Tag Archives: Season Pass

Summer in Chamonix

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France is beautiful in the summer. This is especially true in Chamonix, where John and I just spent a few days searching for the perfect chalet to rent for a few weeks next winter. Chamonix Mont-Blanc contains more quaintness and charm in this deep “commune” of the Haute-Savoie than all the ski towns in North America. No joke.

A Mont-Blanc Unlimited season’s pass with access to the entire Chamonix Valley, Courmayeur, Italy plus 6 days in Verbier, Switzerland costs € 780 (about $1100) pre-season. That’s 139 lifts, and over 500 km of skiing. Compare that to Whistler/Blackcomb’s pre-season price of $1,199 with 37 lifts and 3,307 hectares (or less than 1 kilometer). Do the math. That’s more skiing for less money than anywhere on this side of the pond. In spite of the great deal, locals complain about the price. Go figure.

With spectacular mountains and unparalleled access, it’s a wonder more people don’t live here. Perhaps it’s the crowds, which whittle away one’s personal space until it’s a sharp little nub of jaded localism. At the height of summer, a.k.a. last week when John and I were there, the line for the Aiguille du Midi tram can be hours long. The walking-only streets of the town are jammed with strollers stopping at every souvenir shop brimming with postcards depicting glaciers that poke their icy fingers into the center of the deep valley. It’s jaw dropping. But, it’s crowded.

We can see ourselves spending our winters there someday; perhaps not in the busy tourist-soaked center of town, but perhaps up-valley in Les Praz or Argentiere, where the pace is slower.

Still, traveling makes me appreciate Crystal, with our terrain and lift system and reasonable crowds. I love the familiar peaks and the knowable backcountry. I enjoy the familiar unpredictability, the secret places where I can escape the crowds, the little open gash between the trees that stays fresh days after a storm, the distant couloirs that with a little effort and a little local knowledge offer a smooth respite even on the busiest days.

I’ve had my summer fix now—my summer vacation. I’m ready for winter to start again. I long for that first healing layer of snow that covers over all the rough places with its uniform whiteness. Bring it on.

Spring Skiing in Washington

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For a thorough view of all Spring Skiing options in Washington (including Crystal Mountain’s plan for late-spring, which is still up for discussion below), plus several great deals on early season pass prices, check out my article Break Out the I-Ski Sunglasses on examiner.com.

Season Pass Controversy

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Seems as though the Crystal Mountain season pass holders are divided. Some look forward to the late-spring, early-summer season, while others are upset that their current passes will not be honored through these addition two months. The discussion on Facebook is getting heated. Below, I’ve cut and pasted our response to this discussion (partly written by me), because I want to hear what you all think. Even those that aren’t pass holders, I would love your feedback too. Or go to the FB page and post a comment there, too.

By now most of you are probably aware of Crystal Mountain’s plans to open for spring skiing in late-April, May and June (another benefit to having a direct base-to-summit gondola)!  However, with the recent comments from pass holders we’re reconsidering our decision to operate beyond April 17th.  For the past 8 years we’ve closed mid-April and that was it.  No spring skiing.

When we decided to extend the operations beyond just the winter season, we priced the new passes accordingly.  A bronze pass is going to cost $599 (was $549 this season) for unlimited skiing next winter and includes the 2011 extended-spring season.  Sweet, right?

Well we thought so, but some pass holders are upset that their passes don’t include the new late-spring season (even though it clearly stated in bold on the season pass terms of agreement and on the website that passes expire April 17, 2011).  It was not our intention to make anyone angry – we truly appreciate our pass holders and their loyalty.  It appears the perception is that a late-spring season should be included at no additional change.  So now we’re wondering, should we open back up for late-spring skiing?  Or if people aren’t willing to pay for it then maybe we should just end it on April 17th?

When a ski area sells a season pass, it’s offering a pre-sold piece of its income. At the same time, the ski area has to balance the relationship between that income and its expenses. This year’s pass prices were based on operating until mid-April. It is not possible to offer two more months of operating on the same planned revenue. This is a business after all. When you buy season’s tickets for the Seahawks or Mariners, and they go to the playoffs, pass holders must pay a HUGE premium for playoff tickets. We are only asking a small fee ($50 increase for Bronze pass), which includes late-spring and next winter.

When a ski area closes early—before the mid-April date—pass holders expect a credit (which we offered back in 2004-05). If you look back at that season, pass prices were $840 (much more expensive than the price offered now!), and pass holders received a 20% credit for the following season. The same logic is at play here. If Crystal is to extend its season, including the expense of running lifts, restaurants and other services, we will also need to off-set that with income. It’s not greed; it’s simple math.

At Crystal Mountain, we know that a ski area is a living thing. We have put far more money into the infrastructure than has ever been taken out. Just look around at the lifts, restaurants, jib park features, buildings, pavers, etc. and consider how many lift tickets must be sold to off-set that kind of cost.

So now we are re-considering the viability of our new late-Spring season. We feel we are offering a value worth paying for. However, perhaps that’s not the case.

If we restructured our season pass rates and program starting 2011-2012 and beyond, creating a DISTINCT separation between the seasons, we could sell passes for an entire season (from winter through summer), starting in the fall. That would mean that this spring, we would not sell or honor any season’s passes. However, if you consider this option, you will see that it is flawed, since the late-spring and summer seasons will vary from year to year, and if we pre-sell a pass that covers our late season, and we do not have the snowpack to cover it, our pass holders may have paid for something we couldn’t even offer.