March 2020

Year-Round Passes

Winter guests are buying into summer in the mountains.

Written by Linda Goodspeed | 0 comment

Once upon a time, Camelback, Pa., included a free ski lift ticket, and a free tubing ticket, with every summer-long water park pass. But nobody seemed to notice.

“Our summer visitors did not use any of our winter product. We saw next to nothing utilization,” says A.J. Stack, marketing director. “They are very different markets. Anybody can go to a water park. Not everybody can ski, or wants to.”

So instead of trying to convert summer guests into winter skiers and riders, Camelback went the other way: adding a free summer-long water park pass to its unlimited winter ski pass. And that worked.

Skiers, it seems, like to also stay active in the summer. Sales of the new Super Pass, which includes an unlimited winter pass, a variety of other perks and, as of this year, a Camelbeach summer pass, have jumped by a third, thanks to the new perk. The summer pass by itself is $99.

As more and more ski resorts expand their summer offerings and become year-round destinations, they are rolling out year-round passes good at all of their attractions, all year long.

Camelback: Super Deal
In the case of Camelback, its Super Pass simply added summer-long water park access to its unlimited winter ski pass ($899) at no extra charge. And, Stack adds, “We did not raise prices on that pass.”

The free extra season has caught on. Since introducing the new Super Pass two-years ago, sales of it have jumped from about 1,700 units to about 2,300. In all, the resort sells about 7,000 winter passes of some type (unlimited, midweek, restricted, senior, etc.), and about 8,000 summer-only water park passes. The target market for the Super Pass are the 5,000 or so people who already own a ski pass and might be encouraged by the summer water park perk to step up to a Super Pass.

“Our goal is to get people here year round,” Stack says.

Killington: Monthly Subscription
Killington, Vt., has a different model for getting guests to come year round.

Over the last few years, the resort has greatly expanded its summer mountain biking network and built out its adventure center—dual zip lines, mountain coaster, aerial trekking course, Woodward Wrecktangle, and more—to go with its existing 18-hole golf course. In March 2018, Killington launched the Beast 365, a subscription year-round season pass.

Killington sells the Beast 365 from March through mid-June only. It requires a 12-month commitment. At first, it was subscription only, but guests can now choose to purchase it outright. For $102 a month (adult price), passholders get unlimited winter access, golf, bike park lift access, adventure center access, F&B and retail discounts, and special bring-a-friend discounts. Plus, Killington plans to roll out additional monthly perks.

“It bolsters our brand to be open 365 days a year. We have weeks when we’re open for both skiing and biking,” says Jordan Spear, marketing director.

As a result, guests had been asking for a year-round pass. “They used to have to buy a winter pass, and then a few months later a summer pass. It makes sense to offer a year-round pass,” he says.

And it’s paying off. “Sales grew quite a bit from the first year to the second,” says Spear. He expects that growth to continue.

Most Beast 365 passholders are adults, some families, and a lot of locals. “Vacation houses that sat empty all summer long are now being used year round,” Spear says.

Making the Beast 365 a monthly subscription, he says, helps expand the demographics of pass purchasers by eliminating the need for a big upfront cost. For guests who participate in only one summer activity–biking or golfing–the Beast 365 offers only small savings. “If they’re doing two summer categories, biking and golfing, it’s definitely cheaper to buy a year-round pass,” Spear says. “We think the pass will continue to grow the next few years as more skiers experience and fall in love with mountain biking.”

Other Year-Round Deals
Across the country, Mt. Bachelor, Ore. (like Killington, owned by Powdr), has also introduced a monthly subscription pass, the Outplay 365. For $99 a month, passholders get unlimited alpine and cross country skiing in the winter, and unlimited mountain biking and one rafting trip in the summer. Just like at Killington, it is available for purchase from March to June only, and requires a one-year commitment.

Loon’s new Access Pass ($99 a month) can be purchased only in March. It includes unlimited winter alpine and Nordic access, and summer access to Loon’s new five-mile network of lift-served mountain biking trails, plus the zip lines, aerial adventure park, and other summer attractions.

“The response has been positive,” says Alex Malloy, communications manager. “As mountain biking continues to grow in popularity, so will knowledge and use of a pass like this.”

Ever since resorts began adding and promoting summer activities, the goal has been to entice winter guests to come back in summer, and to encourage summer guests to try winter sports. With a critical mass of summer attractions, and especially with the growing popularity of mountain biking, the goal is becoming a reality for some.