I've been thinking about this a bit more, in conjunction with the discussion about ski school and the future of the industry. Most of my ideas, unfortunately, would involve a significant investment in technology. Basically, putting on-line RFID gates at all lifts would allow many payment schemes to be deployed. Here are some ideas:
* Cheap ticket for limited terrain. Unlike never-ever packages, everyone is always eligible.
* Premium price for "extra" terrain. Some places do this now with snow cats.
* Discount for skiing only in the terrain park.
* Discount for never skiing the terrain park.
* Pay as you go option for race courses, terrain park, chutes, etc. if not included in ticket.
* Premium price for "fast lanes" at lifts. Need to limit how many of these are sold.
* Discount for advance purchase.
* Discount for non-refundable.
* Premium for pass insurance. Already exists.
* Discount for setting specific dates in advance.
* Discount for volume: number of skiers.
* Discount for volume: number of days.
* Premium for holidays. Has been common for years.
* Premium for busy hours.
* Premium for busy lifts.
* Discount for combination with: ski team, ski school, lodging, etc. Already exists.
* One run per day ticket.
The more I think about this, the more it seems like the airlines' price discrimination model. The airline has a fixed cost for flying that plane, empty or not, just like a ski area pays to run a lift. The airline may not make a profit on each seat, but should be profitable overall. It's important to keep the pricing model in-line with true costs. That's why a 4-hour ticket that can be used between 10:30 and 2:30 is a bad idea.
At the end of the day, I'm still probably best served by an unrestricted season pass. It would be nice, however, if this weren't some isolated product, but just a combination of premiums and discounts available on a sliding scale. Imagine that you start skiing on day 1 by paying the full daily freight. Each subsequent day, the price goes down. By day 9, your skiing is free as you've achieved a season pass. A true season pass would be just like this, but with an additional discount for handing over the money in the summer, with the unused being refunded.