Originally Posted by NayBreak
I don't see how cheap passes are a barrier to entry. My family would not be skiing without them.
Cheap passes are amazing for established skiers. I ski more in the season pass era than I could ever dream of affording as a kid. I spend a fair chunk on season passes- Last year I had a Wolf and Sunlight pass (that I won). This year it is Wolf and Silverton. Next year we are thinking Wolf and Monarch for all the NM partner days. Even still, skiing is cheap compared to what it was.
The problem is what they do to newcomers. They hear about skiing and it sounds like fun. They go to Vail's website and see $120+ FOR A SINGLE DAY. Plus rental, lesson, etc.
They say "wow, that is crazy. Maybe someplace else will be cheap." And then they look up Arapahoe Basin at $80, or even Monarch at $60. Then they say SCREW THAT and find a different sport. Day pass prices have massively exceeded inflation since the Mid-90's, just before Vail started the season pass model rolling with its acquisition of Breck and Keystone.
Yes, here and there you can find some pretty good first timer deals like the Loveland 3 class pass (buy three group lessons, get a season pass after you attend the first lesson). I've heard Vail itself is coming out with some pretty good deals that make lessons much more affordable compared to the ticket window prices.
However, most of those deals involve a large investment for somebody to see if they actually like skiing, which limits their effectiveness. And that assuming the prospective skier finds the deals after getting scraped off the roof just looking at window rates.
Consider that day 1 on skis is a lousy day for most people. It is hard, it is painful, there is little opportunity to find the fun. The last thing in the world we want is to add in additional barriers, but that where we are.
The current pricing model is generating pretty good short term profits for most areas, even lots of the little guys. But after 15 years of putting newbies into the highest cost bracket of skiing, we no longer have a next generation of skiers to carry on the sport and maintain skier visits at the level we currently have. In 10-20 years, boomers, who ski more days than any other age group (and are increasing their ski days now) will be gone with nobody to replace those skier visits. Meanwhile, ski areas are in an arms-race fighting each other for visits from the dwindling population of skiers- spending millions in improvements. Tell you one thing, I wouldn't feel good about giving ski areas loans for expansion at this moment in time.