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Indy Pass Adds Idaho’s Pomerelle and Soldier Mountains, Introduces Discounted Spring Pass
Current Indy Passholders can ski the new mountains immediately
The Indy Pass today added Idaho’s Pomerelle and Soldier Mountains to its growing partner list. The pair of mid-sized ski areas join the coalition immediately – if you already have an Indy Pass, go hit them this afternoon. Neither will be subject to weekend or holiday blackouts.
“We are super stoked to be joining the Indy Pass and welcoming skiers from across the U.S. to our little corner of paradise here in the Sawtooth Mountains,” said Soldier Mountain General Manager and Managing Partner Paul Alden.
With the addition of the two Northern Rockies resorts, Indy Pass’ roster now features 61 ski areas in North America, five in Idaho, and 16 in the greater Northwest. The pass guarantees two days at each mountain for $259 ($129 for kids under 13).
Indy Pass also announced today that it will offer a no-blackout spring pass for $149 ($89 for kids), beginning March 1.
The additions, in the midst of our weird Covid ski season and in a region already thick with Indy partners, underscore the pass’ tremendous and growing momentum since its 2019 launch. Here’s a bit more detail about this announcement and what it means:
Pomerelle is the rich person you can’t hate because they’re too nice
I’ve never been to Pomerelle and frankly I’d never heard of it before yesterday, but the Indy Pass press release tells me “its 1,000 vertical feet and near-empty slopes are a true throwback to a simpler time.”
Also it gets 500 inches of snow per year. At first I thought this was a typo but I confirmed the number in multiple places. And I don’t even know what to do with a number like that it’s like when you go to someone’s house and they’re like, “I have nine swimming pools.” And you’re like how is that even possible and your first reaction is maybe to hate them but then they’re really nice and tell you you can come over and ride their jetskis on the pool that’s an exact replica of Lake Champlain any time you want and you’re like OK OK I guess I won’t slash the tires on your personal space shuttle.
For this analogy to make sense I’ll point out that Pomerelle is Small By Western Standards, with 500 skiable acres served by a pair of triple chairs. That’s what makes it our hypothetical nice person. Maybe it still doesn’t make sense. Anyway “Small By Western Standards” means roughly the same skiable acreage as Stowe and even though claimed skiable acreage numbers are largely bullshit that’s still probably enough terrain to eat up two days no matter how many flipdoodle spins you and your boys are accustomed to rocking off cliffbands.
Soldier Mountain makes Indy Pass part of its comeback story
2020 was a singular year for all of us, but Soldier may be the hold-my-beer character of North American ski areas. A year of record-low snowfalls preceded the March pandemic shutdown, which preceded a summer wildfire that melted the ski area’s magic carpet, destroyed snowmaking equipment, and scorched large parts of the mountain, destroying a network of bike trails just before it was set to open. These photos clearly show where firefighters halted the blaze just shy of the resort’s base area buildings.
“It looks like a lunar landscape," Alden told Boise State Public Radio in August. "It’s very discouraging — that beautiful mountain with the aspen groves we had installed the bike trails in are gone.”
But, onward. This is another Small By Western Standards mountain with 1,425 feet of vert on 1,150 acres, served by a pair of double chairs that would be old enough to teeter on the edge of the high-risk Covid pool if they were humans. It also has 2,000 acres of guided Cat-skiing terrain. That it sits in the orbit of Sun Valley probably doesn’t help it get noticed by the cool kids. The snow report link on its website footer leads to a different page than the link in its header, and neither appear to be operated by the mountain itself.
But Soldier has new owners who are likely aware that they have a lot of work ahead of them. The Indy Pass partnership indicates that they are evolving the mountain to meet the current moment.
Indy Pass refines its formula
The Indy Pass idea always needed two things to work: buy-in from skiers and buy-in from ski areas. To get the first, you need enough good mountains in a dense enough area to justify the cost. At the $199 September-to-November price point, four days of skiing gets you below rack rate at most mountains, and anything past that feels free. But they need to be good mountains. You can’t go too rinky-dink – no town ropetows. That’s easy enough, but you can’t go too big, either, since most of those mountains are taken by Epic and Ikon. Indy Pass has done a good job of identifying the midsized, overlooked ski areas close enough to be compelling: think of the Catamount-Berkshire East-Magic-Bolton-Jay south-to-north spine in the Northeast or the Caberfae-Crystal-Shanty Creek cluster in Michigan. Skiers see that geographic density and think well barring an unfortunate cattle stampede incident I’ll get my money’s worth out of that by Christmas.
But to get skiers you need ski areas. That’s the hard part. They need to trust that the pass won’t cannibalize season pass sales and that it will generate enough revenue to justify its cost. Two days seems to be perfect. It’s enough to grant curious skiers access to a mountain they may not otherwise have tried, but not so many that it would entice season passholders to switch to the cheaper product. In fact, by offering season passholders a $129 Indy Pass add-on option (which all partner mountains do), Indy is giving mountains a powerful marketing tool for adventurous skiers trained by Vail and Alterra to expect nearly unlimited coast-to-coast access with a ski pass purchase.
Idaho is a perfect snapshot of this model, with a south-to-north axis that now runs Pomerelle-Soldier-Tamarack-Brundage-Silver, buffeted with plenty of options in neighboring Washington, Montana, and Wyoming. There is almost no reason not to pick up an Indy Pass if you live in this region or either of the other two areas of intense Indy Pass partner concentration: the Northeast and the Upper Midwest.
This makes Indy’s next moves compelling to speculate on. Founder Doug Fish has said repeatedly that he wants to avoid over-saturation in any one area, to avoid dropping the yield (the amount ski areas actually get for each visit) too low. But he’s also said that North America probably has room for 85 or so partners before they reach that point, meaning we have 24 to go. The pass’ most obvious holes are in Colorado and around Lake Tahoe, but adding one independent resort in either of those markets would likely do little to drive sales. The cluster strategy seems to be working, as mountain managers talk to their neighbors and decide they can trust the pass to deliver what it promises, and skiers feel like they can actually use the pass enough to justify its cost. Fish has already confirmed to me that they will add at least one more New England ski area in the coming months, and Vail and Alterra have largely (and, I think, foolishly), ceded the Midwest to Indy, so I expect more signings in Michigan, Minnesota, and/or Wisconsin (Fish has not indicated that this is imminent). Whatever happens, we are a ways from seeing the full or final version of the Indy Pass.
Introducing the Indy Spring Pass
Most multi-mountain passes halt sales in early December, allowing the ski areas to pick the pockets of clueless tourists willing to pay $200-plus for a day of holiday skiing at resorts that are 40 percent open at Christmas. Whether that’s intentional or not is impossible to say, but the Indy Pass is trying a forever-on-sale strategy. The price did inch up from $199 in September to its current $259, but it will drop to $149 in March. Access will not change. The Spring Pass will include some version of Indy’s Get America Skiing Promise, but details are not yet available.
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