Monday, October 4, 2010

Season Passes

Ah, the season pass.  The way to claim a mountain for your own.  To remind all those with day passes that you are the man at this mountain, and this mountain is you.  Really, if you just pull into a random mountain's parking lot, the best way to spot an adventurous local is the 2-3 year old, fairly high end skis (that look like they've been skied hard), duct tape on some portion of gloves, and of course, the season pass.
Buying a season pass is like buying a vacation home.  You're making a commitment to one place for the vast majority of your days off.  There are people who like to experience different mountains every weekend.  The season pass is not for those people (just as people who like to vacation in different areas wouldn't want to be tied down to one house).  By purchasing the pass, you're also setting yourself up for a season full of undiscovered options.  Maine just got a huge snowstorm, but if it's free to stay here.  It's dumping at Jay, but I'd have to drive right by my home mountain to get to it . . . Might as well just stick around.

But there are advantages to the season pass too.  You get an intimate knowledge of the mountain (whether you like it or not).  You know where to go to avoid the crowds, where to catch the sun when the rest of the mountain is covered in flat light, and where to get the cheapest happy hour beers.  You get to know the people around you - the lift ops, the food service guys, patrol - and you get to ski with your buddies.  However, there have been some recent trends in season pass offerings that are slightly disturbing, so here's a quick rundown.

The Epic Pass - Vail, Breck, Beaver Creek, A Basin, Keystone, Heavenly 
What looks like a sick deal ($619 for all six mountains!?!?!), is getting some internet heat for its "Big Brother" RFID program that tracks skier movement through the resort.  I gotta say, I'm one of those guys who lets Google see all of my searches, lets Facebook see all of my interests, and lets tons (read: tens) of people know what I'm thinking every week on this blog.  So if a mountain wants to track my vertical footage, I don't really care.  What scares me is the chance that they might use the RFID technology to catch people in illegal glades or when they're going too fast.  And really, if I want people to know where I skied, I'll post it myself like this guy does.  The fact that they fired a ski instructor for selling a RFID blocking encasement unit seems a little seedy as well (or it just proves that Ski Instructors - even those with 18 years experience - are expendable).

The Ski and Ride NY Gold Pass
 This looks like a pretty sweet option for singles, people with kids, or with skiing friends and questionable schedules.  The Ski and Ride NY pass gets the holder unlimited skiing at pretty much any NY ski resort.  That means, not only do you get the big ones (Whiteface, Gore, Hunter, Belleayre, etc.) but you get the small ones, too (Big Tupper, Willard, Titus, Hickory, West, etc.).  Not only that, the pass is fully transferable.  Meaning that you can give it to your buddy who wants to go up for a powder day, to your wife while you stay home with the kid, or to your retired mom who wants to go midweek.  Awesome.  Really, if you can afford the price (a pretty damn reasonable $1,100), it looks like it might be the way to go.  Off the top of my head, I can think of only two problems.  One is that, since the ticket is transferable, it doesn't look like a normal season pass.  They don't accept it at the lift, so you have to wait in line at the booth, where they'll give you a day ticket.  Then, season pass holders will look down on you for having the gall to have a day pass flapping around on your zipper.  The second problem (and I don't know how serious this might be), is that people might go to the window, get their pass for the day, and turn around and try to sell it in the parking lot.  There might even be a StubHub type site set up to help people find Gold Pass holders (note to self: start ingenious website) who will let their unused days go for real cheap.

Monarch Mountain
Now here's a season pass.  Not only do you get the nice unlimited season pass with your picture on it, but you get to ski other places as well:
2010 - 2011 Monarch Season Passes are now on sale! This is clearly the most unique, versatile, and economic season pass on the market.  In addition to our partner resorts of Loveland, Sunlight, Powderhorn, Silverton, Durango, Angel Fire, Pajarito, Sipapu, Alta, and Grand Targhee, we have now added free or discounted skiing and riding at Michigan's Indianhead, Arizona Snowbowl, Revelstoke, British Columbia, Sol Vista, Red River & Taos, New Mexico, and China Peak, CA! 
NICE.  A couple of the partner mountains give half priced skiing deals (or free skiing with lodging deals), but a bunch of them offer 3 free days at the other resort.  That's 3 free days of powder hunting if Monarch isn't getting a lot of snow (although a 350" average sounds pretty sweet).  The best part, though, is the price: $329.  Or, if you prefer, the price of 4 day tickets at Stowe.  If only a resort would offer a similar deal somewhere around here. 

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