Alterra Rolls Unused 2019-20 Ikon Passes Into Equivalent 2020-21 Passes

Skiers who scanned at least one day get same renewal discount as everyone else

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Somewhere in Jacksonville, Angry Ski Bro is spinning celebratory brodies on his Segway

After doubling renewal discounts, permitting deferrals on unused passes into December and later pushing that date to April, and introducing Covid-19 shutdown protections, Alterra quietly introduced 2020-21 Ikon Pass Overhaul Part IV last week: the company will roll unused 2019-20 passes into 2020-21 equal-access passes for free.

Alterra made no public announcement about this, but a reader shared this email with me and an Alterra spokeswoman confired that they had sent it (the text presumably would differ for someone who had not yet purchased a 2020-21 pass):

Thank you again for purchasing a 20/21 Ikon Pass. Now, any 19/20 Ikon Pass holder who used zero days between the time of purchase and June 30, 2020 will receive the new Zero-Day Credit for 20/21. Your current 19/20 unused Ikon Pass will roll over to 20/21 and you will receive the same category of Ikon Pass for 20/21 with no extra charge. Your complimentary 20/21 Ikon Pass will be loaded onto your existing 19/20 pass and you will not receive a new pass in the mail. We will automatically contact you once we have applied the Zero-Day Credit with the required steps to activate your Ikon Pass media.

In the meantime, there is no action required by you, we’ll take care of it all. Between July 1, 2020 and August 1, 2020, we will refund your purchased 20/21 Ikon Pass in the amount detailed below to the card we have on file. You will see 'Ikon Pass' in the description line of your credit card statement.

If you are enrolled in the payment plan program, we will refund your deposit and cancel all future payments associated with your purchased 20/21 Ikon Pass.

If you added pass insurance to your purchased 20/21 Ikon Pass the amount paid will be refunded to you as described above.  Pass insurance cannot be added to your complimentary 20/21 Ikon Pass.

If you would like to upgrade your complimentary 20/21 Ikon Pass product, you will have the ability to do so in Fall 2020 when the online upgrade capability becomes available.

If you no longer have your 19/20 pass you may obtain a new pass at a ticket window or customer service center at any Ikon Pass destination.

You will receive a confirmation email once your Zero-Day Credit and the refund for your purchased 20/21 Ikon Pass have been completed.

Thank you for being a part of the Ikon Pass community. Sweet days await us.

This was a nice gesture by Alterra. It face-palms Vail’s 80 percent credit for unscanned Epic Passes. It satisfies the legitimate grievance of the one-trip-per-year crowd, a big-spending group that often lives in places like Florida or Texas where day-tripping is impossible. That the credit is automatic and hassle-free underscores Alterra’s reputation as a user-friendly gentle-giant type of ski conglomerate.

Still, there are gaps big enough to ride an eight-person chairlift through, and I can understand why they skipped the press release. Vail’s EPIC CREDITS or whatever they called them provided substantial discounts to anyone who had only scanned their passes one, two, three, or four days, before settling at 20 percent for anyone who had skied five or more days. Ikon passholders plummet from full rollover for an unused pass to a standard renewal credit if they used it even one time. That settles at $799 for a full Ikon Pass after the $200 renewal discount or $599 for a Base Pass with $100 renewal credit, so a skier who scanned their pass once gets the same discount as someone who skied 100 days. The number of skiers who slipped in a day or two at Crystal or Stratton or Big Bear as a warm-up to a late March trip to Jackson Hole or Squaw or Big Sky was probably not huge but was probably not insignificant, and those people are going to be disappointed here.

Second, 2020-21 Ikon Passes were not created equal to 2019-20 Ikon Passes, as Alterra shaved Jackson Hole and Aspen off the Base Pass, kicking them up to a “Base Pass Plus” tier for an extra $150. So if you had an Ikon Base Pass and your week in Jackson Hole got crushed by the Covid Robotron, you’re not really getting a make-good on that. It’s like you totaled your truck in a moose collision and the insurance company pulled up in your driveway with a new one that was the same color and make and model, but they didn’t bother with the leather seats or four-wheel drive. Yeah, you can upgrade if you want, but really you feel like you shouldn’t have to, since your old truck already had all these things.

But who knows if Alterra is done here. As noted above, this is upgrade number four. Five if you count the second date extension from just after Memorial Day to June 16. CEO Rusty Gregory told me on the podcast last month that the company would continue to revise its offerings, and they have done so. A concession to the limited-use crowd may well be planned for the weeks ahead.

Alterra commits to more diversity in hiring in note from CEO Rusty Gregory

Less than a week after Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz called out the entire industry, including himself, for pretending like diversity in skiing was not an urgent existential issue, Alterra Mountain Company CEO Rusty Gregory sent a similar companywide memo to his employees. The company shared it with The Storm Skiing Journal:

To all my Alterra Mountain Company coworkers:

George Floyd’s senseless murder was not just the despicable act of a bad Minneapolis cop.  His death and the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are just the most recent of many examples of violent racism rising out of less obvious and more insidious systemic and institutionalized racism that directly impact members of the Black community.

Progress has been made since my days growing up in Southern California and watching from my bubble of white privilege and protection as racial and class warfare played out in Los Angeles and other cities during the summers of the late 1960s.  While societal norms have liberalized and laws against racial discrimination have been strengthened, Black and other communities of color continue to suffer disproportionately from police brutality, discrimination, the current pandemic, climate change and too little support from too many of our public and private institutions and companies.

I thought deeply about this throughout the last week in an attempt to get my arms around what I could and should do as a white man of privilege who has never personally experienced these inequities.  I came to the conclusion that merely standing against racism and discrimination does little to create change.  Talk and intentions are cheap.  So, I choose to act, as an individual and as your CEO.

As an individual, I commit to listening to the handful of Black friends I am privileged to have, to learn about their communities’ circumstance and how I can be of the most help.  I commit to take some of the benefit I have received from my privileged life and work and make contributions to Black Lives Matter, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Center for Constitutional Rights – organizations at the vanguard of this revolution of social change that is so long overdue.

As your coworker and CEO, I commit to moving our company beyond the important passive pursuits of being welcoming and inclusive to guests and employees of all colors.  Alterra Mountain Company is young – 33 months old to be precise.  Our vision is to be “One company of many unique brands building a global mountain community”.  I ask you to join me in committing to include the following into our culture:

  • Proactively reach out to invite Black Americans and people of color to join our mountain community; to experience the mountains; to learn to ski, ride, climb, hike and enjoy the environment. Recognize that the cost of our experiences and services can be a barrier to participation to those of lesser means and price our products and packages accordingly.

  • Actively recruit Black employees and people of all colors, genders and persuasions to pursue their careers and fulfill their ambitions as employees at all levels within Alterra Mountain Company in our offices in Denver and at our mountain destinations throughout North America.

  • We have worked hard to create an innovative business plan and platform to become the most successful mountain destination company in the world.  These painful times compel us to draft an equally innovative “Plan and Platform of Purpose” to support our beliefs in equality of opportunity, diversity, inclusion and justice to become the most respected mountain destination company in the world.

  • To make sure this letter and the commitments it contains be just the beginning of the actions we will take, not the end.  We need to cultivate the awareness these unspeakable events have catalyzed by beginning a conversation in our company and keep it going until we have learned the many things we can do to ensure the safety and equality of all people and have acted on them.

I write to you about this today in order to inform and empower you to hold me accountable for these personal and company commitments I have made and to encourage you to join me in this cause.  My cell number is [redacted].  As always call me about any this or anything else, anytime.

Rusty

NOTE:  Know that discriminatory behavior will never have a place at Alterra Mountain Company.  Call me personally or contact you Human Resources Department if feel you have been the subject of or witness to discriminatory behavior.  I promise that you can do so without negative consequences. 

While largely similar in humility and urgency to Vail’s note, I thought there were a couple important distinctions here. The most significant is the commitment to “actively recruit Black employees and people of all colors, genders and persuasions to pursue their careers and fulfill their ambitions as employees at all levels within Alterra Mountain Company in our offices in Denver and at our mountain destinations throughout North America.”

This is essential and something that Vail did not explicitly do. Yet. National Brotherhood of Skiers President Henri Rivers talked extensively on The Storm Skiing Podcast last week about the benefits of creating opportunities for more diverse groups of people to run the nation’s ski areas. This is a moral imperative and a business imperative: if the ski industry wants a sport that holds appeal beyond white people in a rapidly diversifying nation, it needs ski areas that are managed by the broadest coalition possible. That Alterra is committing to diversity in hiring practices from the outset is crucial, even if a plan to do so is likely a ways out yet.

Second, one of Vail’s greatest blind spots has always been the psychological facepunch of its astronomical walk-up lift ticket prices. That few people actually pay the $200-plus peak-day rack rate at Vail Resorts’ alpha mountains is irrelevant – their mere existence is a headline generator that discourages lapsed or never-evers from skiing. Katz didn’t help this perception in his memo by saying that high costs were, “barriers for many people” without committing to examine this practice. Alterra offered a better answer here, vowing to, “recognize that the cost of our experiences and services can be a barrier to participation to those of lesser means and price our products and packages accordingly.” Emphasis mine. While Vail gets all the pitchforks, Alterra hasn’t been any better about day ticket prices, as I’ve pointed out before, and a family of four would have been looking at $728 to ski a day a peak day Steamboat last season. A commitment to looking critically at this pricing model is a good first step.

Both companies, however, should be careful about binding price and diversity too closely, as assuming price is the primary barrier for any one group is a mistake. Changing the appeal of the sport through more deft marketing to a wider coalition is probably a smarter strategy.

Neither note was perfect, however. Absent from Gregory’s message was anything similar to this powerful admission in Katz’s: “Maybe, as a fairly close-knit and passionate group of skiers and riders, our community carries a deep implicit bias.” The “maybe” is only there to keep Defensive Ski Bro’s head from exploding. That a “deep implicit bias” exists in skiing is obvious for anyone who cares to notice it.

I do not interpret this oversight as obliviousness on Alterra’s part, however. And the notes didn’t need to be all-encompassing. That both Vail and Alterra have acknowledged their diversity problems and pledged to evolve their companies around ending or at least mitigating them is an enormous first step toward overdue change.

Ski Area Management published a roundup of similar ski industry diversity statements and actions here. Freeskier and Powder also addressed the issue.

Northeast season pass updates – all changes reflected in this chart

I’m going to skip the detailed season pass update this week since I just sent one out on Tuesday and it’s getting a little tedious to go through every site every week, but I’ll reiterate this week’s deadlines since there are some big ones:

  • June 15: New England Pass (Sugarloaf, Sunday River, Loon); Saddleback; Magic; Bromley; Black Mountain, New Hampshire; Willard Mountain, New York

  • June 16: Ikon Pass (Stratton, Sugarbush)

Tuesday is Alterra’s deadline for the best prices and perks on 2020-21 Ikon Passes. Pictured here - Stratton’s village on a winter evening. [Photo courtesty of Alterra Mountain Company]

Elsewhere

Bousquet’s new owners are replacing one of the mountain’s antique double chairs with a used triple, though it is unclear whether this is replacing the Summit Double or Blue. Hermitage Club founder Jim Barnes is still fighting the mountain’s $8 million sale to a group of former members in March. Liftopia is in trouble. Ski reclaims control of NASTAR. Powder on closing-day rituals. More with Indy Pass founder Doug Fish.

This week in not skiing

On Fridays in the summer my company lets us knock off at 1 p.m. and I typically spend the afternoon working on The Storm because as fun as this whole podcast/blog/newsletter thing is it’s a hell of a lot of work. But this week with the weather crystalizing into that kind of clear blue perfect-temp no-humidity vortex that we get in NYC maybe five days a year I just couldn’t sit still another goddamn minute and I rode my bike across Brooklyn to my buddy’s place. It was the first social activity I’ve done in months and I only chanced it because he already had a severe scary case of Covid at the apocalyptic height of all this bullshit and so hanging out with him was pretty low risk I figured. And we didn’t do much we just rode our bikes around the Prospect Park loop and then sidewalk bar-hopped buying beers from the open windows that have become ubiquitous in the city now. We stood six feet apart or sat on the curb or found benches and drank our beers as lines of bicycles dumped past like we had been teleported to Amsterdam and the whole blazing city with its honking frantic madness and churning sidewalks seemed to be back, even if everyone was wearing masks and holding plastic cups and drinking beer like some kind of weird northern version of New Orleans meets steampunk oddworld. And I can’t tell you how gratifying that was to just go do something other than sit in my goddamn apartment or talk to someone on a screen or stare at a computer. As an accelerator for ideas and energy and life force or whatever you want to call it actual physical encounters with people you have a connection with are a powerful thing, and I think the lack of such things over the past several months has revealed their magnitude to be far greater than I ever could have imagined.


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The Storm Skiing Podcast is on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spotify, and Pocket Casts. The Storm Skiing Journal publishes podcasts and other editorial content throughout the ski season. To receive new posts as soon as they are published, sign up for The Storm Skiing Journal Newsletter at skiing.substack.com. Follow The Storm Skiing Journal on Facebook and Twitter.

COVID-19 & Skiing Podcasts: Author and Industry Veteran Chris Diamond | Boyne Resorts CEO Stephen Kircher | Magic Mountain President Geoff Hatheway | NSAA CEO Kelly Pawlak| Berkshire East/Catamount Owner & Goggles for Docs founder Jon Schaefer | Shaggy’s Copper Country Skis Cofounder Jeff Thompson | Doppelmayr USA President Katharina Schmitz | Mt. Baldy GM Robby Ellingson | Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory

The Storm Skiing Podcasts: Killington & Pico GM Mike Solimano | Plattekill owners Danielle and Laszlo Vajtay | New England Lost Ski Areas Project Founder Jeremy Davis | Magic Mountain President Geoff Hatheway | Lift Blog Founder Peter Landsman | Boyne Resorts CEO Stephen Kircher | Burke Mountain GM Kevin Mack | Liftopia CEO Evan Reece | Berkshire East & Catamount Owner & GM Jon Schaefer | Vermont Ski + Ride and Vermont Sports Co-Publisher & Editor Lisa Lynn | Sugarbush President & COO Win Smith | Loon President & GM Jay Scambio | Sunday River President & GM Dana Bullen | Big Snow & Mountain Creek VP of Sales & Marketing Hugh Reynolds | Mad River Glen GM Matt Lillard | Indy Pass Founder Doug Fish | National Brotherhood of Skiers President Henri Rivers