When it comes to ownership of mountains, it seems as if every mountain is being swallowed up by a corporate giant. Not all corporate owners are the same though. This week, we’re noting the difference in how two different corporate owners approach getting kids interested in skiing,
Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows “You Too Can Be A Star” Program
When KSL Capital entered the ski business back in 2010, it didn’t take long for the moniker “Keeping Skiing Lame” to take hold in the Tahoe region. Within just a few seasons of ski resort ownership, the price of a child’s lift ticket was raised over 500% at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. The prices for ski teams also just about doubled, pricing many local families out of skiing at the mountains they may have enjoyed for generations. I know we have told all of this to you before. But something changed this week, there’s a new game in town at SquAlpine.
Last spring Squaw Valley announced that a World Cup Ski Race would be held at Squaw Valley in 2017. Fast forward a few months and tickets for watching that event went on sale today. One marketing angle played heavily by the Squaw Valley marketing team is the potential for kids to get drawn into the ski racing program. Here’s what Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth told PugSki.com:
Hosting this World Cup event will put the best ski racers in the world within a ski’s length of the juniors coming up through local programs like Squaw’s Mighty Mites, inspiring them to follow in Lila’s and Julia’s tracks. Interview with Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth at Pugski.com
Those kids parents better have a lot of money. The cheap grandstand seats for the event are already sold out. Tickets for premium access to the event and a chance to rub elbows with racers starts at $450 and goes up to $1400 per person. Other than that it’s standing on the sidelines in the crush of people trying to get an autograph from Julia Mancuso. If your kid decides to get competitive in ski racing, that’s where the real fun begins. Race teams for next season start at $3,000 dollars and up. That does not include equipment, clothing or the other incidental costs of skiing at a “world class resort.”
The entry level costs for kids to go skiing at SquAlpine are just too expensive after that one cheap “Learn To Ski” day. There’s got to be another way. Although as recently as 2010-11, a child’s lift ticket was only $10 at Alpine Meadows, Vail Resorts has made it even easier for kids to get involved in skiing and snowboard, as long as you live in Colorado or Utah.
Vail Resorts and the Epic Schoolkids Program
In some circles, Vail is a dirty word. It seems like not a week goes by where an announcement is not made that Vail Resorts has purchased yet another mountain. Most recently, the acquisition of Whistler-Blackcomb raised the hackles of skiers and riders all over, fearing that yet another resort would become a part of the “Death Star”. Is that such a bad thing? Not always, as Vail Resorts has done some great things too. One effort they highlighted this week was the Epic Schoolkids program. The program offers free lift tickets to children in Kindergarten through 5th grade in Colorado and Utah. Here’s the details:
- Colorado kids get: 4 days at Vail, 4 days at Breckenridge, 4 days at Beaver Creek and 4 days at Keystone – a total of 16 free lift tickets and one first timer lesson with equipment rental
- Utah kids get: 5 days at Park City and one first timer lesson with equipment rental
Vail Resorts is not the only resort playing this game. Other Colorado and Utah resorts have their own programs as well. The trend has spread to other regions as well, except for California. California used to have a ski passport program for 5th grade students, but it no longer exists.
The Tahoe Market & Kids
Unfortunately, in the Tahoe market, kids have become a huge profit center rather than an investment in the future of skiing. Why does Vail not offer an Epic Schoolkids program for it’s three resorts: Northstar, Heavenly and Kirkwood? Because they don’t have to do so. No other resort offers a program. It’s SquAlpine that should be rising to the occasion here and get real about getting kids into skiing.
Five hours of standing on the side of Red Dog shivering and hoping to catch a glimpse of someone famous wearing red, white and blue will not create new skiers and riders. You need to get them to comeback to your mountain again and again to fall in love with your terrain, your instructors, your mini-parks and your hot dogs. It’s the real answer to keeping skiing and riding alive for kids.
Let’s forget about “world class” and get a bit more “epic” with children’s skiing and riding in Tahoe.