"Light Expansion at Whitetail!Coming to Whitetail for the 2002-2003 winter season will be night skiing & riding on four additional trails! Now you'll be able to hit the experts from open to close! Lights will be added to Bold Decision, Exhibition, Drop In and Ridge Runner! We hope to see you on the slopes!"
Talk about faith. We've just come off a "winter" in which people spent more time sunbathing than skiing, and yet WT is lighting more slopes.
I still have a complaint, however. Why doesn't the Tail lower its season pass rates???
According to a recent article in Ski Magazine entitled, "What Price is Right?" most savvy resorts are offering deep discounts to skiers willing to plunk down the bucks early in the season for a pass. Blue Knob, Timberline, 7 Springs, and Snowshoe are all selling any day season passes right now for under $350. I just bought two Timberline passes for $249 a pop. Knob is now selling passes for only $199!
Whitetail's any day pass, by comparison, is selling at $599--twice as much as most of its competitors. Now admittedly, the Tail offers a few extra bennies:
Free skiing at Liberty or Roundtop
Four FREE visits to Ski Windham, NY and
FREE lift tickets at Ski Windham any time
Whitetail, Liberty, or Roundtop is closed -
Whitetail, furthermore, is one of the few areas that offer night skiing EVERY day of the week. It is also much closer to DC than any of the competitors mentioned.
Still, the high season pass price goes against current trends. A Vail resorts buddy pass good at Breckenridge, Keystone, and A-basin is only $249. At Snowshoe, two years ago, skiers were shelling out $598 for an any day pass. Back then, the resort averaged 350 passes a seasons. Last year, Shoe dropped its price to $398 and sold 1100 passes. In short, Shoe made over $200,000 more by dropping its season pass rates by 50%!!!! This year, shoe is selling its passes for a limited time at $349!
Why doesn't Whitetail step up to the plate and try a similar strategy? Arguably, Whitetail offers the best close-in skiing experience in region, but it is often empty on non-holiday weekends and weekdays. The resort could pick up a lot of extra business by moving a few more passes every season.
As a former Whitetail season passholder, I thought I should chime in. The prices you give for Whitetail are the "retail" prices for season passes, but they do offer pre-season discounts. The anytime pass is $499 vs. $599 if purchased by October 31, for example. And in the past, Whitetail has added discounts on top of these pre-season discounts for prior season passholders.
It comes down to supply and demand, I think. As one of the closest and most popular resorts to D.C., Whitetail historically attracts large crowds on weekends. This past season may have been a little different, but in years where the conditions are consistently good, Whitetail can be *packed* on weekends - to the point where the resort has to turn people away. I wouldn't even *think* of visiting Whitetail during a weekend day in "typical" years.
You're right, though - Whitetail is typically very uncrowded on weekdays. A midweek season pass is only $295 (pre-season price). An evening pass, valid any evening (including holidays) from 5-10 p.m., is $219.
These prices and plans may change. When I was a passholder a few years ago, I typically bought the "midweek" pass - it was valid all day and night on non-holiday weekdays, and evenings (5-10 p.m.) on weekends and holidays. So, in essence, the only time it *wasn't* valid was during the day on weekends and holidays - the worst possible times to be there due to the crowds! The pass was also valid on weekends before a certain date (mid-December, I think) and after a certain date (early March?). And it was less than $200 for students at the time, if I recall correctly. To me, that was a real bargain. I'm not sure what the terms of midweek passes are now; they may have changed.
I guess my point is this: Whitetail's pricing structure seems to be designed to encourage season passholders to ski midweek vs. weekends. Other resorts, such as Snowshoe, are not as close to a major metropolitan area - they are not "day trips" and don't tend to be as crowded on weekends as Liberty, Roundtop, or Whitetail.
Savvy season passholders will buy a midweek pass and visit the local three resorts during the middle of the week, when they'll have the slopes to themselves. (And if someone can ski frequently enough to warrant buying a season pass, they probably can sneak away midweek - of course, not everyone has this option.) The Advantage Card program seems to be geared more towards weekend skiers and boarders - and it's a reasonable and economical alternative to a season pass for people that just visit a few times each season. (Snowshoe and many other resorts don't have anything like the Advantage program, I don't think.)
Oh well - just my two cents.
I agree completely with most of your points. I also can't wait to kick off early from work on a couple of weeknights next year and get some turns in on Exhibition, the Far Side, and Bold Decision. New changing rooms will mean that I will never have to face the DC rush hour in my ski clothes ever again. :-) On a good day, Whitetail, with its vertical, trail variety, and high speed lifts, rivals ANY resort in the Mid-Atlantic, and even on a bad day, the Tail is still pretty good considering how close it is to DC.
The being said, even at $499, the any-day pass is still out of line with industry trends.
Vail Resorts is now offering its any-day buddy pass for just $249. The buddy pass is good at Keystone, Breckenridge, and A-Basin anytime. Keystone, like Whitetail, is a big day tripper mountain because of its 72 mile distance from Denver. Like Whitetail, it can also get horribly crowded on weekends. Yet, Vail Resorts is still selling season passes to Keystone (which are also good at Breck and A-Basin) for a paltry sum of $249! The message of the recent Ski Magazine article by Everett Potter is that any resort that is charging more than $400 for an early purchase, unrestricted pass is out of line with the industry. In another example, Mammoth, a mountain close to many major California cities, typically sold 1500 passes a season for $1600 a pop. Last year, it began selling passes for $399 from 1 April to 31 May, and the number increased to 26,000! "Our value passes reward loyal skiers and boarders who make a commitment to their home mountain," says Rob Perlman, Mammoth's marketing head.
The economics of season passes dictate that those resorts, who sell more passes for less, make more money. The trend, known as yield management, suggests that resorts stand to make more money in volume than what they loose by offering lower pass rates. Whitetail (like Keystone or Mammoth) on a February Saturday after a snowstorm is going to be horribly busy no matter how many season passes get sold. More season pass holders, however, will boost numbers on other weekends, not to mention midweek and nights. Pass holders will purchase food in the cafeteria, clothes in the ski store, and lessons from one of the best ski schools in the East. Most will avoid big weekends like MLK in favor of less crowded weekends. As you know, I'm a huge fan of this resort. I just want it to make more money and at the same time reward its faithful. At $249, every avid skier in DC who does not own a condo elsewhere stands to gain big benefits by buying a pass. At $499, such benefits are much harder to realize, both for the faithful and the resort.
Just my two cents.