Courtesy Vail Resorts vail.snow.com
Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass is looking like epic brilliance after economic turbulence
September 28, 2008 —
Vail’s collective jaw was ajar over Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass program for a few days this past spring. The announcement of the absurdly affordable $579 season pass left locals agog, perplexed, and in some cases apoplectic: especially when locals discovered that the pass was UNRESTRICTED – good for skiing even during Vail’s always-popular Christmas, Thanksgiving, and President’s Day weekends.
“What about the parking!” cried our local gadflies. Nothing in Vail politics is more exciting, more full of vitriol, than the issue of parking, and soon the Town Council chambers were clouded with powder smoke from the broadsides being fired back and forth over the Epic Pass’ effect on the town’s winter parking.
In quieter circles, whispers circulated over the kind of client the Epic Pass would bring to town. What about the expensive jewelry shops and retail stores in the Vail Village? Will bargain-hunting Front Range skiers and snowboarders drop a grand on a charm bracelet? Will knuckle-dragging college students spend $4,500 on a custom-made, Italian ski jacket?
One town figure was so bold as to call Front Rangers, “riff-raff,” during the Epic Pass blow up.
Months later the economy’s downward spin has approached panic levels. National politicians are talking about how to bail out Wall Street, while local politicians are talking about how to take care of Bridge Street. Most of the uppity Bridge Street stores count on Wall Street money – and more than a few of the coins dropped by the taxpayer in the $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan will likely end up in the cash registers of the Bridge Street retail shops.
I don’t know if T. Boone Pickens is a skier, but the oil tycoon reportedly lost more than $30 million last week. I imagine that might cut into one or two of his vacation decisions this coming winter. People like him have lost similar amounts, and upper-crust Vail is likely to see the trickle-down effects of the failing trickle-down economy over the coming months.
All this makes Rob Katz look less like a fat cat and more like a wise cat after he took the helm of Vail Resorts, cranked up their environmental agenda, and announced the Epic Pass. As the Mountain West luxuriates in the political attention surrounding our battleground states this election year, people like Katz seem to be exactly the kind of up-and-coming, forward-looking CEOs who provide a mean, green alternative to the greedy moneylenders at the center of the Wall Street collapse.
With his foresight, Vail and Beaver Creek are likely to be filled with happy, bargain-hunting skiers this winter and beyond. Considering the alternative – empty streets – I’m sure even the most elitist of Vail’s business owners will be happy to welcome a few Front Rangers into their shops: and anyway at this point they’re probably less likely to bounce a check than the Wall Street suits who formerly populated our diamond-studded retail stores.
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