 24, 2013 06:27PM
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Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune Since Vail inked a deal to operate Canyons Resort in Park City last May, the landscape of the state’s $1.173 billion ski industry has fundamentally shifted, prompting fresh alliances between resorts and a full slate of new products, including the Big Cottonwood Pass, which allows one to ski or board all 2,250 acres, 15 lifts and 130 named runs of both Solitude Mountain Resort and neighboring Brighton Ski Resort (pictured).

There have always been healthy yet competitive relationships between Utah’s 14 ski resorts, but the arrival of Denver-based Vail Resorts Inc. has injected a whole new dynamic into the marketplace.

Since Vail inked a deal to operate Canyons Resort in Park City last May, the landscape of the state’s $1.173 billion ski industry has fundamentally shifted, prompting fresh alliances between resorts and a full slate of new products. Utah resorts are banding together and looking beyond state borders to create novel types of ski experiences meant to entice both local and out-of-towners to hit the slopes.

All of this amounts to good news for skiers and boarders looking for a bargain.

Take, for example, the Big Cottonwood Pass, which allows one to ski or board all 2,250 acres, 15 lifts and 130 named runs of both Solitude Mountain Resort and neighboring Brighton Ski Resort. The pass can be used any day of the season and includes the popular night skiing option at Brighton. All of this for $999.

“Competition creates opportunity,” said Solitude general manager Dave DeSeelhorst. “With all the other passes [coming on the market], we felt compelled to do something we’ve talked about with Brighton for years.”

The collaboration also involves a new joint ticketing system that allows visitors to roam unencumbered between the resorts. DeSeelhorst said it’s the first time this type of hands-free revenue-sharing model will be used in North America (apparently, it’s common in Europe).

“From a consumer standpoint, we are two uniquely different resorts, so being able to offer [this pass] really gives everybody the best of both worlds for a pretty low price,” DeSeelhorst said.

Another partnership between Alta, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort and Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort is being touted as “The Best Benefit in the Wasatch.” For the price of a qualifying season pass at any one of these resorts, you’ll receive an extra nine days of skiing or boarding (three days at each) at the other three. Prices vary by resort, but start at $980.

The deal, unveiled three weeks ago, is getting great response on social media and at the ticket booth, said PCMR spokesman Andy Miller, although he couldn’t say how many of the special season passes have sold so far.

“It’s a pretty amazing benefit to be able to take advantage of four world-class resorts within driving distance of one another,” Miller said. “We’ve got four of North America’s top resorts, so this is a great way to show that off.”

For its part, Canyons Resort has hitched its wagon to Vail’s star, introducing that franchise’s Epic Pass — and its 300,000 Epic Pass holders — to the Utah market. At $689, the Epic Pass allows unlimited skiing and riding on the 4,000 acres that make up Canyons and 17 other resorts in the U.S., Switzerland and Austria. For Canyons devotees, the Epic Local Pass offers unlimited skiing at Canyons (with some holiday restrictions) for $529, $310 less than last year’s Canyons season pass.

Spokesman Steve Pastorino says both offer consumers tremendous value.

“We’re still very much in the process of explaining these to people, but once they understand, the reaction is generally ‘wow’,” Pastorino said.

Ski Utah spokeswoman Susie English said she’s excited by the changes in the local marketplace and hopes they spur public appetite for winter sports and an economic boost.

“I think when Vail came in, it definitely — I don’t know if I would call it pressured, but it did encourage our resorts to look at some different pass options,” English said. “It’s a wonderful thing if all it does is get more people on the slopes. It’s really exciting for us.”

For the lowest prices, you’ll want to shop for deals by Labor Day. Here’s a sampling of season pass offerings new to Utahns this year:

The Best Benefit in the Wasatch • Buy a qualifying season pass at either Alta, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort or Snowbird and get an extra three days of skiing or snowboarding at each of the other three resorts during the 2013-14 season. The benefit will be honored seven days a week, although some holiday blackout dates apply. Prices vary by resort. www.skiutah.com/media/recent_news/alta-ski-area-deer-valley-resort

Big Cottonwood Season Pass • This pass is valid at both Solitude and Brighton resorts throughout the entire 2013-2014 season. No blackout dates and includes night skiing. Adult season pass: $999. http://brightonsolitude.com

Epic Local Pass • This pass offers unlimited skiing at Canyons (minus 11 holiday blackout days) plus Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin (Colorado) and limited restrictions at Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood (Tahoe). Ten days at Vail and Beaver Creek (with holiday restrictions) are also included. Adult season pass: $529. www.canyonsresort.com/season_passes.html

The Mountain Collective • This pass offers two days of skiing at each of the following: Alta/Snowbird, Aspen Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Mammoth, Whistler Blackcomb and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows. No blackout dates, 50 percent off all additional days and up to 25 percent off lodging. Adult passes: $379. http://mountaincollective.com

Powder Alliance • Purchase a season pass to any of the following 12 resorts and ski three days at each of the rest for free: Participating resorts include Snowbasin, Angel Fire (New Mexico), Arizona Snowbowl (Arizona), Bridger Bowl (Montana), Crested Butte (Colorado), China Peak, Mountain High and Sierra-at-Tahoe (California), Mt. Hood SkiBowl and Timberline (Oregon), Schweitzer (Idaho), and Stephens Pass (Washington). Snowbasin season pass: $689. www.snowbasin.com/tickets-passes/winter-rates/#/passes/

Yeti Pass • Ski Utah is once again offering its Yeti Pass, which provides a one day pass to each of Utah’s 14 resorts for $599. It’s a complement to Ski Utah’s 5th and 6th Grade Passport program for or anyone wanting a statewide taste of the Greatest Snow on Earth. www.skiutah.com/winter/deals/deals/yeti_pass

jnpearce@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jnpearce