Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin (A-Basin) bucked the industry-wide trend of multi-resort season-pass consolidation by announcing an end to their partnership with Vail Resorts following the 2018-2019 ski season. The announcement comes as a bit of a shock as A-Basin chooses to go it alone at a time when most other resorts are being snatched up or entering into partnerships with larger corporate ski ownership groups including Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company.
The split from Vail sets up rivalry between former allies A-Basin and neighboring Keystone—which will remain a Vail Resort—as they compete for early season opening bragging rights and a share of the front range’s sizable ski community. CEO Alan Henceroth cited a “pinch on parking and facility space” as the primary causes for A-Basin’s separation from Vail’s assorted season passes along while dropping subtle hints about maintaining the resort’s independent identity to better serve skiers and ultimately the resort going forward.
Utah ski resorts are likewise feeling the crush of visitors. Resorts throughout the state have succumbed to season pass consolidation, opening up more destinations to skiers looking for an affordable way to experience the Greatest Snow on Earth. Park City’s annexation of the Canyons and its addition to the Epic Pass assuredly gave skier days a boost at the resort while the Ikon Pass introduced the previously placid slopes of Solitude to a whole new group of skiers. Snowbasin, the hidden gem of Ogden, begins a partnership with the Epic Pass next winter, and I’d wager the ski-pass affiliation announcements aren’t done.
Interestingly, A-Basin claims there’s plenty of space for all the skiers on the mountain; the facilities just aren’t up to snuff. The same is seemingly true in Utah, where parking lots and base areas are consistently overwhelmed with crowds while the actual ski terrain does an adequate job of dispersing people throughout varied terrain. It will be interesting to see how Utah resorts respond to the swell and whether increased infrastructure investment is on the docket to mitigate the choke points that lead to unhinged lift line rants.
Ski resorts are famously tight-lipped about how many skiers visit their slopes and what their demographics are, but it would seem joining forces with titans like the Epic Pass and Ikon pass is good for business. Consolidation also brings consumers affordable access to a wide range of resorts—a tough perk to argue against as lift ticket prices soar—but the true penalties associated with increased visitation may compound as the pressure rises. A-Basin felt the heat and has decided to fly solo. Time will tell if any Utah resorts choose to follow in their footsteps.
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