Indy Pass Teases Additional Partners, Launches New Website and Branding
Not yet five years old, Indy stabilizes and shapes its future
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Let’s go back in time. March, 2019. Not so long ago, but damn does it feel like it. That’s when Indy Pass crawled out of the abyss with its first website:
The timeline between that date and now is rich with developments in the ski world and the real world. You could affix any number of narratives, but my favorite is this: a regional marketing guy named Doug Fish bet that America’s secondary ski areas – those off the mainline resort circuit, big but not enormous, evolving but not fully evolved – could, combined, create a compelling multi-mountain pass product that could coexist with, if not directly compete with, the Epic, Ikon, and Mountain Collective passes.
He was right. Righter than he knew, actually. There are more Red Lodges and Mission Ridges and Brundages and Saddlebacks and Nub’s Nobs in America than there are Taoses and Jacksons and Vails. Everyone had ignored them. Fish gave them a place to go. They came.
Fish had once aspired to collect 80 Indy Pass partners. Today, that list of 10 western mountains – all of which remain on the pass – is part of Indy’s sprawling 183-mountain roster, which includes 129 Alpine partners in four countries on three continents. As membership outgrew his expectations, so did the vision. Fish originally positioned Indy as a product for “casual skiers and riders.” But Vail has captured much of that market, with varied low-priced products that actualize the destination resorts that most occasional skiers have heard of. Instead, Indy quickly became a supplemental pass for hardcore, frequent skiers, who would toss it into their (virtual) bootbag alongside an Epic or Ikon pass. Yes, they like Stratton and Mount Snow, but they know that on President’s Day, Magic Mountain is a better place to be.
As Indy partner density has grown, megapass overload has maxed out the most famous mountains, and resort-hopping has become a mainstream social media flex, Indy has evolved into something else: a pass that can reasonably act as a skier’s entire winter lift ticket investment. Indy delivers two days each at 16 New England ski areas. If those skiers want to journey West, they can put together a PowMow-Tamarack-Brundage-Silver-49 North-Mission Ridge-White Pass roadtrip that would stack up well with a week in the Cottonwoods.
Indy grew in the background for years. This year, the thing finally reached critical mass. Sales roared. In April, the pass’ new owner shut down sales – for six months. Sales, Indy officials tell me, will hit what they call their “max-out number.” Anyone who still wants a 2023-24 Indy Pass can join the waitlist. Passes, which in previous years had been available through March, will go off sale sometime in December.
It's a little bit funny that it took a national ski brand to boost the profile of a hundred-plus dispersed independent ski areas. Credit to Doug Fish for seeing, early on, the value of the Midwest and the East. The product would have been marginal, or perhaps a complete bust, with a Western focus alone. Approximately 75 percent of Indy’s sales come from outside the West, and many western redemptions flow from Midwestern and Eastern passholders.
However they did it, Indy helped to mainstream skiing’s fringe. This had been done, in bits and pieces, in the past. Mad River Glen’s brand has been a middle-finger to the establishment for about four decades. Wolf Creek became snowy not-Vail just by shutting up and letting people figure it out. But Indy has become the Boston Beer of skiing, making the funky and the unpolished available, in volume, through a national marketing and distribution chain, all while retaining a spirit of not-Budweiser.
I couldn’t have seen Indy becoming what it is four and a half years ago. And I don’t know what it will be five years from now. It will be different. But it will also be the same: affordable, accessible, focused on the not-so-ragged fringe. At least, that’s the message I read from Indy’s new website, whose mission statement is, in part, that “ [skiing] should remain welcoming and accessible to all.” Children, in particular, “deserve the opportunity to forge a connection with the mountains that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.” A family of four can buy two adult ($399 each) and two kids ($199 each) 2023-24 Indy Passes for $1,196. That’s lower than the cost of one adult Ikon Pass, which itself is a smash deal at $1,309. That, more than any branding, underscores Indy’s mission of affordability.
I don’t have much to say about the new website, other than that it’s better than the old website (and that Indy needs to hire a copy editor). There is, finally, an interactive map. Each resort has its own stats page, complete with trailmap. It’s clean and modern. The logo is terrific:
The website is part of a rebrand that includes a shift to physical passes. If you bought an Indy Pass, you should receive yours soon. Select (TBD) resorts will offer direct-to-lift access, and all resorts that run Entabeni (the company that bought Indy), technology will be equipped with hand-scanners that negate the need to produce a driver’s license to retrieve your lift ticket (Entabeni resorts include Cannon, Magic, Beaver Mountain, Powder Mountain, Eagle Point, Brundage, White Pass, Mission Ridge, and Bluewood). Select non-Entabeni resorts will also have these scanners, and all resorts should have them in time for the 2024-25 ski season.
“The Indy Pass' original logo and website were instrumental in establishing the pass as a disruptor,” said Indy Pass CEO Erik Mogensen. “However, this overhaul will support the Indy Pass' journey to becoming a timeless and iconic brand that supports and celebrates independence in outdoor recreation.”
Indy’s not quite done with its overhaul. More partners will drop in December, Mogensen confirmed to me this week, mostly full Alpine ski areas. Don’t expect any headliners, but Indy will keep filling in the map. Here’s what you’re already getting this season:
With a foothold in Europe, eastern Canada mostly untouched, and the whole Southern Hemisphere waiting, Indy Pass could reach 500 partners within a decade. Whether the pass can retain its campervan vibe while scaling to aspirational size remains to be seen. But the updated brand and website suggest that’s the intention, that Indy remains self-aware even as it evolves into something other than what it set out to be.
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The Storm publishes year-round, and guarantees 100 articles per year. This is article 102/100 in 2023, and number 488 since launching on Oct. 13, 2019.