Windham Adds Season Pass Deferral Option, Payment Plan as Pressure to Guarantee Passes Mounts

And more Northeast season pass updates

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Windham joins the deferral club, adds payment plan

Windham became the latest Northeast mountain to provide some kind of pass protection in the event that the 2020-21 ski season doesn’t happen, allowing skiers to defer their purchase to the 2021-22 season any time between Sept. 1 and Dec. 10, so long as the pass has not been used.

The mountain joins Alterra (deferrals allowed between Sept. 10 and Dec. 10), Magic (full or partial credit if the government closes ski areas before or during the season), and Jay Peak (full “no-questions-asked” refunds until Oct. 1), in offering some sort of pass protection to Northeast skiers.

Windham also added a payment plan, which was a good move considering their passes are among the most expensive in the Northeast. Their $949 standalone pass price is completely absurd, considering the relatively small size of the mountain and a complete lack of reciprocal or even discounted tickets with partner ski areas. They should sell zero of these passes, considering the Epic Local Pass delivers unlimited access not only to larger neighbor Hunter, but to two of the biggest ski areas in Vermont (plus a blacked-out season pass to freaking Stowe), four good-to-excellent resorts in New Hampshire, and more Western access than you could wear out in a season (days at Whistler, Vail, Beaver Creek, Park City, Heavenly, Keystone, Breck, and much more) for $729.

For just $150 more ($1,099 total), any skiers stuck at Windham because they have a condo there or something should go with the Ultra Pass, which includes the greatest possible add-on that any season pass could: an Ikon Base Pass (it is unclear whether you would have to contact Ikon individually to defer your Ikon Pass). So that extra $150 gets you blacked-out season passes to Stratton and Sugarbush; a full season pass to Tremblant; five blacked-out days each at Killington, Loon, Sugarloaf, and Sunday River; and Western access to rival that of the Epic Pass (Winter Park, Steamboat, Alta, Snowbird, Squaw Valley, Mammoth, Big Sky; sadly, no Aspen or Jackson Hole on the Base Pass this year).

So really you’re buying a $699 Ikon Base Pass and a $400 Windham pass, which is about what first-in-the-Catskills-to-close, groomed-into-oblivion Windham is worth. It’s still an expensive pass and it’s still a tame mountain, but the ability to defer to next season and the payment plan are important moves in making skiers feel good about laying out that kind of cash in the midst of a down-spiraling economy. The Epic Local Pass still gives you better access for far less money ($370 less, and that could go down when Vail inevitably adjusts their Epic Pass offerings, as they’ve promised to do).

So who goes next? Vail has a self-imposed end-of-April deadline to announce changes to its 2020-21 Epic Pass structure. After watching Alterra step in front of the firing squad when it stuck to and then backed off of its no-refunds policy last week, Vail will likely step out of its Broomfield bunker with the white deferral flags of surrender waving. I would also expect some kind of suite-wide price adjustment, though whether they go with a renewal discount or straight up price drops is impossible to predict. As far as deadlines go, Vail has always been coy with those, and they didn’t raise last year’s prices until September-ish (they do have deadlines for when the number of buddy passes loaded onto the Epic Pass decreases). I also expect them to follow Alterra with some sort of first-responder discount, though would not be surprised to see them one-up their rival by expanding from Ikon’s nurse tier into something more generally applicable to front-line medical workers, a la Magic Mountain, Vermont.

Then what? Probably anyone with a very expensive pass has to offer some kind of deferral or refund option. Boyne has promised “additional pass details” on their New England passes (for Sugarloaf, Sunday River, and Loon), “in early May.” Expect a deferral guarantee there as well. Killington, with its $999 ski-only pass and $1,349 Beast 365 Pass, will be in there somewhere. Those are some big dominoes, and once they fall, most of the independent Northeast will have to follow.

Skiers made one thing clear in last week’s public execution of could-do-no-wrong-up-until-that-moment Alterra: they are not sending you a week’s pay for a ski pass without you telling them how you are going to protect that investment in the event the coming ski season gets nuked. Like the COVID shutdown itself, we all know this deferral-option-as-requirement is coming. Isolated ski areas may hold out for a while, and a small number may choose to make this their Alamo, but most are likely going to have to adapt to this very unique there-may-not-be-a-season circumstance by flexing to the moment.

This is all very unfortunate. New England Ski Industry News calls this the largest crisis the New England ski industry has ever faced. They’re not wrong. The ski industry thought it finally had a sustainable, weather-proof model: sell cheap passes with broad access, but cut off sales early enough that it guarantees income to bridge the seasons and pay for all those expensive summertime capital projects. Then COVID comes along and eats the last quarter of the season and 22 million (and counting) jobs, robbing ski areas of spring revenue in every possible way. And this stealthy little germ ninja has intimated that it may just be getting started, cackling its evil laugh as it plots to cancel next season altogether. I’m not ready to deal with what that may mean yet, but I would guess that at that point, deferring prepaid revenue to the following season’s passes will be the least of the industry’s concerns.

Adjustments elsewhere in Northeast Seasonpassland

Since I released my list on Friday documenting every season pass price in nine Northeastern states – including early-bird deadline dates, which offered payment plans, and whether skiers got free days to partner mountains – a few things have changed (or I didn’t notice them on my first run-through):

·         Powder Ridge, Connecticut has a payment plan

·         Greek Peak also has a payment plan, but only if you buy three or more passes as part of its family plan

·         Bretton Woods extended its early-bird deadline until May 31

·         Bristol extended the deadline for its absurdly priced single-mountain $785 pass until April 22

·         Abenaki, New Hampshire dropped their season pass prices from $160 for the general public and $70 for residents to $125 for the general public and $50 for residents (it’s possible that the page was displaying the last posted 2019-20 prices last week and has been updated to show early-bird 2020-21 prices).

·         Labrador-Song’s April 17 deadline has passed, but the $469 price still appears to be valid.

·         Mad River Glen’s April 15 deadline has passed, but it is still listing its $749 price.

I’ve made all updates on the Google chart (consider this is a placeholder until I can figure out something better).

Elsewhere

The Colorado Sun’s Jason Blevins - who is by the way the best ski reporter in the country -assembles a gripping recap of the day of the Colorado ski resort shut down:

On the morning of March 14, Gov. Jared Polis studied data on coronavirus infection rates in Colorado’s ski towns, which were 20 to 30 times higher than the rates on the Front Range.

It was Saturday and the busiest day of the season for ski areas — the day when Colorado’s $5 billion resort industry welcomed the largest wave of big-spending, spring-breaking vacationers, pouring in largely from New York, Florida and Texas.

Polis had concerns that social distancing strategies deployed by the crowded resorts weren’t adequate. Cleaning gondolas and limiting ridership to just families wasn’t enough. Limiting access to mountain facilities wasn’t going to stop the spread of COVID-19.

He wanted to shut down the ski areas. Immediately.

Full read required.

Powder continues turning out coverage of the shutdown’s aftermath, focused, this week, mostly on the psychological adjustment: musings from a skier who can’t ski, a ski guide rides it out in his remote Alaskan town, and Level 1 assembles a PSA featuring quarantined pro skiers who don’t want you to go skiing right now:

Vermont Ski + Ride with a wonderful tribute to coronavirus victims Leon and Cleon Boyd. Mount Snow featured the latter, a longtime groomer at the resort, in a YouTube video a year and a half ago:

More local coverage:

Ski profiles more ski companies that are pivoting production to churn out essential supplies in the COVID-19 fight. Killington keeps on giving.

Pick up a souvenir chair from Saddleback’s Rangeley or Sandy double chairs for (yikes!) $2,000 apiece (Belleayre moved its old double chairs for $100 apiece last fall).

Ways to help out

Freeskier’s Auction for Action is putting $40,000 of ski gear on the block. All proceeds go to GlobalGiving’s Coronavirus Relief Fund. The Northeast Face Shield Project, managed by the admin of Northeast Skiology, is 3D printing face shields for front-line medical care workers – donate here. Goggles for Docs will help you send your old ski goggles to those same workers – founder and Berkshire East/Catamount owner Jon Schaefer gave me an overview recently on the podcast.

This week in not skiing

Mostly this whole sitting at home thing hasn’t bothered me much because I can still work thankfully and can still write and shelter-in-place saves me from the obligation of going into my office in Times Square every day which is really an awful place if you’re not here from Kentucky to stand around and take selfies with someone wearing a Fred Flintstone costume but are just trying to walk down the street man. Plus I have kids who are constantly destroying the apartment so there is never any lack of things to do maintenance-wise.

About a week and a half ago though this was really getting to me as I started to realize that my home life was pretty much exactly like my home life always was but outside in reality the New York City that I have always known and that all of us have always known had evaporated into a paranoid stranger-dodging foreign place with which I had no connection or ability to navigate. And that old New York which is the New York it has been for four hundred years and that relies on the gnash and churn of humanity funneled together on trains and sidewalks and elevators and bars and parks in an ever-running river was not paused but eliminated for the foreseeable forever. Because when we “open things back up” it’s not like we’re going straight to Yankee games and rush-hour subways packed door to door with humanity and it’s impossible to imagine how a city that thrives on and requires density will function at all until this coronavirus is scratched from the earth. I had a day or two where I felt something like despair as my mind spun wildly on the coming population evacuation and economic fallout and years of halting attempts of returns to normal continually foiled by a density-thriving microbe savagely devouring us in wave after wave of infection. It didn’t help that I know well more than a dozen people now who have this and one has been my best friend since I showed up here in a U-Haul in 2002 and he seemed to get worse every day for weeks before finally willing himself to the hospital for oxygen and antibiotics which thankfully seem to have helped.

COVID-19, I was certain, would shatter this place.

I don’t know how I pulled myself out of this miasma, but I think the cheering had something to do with it. I don’t really know how it started and I guess I could research it but the fact is that every day at 7 p.m. everyone in the city opens up their windows or goes out on their balconies or fire escapes and cheers for the health care workers for two solid minutes. It started with just clapping and then people started adding in musical instruments and cowbells and banging pots and pans together. Just anything that makes noise. And we started doing it too, me and my wife and kids and now we have an assortment of whistles and those circular instruments with bells on them and other instruments that you shake and we stand by the window and yell and blow them and shake them and there’s something very powerful about doing this with all your neighbors and hearing it echo across the whole city. It gets louder each night and more emphatic and deliberate it seems and it’s kind of like a giant fuck you to the whole disease.

I live out in Brooklyn though and kind of on the edge of the populated part of it and so the cheering as heartening as it is here is a bit muted compared to other parts of the city. My daughter though lives part time with me and part time with her mom on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and on Sunday after our weekend together I dropped her off at 6:30 and then I just parked on the corner of Second Avenue and waited there until seven. I just sat and watched the street life for a while and of course there are still people out because this is Manhattan after all and everyone is wearing masks now because they have to and almost everything is closed but still people are out to get food or walk their dogs or just to move a little bit.

A bit before seven it started, the noise dropping out of the towers and echoing across the city’s vast manmade canyons, whistles and shouting and clapping and banging of all kinds from the city’s homebound millions, the great majority who can do nothing and can go nowhere thanking in whatever way they could the few who have to shoulder the enormity of this whole awful thing. It’s kind of amazing to witness.

The New York City we will emerge into whenever this is all done and coronavirus retreats into the wild and we can ride the trains again and stand in Times Square among strangers and hate it and love hating it will be different than the New York City we hid ourselves away from six weeks ago. But the virus will not beat the spirit out of this place. Nothing can. The centuries have proven this and I doubted it anyway but I don’t anymore. And so for now I’ll wait and I’ll live my indoors life which is not a life that is a New York life but could be an anywhere life, and I’ll wait for the day when we move through this.


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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 |

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 |