A year ago Arapahoe Basin, CO bucked the trend and shocked the industry by choosing to end their 20-year partnership with Vail Resorts. As more and more resorts get gobbled up by Epic or Ikon Passes, A-Basin chose to go it alone, citing that they believed ‘its staff can take better care of its guests by separating from Vail Resorts’. At the time, COO Alan Henceroth wrote:
“Looking forward,” Henceroth wrote, “we strive to provide ready and easy access for our guests. Our goal is to minimize waiting and crowding and maximize experiences and fun.”
Six months later, however, A-Basin announced a partnership with the Ikon Pass but limited the number of days available to Ikon Pass holders and Ikon Base Pass holders to 7 and 5 respectively. How did this decision affect their skier numbers? Did leaving the Epic Pass have the desired effect of minimizing waiting times and crowds? Well, Alan Henceroth posted figures to his blog yesterday:
A year ago we started on a journey to change things up at Arapahoe Basin. While our actions had many objectives, two of those objectives really stand out. First, we wanted to reduce crowding, hosting 20% fewer skiers in 2019-20 than we did in 2018-19. Second, by reducing the crowding, we wanted to offer a much higher quality guest experience.
By every measure, we have improved the guest experience. Both face to face interaction and survey data tell us that people clearly are having a better time this season.
Regarding guest visitation, it has been a story of two seasons. We were slow from opening through MLK weekend. Starting on MLK Monday, visitation has picked up substantially, but still much less than last season. Here are the facts.
- Season To Date (STD) skiers through January 2020 were 39% less than STD skiers through January 2019.
- STD skiers through February 2020 were 35% less than STD skiers through February 2019.
- Month To Date (MTD) skiers in February 2020 were 20% less than MTD skiers in February 2019, almost exactly what we planned and budgeted for that month.
- STD Ikon and Mountain Collective skiers through February 2020 were 69% less than Epic skiers through February 2019.
- MTD Ikon and Mountain Collective skiers in February were 51% less than Epic Skiers in February 2019.
- Visitation from Ikon and Mountain Collective has been much less than visitation from Epic.
Looking at individual days, we have been open for 142 days through February this season. Only 6 of those 142 days were busier this season than last. A notable day was Saturday, February 22. It was our busiest day of the season so far. Last season there were 6 days busier than that Saturday.
Since MLK Day, weekends have definitely picked up. Sundays are still very pleasant with only one day needing overflow parking. Saturdays have been busier requiring overflow parking all days except MLK Saturday (Ikon was blacked out).
We certainly have influence in shaping how business flows for the season. Individual days are sometimes very hard to manage to. Often the biggest days are driven by very short term weather events. Saturday, February 22 was a near perfect, warm bluebird day with great skiing. Those are the kind of days when everyone wants to go skiing. The flip side of Saturday was three days later Tuesday, February 25. The temperature never got above 0 F. It was cold and bitter and very, very slow. Would I have liked to transfer 800 of Saturday’s skiers to Tuesday? Of course the answer is yes, but that is not really possible. People ski more when the weather is favorable and they ski more when they have free time on weekends, especially Saturdays.
Even though weekends this year are much slower than last year, I still suggest arriving early or late. Avoid late morning arrivals. Carpool. Ride the Summit Stage. With just a little pre-planning, it is very easy to avoid the busier times.
Looking forward, if March, April and May could be similar to February we would be ecstatic. We have some work to do early season. Next Fall we will be generating some new products and promotions to help the early season pick up.
This season is nothing like last season. The numbers speak for themselves. The experience is way up. The skier days are way down. Ikon, Mountain Collective, Taos and Monarch are great partners. We aren’t quite where we want to be yet, but we are heading in the right direction. It has been an awesome season and Spring looks very promising.
I look forward to your comments.
Do you ski Arapahoe Basin, have you noticed these ‘improvements’?