The ski industry: Tahoe-Truckee resorts partnering more to provide cross-region travel incentive
Special to the Bonanza
A look at 2015-16 resort partnerships*
• Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows Gold Pass holders receive unlimited days at Squaw/Alpine, plus four days each at Sierra-at-Tahoe and Sugar Bowl. Silver Pass holders receive two free passes at those resorts.
• Sugar Bowl’s unrestricted pass includes four day tickets to Squaw/Alpine, as well as a ticket to Royal Gorge Cross Country. For an additional $150, Sugar Bowl pass holders get full access to Royal Gorge.
• Homewood Mountain Resort’s passes top out at $439 and provide a $100 discount to returning pass holders, as well as a significant locals’ discount. Further, four day tickets to Diamond Peak and June Mountain are included.
• Northstar California’s season passes provide access to Colorado and Utah resorts as well as Heavenly and Kirkwood. The $479 Tahoe Local pass provides access to Northstar, Heavenly and Kirkwood, seven days a week (with holiday restrictions), plus five days at Colorado resorts. The $769 Epic Pass lets you ski all the resorts any time you want throughout the season.
• Boreal Mountain Resort’s all-access pass is only $259, and you can add on a Soda Springs Ski Area season pass for just $50. The resort also provides special passes in combination with Woodward Tahoe. Further, the brand new Max Pass provides five days each at 22 winter resorts all over North America for $699.
• Diamond Peak Ski Resort’s $349 season pass includes 24 bonus lift tickets, including four each at Boreal, Homewood, June Mountain and several other places in the West.
• Similar to Northstar and Kirkwood, an Epic pass at Heavenly Mountain Resort gives seven-day-a-week access at a host of resorts in the Sierra and Rockies for $769. Even a $429 Locals Value Pass gives you all three resorts, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood, six days a week, with holiday restrictions.
• Kirkwood Mountain Resort provides a ticket program identical to its sister resort, Heavenly, both of which are owned by Vail Resorts (as is Northstar).
• Sierra-at-Tahoe’s season pass is $399 and includes free skiing at Squaw Valley/Alpine for four days a season.
*This is not a comprehensive list of all the season pass deals and partnerships at every resort in the Truckee-Tahoe region. Visit the website of your favorite resort, or call, to get full details.
TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — The recent announcement by Sugar Bowl Resort that its 2015-16 season pass will provide access to Woodward Tahoe is the latest example of a trend that has been sweeping mountain resort businesses for several years: cross-promotion.
For the upcoming winter, a season pass to Sugar Bowl also means you’ll get a few day tickets to Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley, along with some at Woodward, which is located at Boreal Mountain Resort.
Woodward Tahoe is marketed as the Tahoe-area’s freestyle training center, offering trampolines, foam pits, an indoor skatepark, pump track, and launch pads for park skis and park boards.
Both are located within 10 minutes of one another on Donner Summit.
Sugar Bowl Marketing Director John Monson said the partnership is about providing value to the customer.
In addition to lower ticket prices, season pass holders also receive discounts on food and beverages, rentals and lessons at Sugar Bowl.
“We see a big shift toward season pass holders versus day ticket holders,” said Monson.
In fact, Monson said more than half the ski days at the resort are now used by season pass holders.
These pass holders want to get the value of a season pass, but not have to be locked in to only skiing at one resort, he said.
If they buy a season pass at Sugar Bowl, and also get to ski a few days at Squaw, it is a win-win for everyone, Monson said — Sugar Bowl sells a pass, and Squaw gets a skier who will be introduced to the area and perhaps support the village and on-slope amenities.
The Wooodward-Sugar Bowl combo is the latest in a newer era in the ski industry, in which resorts are competing with each other — while at the same time encouraging skiers to try out the competition, said Squaw Valley spokesperson Michael Ratliff.
“By offering skiers and riders access to multiple resorts on a single season pass, we’re increasing the diversity of mountain experience available to our guests,” Radlick said. “This gives our guests an unbeatable value and even more access to the most incredible destinations across the country while increasing their flexibility to hit the slopes when and where the conditions are best.”
For example, a Squaw/Alpine 2015-16 season pass also provides you some tickets to Sierra-at-Tahoe, located south of South Lake Tahoe.
Other partnerships recently include Heavenly providing access to ski at its sister resorts, Northstar and Kirkwood; and a Homewood pass that gets you tickets to Diamond Peak and June Mountain.
One reason that these cross-promotion programs are a hit is because of how the pricing structure has changed over the last 10 years at mountain resorts.
While the cost of a day ticket has gone up to more than $100 at some areas, season pass prices are relatively inexpensive.
Passes at the top ski resorts can be found in the $400-500 range (with restrictions), with even the top unrestricted passes in the $600-800 range.
Thus, if someone skis 30 days in a year at their favorite mountain, they are paying less then $20 a day.
If that pass holder then has to fork out $100 to ski at another mountain just down the road, though, it can be a pill that is tough to swallow.
Once several ski areas started providing tickets to other mountains — all the rest needed to jump on the bandwagon to compete.
Tim Hauserman, a nearly lifelong resident of Tahoe City, is a freelance author and cross-country ski instructor. He wrote the official guidebook to the Tahoe Rim Trail, now in it’s third edition, as well as Monsters in the Woods: Backpacking with Children. He may be reached at email@example.com.