GRAND IS TOTALLY MORE EPIC THAN EPIC
by Todd Hartley
Yesterday was my friend’s birthday, and while I wished him a happy one, I neglected to mention that I thought he, as a resident of Waitsfield, Vermont, and a shareholder in Mad River Glen ski area, might want to rally his troops right now and get ready for battle.
The way things are going, it’s only a matter of time before one or the other of skiing’s new behemoths is going to want to buy Waitsfield’s beloved but curmudgeonly local hill, and Mad River better know how it plans to respond.
My advice to him is to expand immediately. Fight fire with fire. The way I see it, the only logical next step for Mad River is to purchase Vail Associates and its myriad resorts and convert all the ski areas’ trams, gondolas, six-packs and quads to non-detachable single chairs. That way Aspen Skiing Co. will never want to buy Mad River out and Aspenize Waitsfield.
For those of you who haven’t been paying attention and are wondering what I’m talking about, I’ll clue you in. Basically, skiing in the United States and Canada has come down to two names: Aspen versus Vail. But then, ultimately, it had to, didn’t it? There was no other way.
To those of us who live in the Roaring Fork Valley, there has never been any comparison on a one-on-one level. Aspen beats Vail in a landslide. In fact, my unbiased, flatlander nephew recently skied, in order, Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen Mountain, Snowmass and Aspen Highlands, all for the first time. He declared all three Aspen areas better than the two Vail ones.
But recently, we Aspenites have felt a little like we were getting the shaft here in our quaint little mining town. While we were paying somewhere north of $1,000 for a four-mountain pass, Vail’s rapid expansion meant its skiers were paying about $800 for an Epic Pass good at Vail, Beaver Creek, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, Breckenridge, Heavenly, Kirkwood, Northstar, Park City, Stowe, Whistler and a bunch of others no one cares about.
Now, however, with this week’s seismic shake-up that saw Aspen essentially buying Steamboat, Winter Park, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Mont Tremblant, Stratton, Mammoth, Bear Mountain, Canadian Mountain Holidays heli-skiing and a bunch of others no one cares about, Aspen can offer a product that rivals the Epic Pass.
Obviously, me being a struggling writer and all, you’d think I would hope for something that also rivals the Epic Pass price, which currently sits at $859 for next ski season. That would be great, but that’s not really the Aspen way. The Aspen way is to go more expensive, and I actually salute that in this case.
Coincidentally, I just happen to have a perfect plan for how it should work.
First, in order to ensure that Aspen is offering its customers a superior product, Aspen Skiing Co. should continue its resort-buying momentum and immediately acquire Alta/Snowbird, Big Sky, Jackson Hole and Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (Kicking Horse, Fernie, Mont-Saint-Anne, et al.). Then, in acknowledgment of the fact that its new pass kicks the Epic Pass’s butt, Aspen should feel justified in charging exactly $141 more.
And with that, I give you the Grand Pass. For $1,000 you get by far the second-best season pass in the history of North American skiing. (Nothing will ever top the outlandishly expensive USSA gold pass and its 250 resorts.)
If Aspen actually goes out and buys any or all of the ski areas on my list, I, for one, would gladly cough up a grand for a Grand Pass. I wouldn’t think about it for a second, and I know a lot of locals who aren’t currently season-pass buyers who wouldn’t, either.
So really, it’s a win-win situation. Aspen wins over Vail, again, and I win because I get to pay less than I’m paying now and get more than I ever hoped. I even bet Aspen could get it all together in time for next season, despite its claims to the contrary.
That just leaves one problem: Most of the flights from Aspen to those other places are on United Airlines, which, frankly, I’m a little scared to fly right now. United’s thuggish tactics and my bottom-feeder priority have me a little concerned.
But what the hell. If I have to take a beating or two to make the Grand Pass a reality, I’m willing to do it. You can all thank me later.
Mad River Glen: Todd Hartley skied it because he could.