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Indy Pass Confirms 103 of 105 Alpine Partners Will Return; “More Than a Dozen New Resorts” Queued to Join
One of skiing's best ideas proves it is here to stay
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Well, here you go: 103 of 105 alpine ski areas will return to the Indy Pass for the 2023-24 ski season. Indy confirmed 102 in a press release yesterday, and a pass representative confirmed this evening that Mt. Ashland will also return.
Number 104 is Snow Valley, now part of the Ikon Pass. We already knew that was a goner. Number 105 is Mount Hood Meadows, which, as I reported last week, wants to see how spring redemptions go before recommitting to Indy. Indy will confirm returning cross-country and Allied partners some time after April 30.
So that will leave us with a roster that looks very much like last year’s (Ignore the blackout dates and prices below, as my efforts to update this chart for 2023-24 have been confounded by the robots. Also ignore Snow Valley. Also, ignore the fact that I don’t computer good):
With the returning alpine roster mostly settled, we can begin speculating on who’s next. “More than a dozen new resorts,” are queued up to join the coalition “in both domestic and international markets,” Indy’s press release yesterday stated. Indy Pass founder Doug Fish confirmed to me that those would be a mix of cross-country, Allied, and full alpine partners.
So where could those new partners be? “In markets where the Indy Pass has room for more partners,” Fish said. Which could mean a lot of things. New England and the Upper Midwest are probably topped off for full alpine partners, but could absorb many more on the Allied or cross-country tiers. Vast untapped ski markets remain, however, for alpine partner growth: Quebec, Europe, South America. Japan has more ski areas than the United States. And even some key U.S. markets – New Mexico, Colorado, California, Oregon – can certainly accommodate more Indy visits.
The new members will start to dribble out over the coming weeks, I’m certain. And I will host Indy Pass founder Doug Fish on the podcast next week to discuss potential new partners and more. I can speculate on what’s next, but the headline here is this: entering season five, the Indy Pass has rooted itself as a foundational piece of lift-served skiing in North America. There is no more important product for keeping the sport affordable. There is no better medium through which to unite the un-unite-able. And there is no better story in skiing. Five years ago, Indy Pass didn’t exist. A regional marketing guy who had spent his entire career in the West brainstormed a dead-simple framework that would make cash materialize for any ski area that signed up. He could have stopped at the Continental Divide, but he kept going east. To Michigan and Virginia and North Carolina and Pennsylvania and New England. And everyone who signed on liked it. And skiers liked it. And most important of all, it worked. Well enough that, five seasons on, nearly every ski area that has ever had anything to do with Indy Pass has returned for 2023-24.
Do you know how hard that is? To get 103 ski areas to agree on anything? Skiing has been around since wooly mammoths walked the earth, and we still have no standard way to measure daily snowfall or skiable acres or vertical drop or number of trails. Some ski areas have adopted Instagram and some love Twitter and some are all Facebook and some still think the internet is as permanent as the LaserDisc. Some have 15 magic carpets and some have five-foot-long chairlifts and some still think wiping out on a ropetow is all part of the experience. A ski-loving billionaire could announce free chairlift replacements for every ski area in the country and I guarantee you some good ole’ boy running 60-year-old Halls up his backyard would say, “Yeah, that’s just not a good fit for us.” But 102 ski areas have tested this pass and decided they liked it and have decided to come back. And Snow Valley would be back, too, if it hadn’t been sucked into the vortex. And if the pass loses Meadows, well, shit happens.
There are so many ways this thing could have flopped. Bad management, bad tech, late payouts, lost payouts, too much density, not enough density, disorder, broken promises. The pass could have tried to do too much or too little, have offered too many per-resort days or restricted them in some weird way that would have alienated skiers. The administrative logistics here would confound the IRS. More than a hundred individual contracts, renewed annually, each owed per-skier-visit payouts throughout the season based upon a percentage of their advertised lift-ticket price. I can barely keep track of three separate bank accounts and a car payment – how has Indy Pass embedded itself into the fiscal operations of one quarter of America’s ski areas, and done so without burning itself and everyone else down in the process, and with a staff that wouldn’t be sufficient in number to run a lunch-hour Burger King?
I don’t know, but it did. And it continues to do so. Indy Pass has been one of the best ideas in skiing this century. Right there with the Epic and Ikon passes and mid-mountain beginner areas and Big Snow and RFID. It will only get better, and, most likely, bigger. Like a Manhattan skyscraper, Indy built this thing on bedrock. Their core partners are not going anywhere. And with new owners who are more concerned with growth than profit and who bring a technological acumen that has been rare in skiing, this thing can scale. Indy Pass could have 500 partners in a decade. Think that sounds improbable? The pass has yet to sign its first partner in Quebec. There are at least 80 ski areas there. Hundreds more wait across Canada. Indy could establish a network across Japan as broad as the one it has in America. And then there’s Europe. There are at least 4,000 ski areas in Europe. Four. Thousand. Who knows if the product will translate culturally, but with the North American base cemented, Indy is in a strong position to try.
“Waitlist sales are going bonkers,” an Indy Pass rep told me this evening. “Way above the conversion percentage we thought we would get.” That sale ends tonight. General public prices will drop April 1 (Saturday). This all chases an insane renewal period for 2022-23 Indy passholders – the renewal rate during the three-week sale exceeded renewal sales for all of last year, the pass rep confirmed. Indy will limit pass sales this year. They may even sell out. This most improbable thing is now as close as you can get to a sure thing in skiing.
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