Another salvo has been fired in the ski-pass wars, as it was announced Monday that Telluride Ski Resort has joined the Epic Pass group for the 2018-19 winter season and will depart the Mountain Collective that includes the four Aspen-Snowmass resorts, plus a dozen other areas.
“After the current 2017-18 winter season, Telluride Ski Resort will no longer be part of the Mountain Collective,” CEO Bill Jensen stated Monday in a press release.
While potential new partners may be sought for the Mountain Collective, according to SkiCo spokesman Jeff Hanle, Aspen-Snowmass areas will also be included in the new Ikon Pass, which was unveiled last week at the Outdoor Retailer show in Denver.
Touted as a product to rival Vail’s popular Epic Pass, the Ikon Pass includes access to nearly two dozen resorts but also comes with its own not-so-secret weapon: Mikaela Shiffrin, this season’s overall World Cup leader and the reigning Olympic slalom champion who has 41 World Cup victories to her credit.
“I’m proud to be part of the Ikon Pass family and their 23 destinations. I can’t wait to ski them all,” she recently wrote on Facebook.
Shiffrin, who made history in Aspen in 2015 when she posted the largest margin of victory ever in a women’s World Cup slalom, is a “partial owner” in the Alterra Mountain Co., according to company spokeswoman Kristin Rust. Shiffrin will also act as an Ikon Pass ambassador.
“She has spent an enormous amount of time training and skiing on Ikon mountains,” Rust said.
That may help to explain why the Eagle-Vail resident is promoting the pass partnership peppered with rivals to her hometown ski areas, including Vail and Beaver Creek, that are part of the Epic Pass.
Shiffrin could not be reached for comment over the weekend on the cusp of the 2018 Winter Olympics, but her agent, Kilian Albrecht, said Monday the athlete’s views are succinctly outlined in both a press release and a video.
In those mediums, Shiffrin explains her familiarity and affection for many of the resorts served by the Ikon Pass, from Killington, Vt., to Mammoth Mountain and Squaw Valley, Calif.
“I grew up skiing on mountains big and small with my family, so when I’m in the mountains I’m home. They each play an important role in my career and hold a special place in my heart,” she said. “I’ve spent more time training on snow at Ikon Pass destinations than anywhere else in the world since first skiing the World Cup in 2010.
“It is a huge honor to be an owner in Alterra Mountain Co. and to represent the Ikon Pass.”
Rust said she wasn’t able to define Shiffrin’s ownership piece in Alterra.
The company formed in 2017 after Henry Crown and Co., which is connected to the Crown family who own Aspen Skiing Co., and private equity firm KSL Capital, teamed up to buy Intrawest’s resort holdings, including Steamboat, the lease on Winter Park, Snowshoe in W. Va., Stratton Mountain, Mount Tremblant and Blue Mountain Ski Resort as well as Canadian Mountain Holidays heli-skiing.
Within days the consortium revealed it was also buying Mammoth Mountain and areas in Southern California and by late summer, Deer Valley, Utah, was added to the mix. KSL had already controlled Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.
From SkiCo’s point of view, Shiffrin signing on to promote Alterra’s Ikon Pass is a coup.
“As a partner in the pass and owner in the new company, we couldn’t be more excited to have Mikaela as a representative of the brand,” said Hanle. “She has a special history here, starting at such a young age.
“I don’t think there could be a better spokesperson.”
In the video, Shiffrin notes that not only was Aspen the venue where she first qualified for a second run in a World Cup race, but “some of my favorite, favorite races of all time have been” here.
The consumer is the chief beneficiary of the myriad pass options, though for ski-town locals in the Roaring Fork Valley the traditional season pass or Classic Pass probably remains the most sensible.
Hanle said that during last week’s trade show, there was “tremendous excitement” surrounding both the Mountain Collective pass and the announcement about the new Ikon Pass.
“I think this will be beneficial for the sport of skiing and snowboarding,” Hanle said. “Anytime you can encourage people through a pass product to explore and travel, that’s where the sport grows.”
Having different pass options makes the sport potentially more accessible to more people. Hanle pointed out that the Mountain Collective, which offers two days of access to its resort roster, may reach a different clientele than the Ikon Pass, whose access terms have yet to be quantified.
In his statement about joining up with the Epic Pass, Telluride’s Jensen noted that the pass alliance does not involve any shared resort ownership with Vail.
“It is important to note that Telluride Ski Resort remains 100 percent independently owned. Vail Resorts has no ownership interest in Telluride Ski Resort. This is strictly an alliance with the Epic Pass,” he stated.
Jensen also said that the Telluride access will be offered to only “top-tier Epic Pass holders” and that the alliance doesn’t include the lesser Epic Local or Value Pass.
Details in how the Ikon Pass will work, its pricing and what restrictions will apply are expected later this winter. Some of the 23 partners who have signed on include Jackson Hole, Wyo., Alta/Snowbird in Utah, and Big Sky, Mont.
“We are hearing there is room for this in the marketplace,” Alterra spokeswoman Rust said on Monday. “The consumer’s going to win at the end of the day,” she added.
Hanle allowed that SkiCo is “disappointed to see Telluride go [from the Mountain Collective], but we still feel we have the best product out there” in the expanded pass offerings.