A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.

A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.

Arapahoe Basin revenues doubled during the decade it was part of the Epic Pass, but parking problems outweigh the benefits of cash flow

From The Colorado Sun

Too many Epic Pass weekend skiers have forced A-Basin to abandon its decade-long partnership with Vail Resorts.

“We are pretty darn full on weekends and we don’t need any more people on weekends. If anything, we could probably whittle those numbers down a little bit,” Arapahoe Basin’s longtime leader Alan Henceroth said Monday, the day the resort announced it had pulled the plug on the Epic Pass partnership for the 2019-20 ski season. “Our parking is our pinch point.”

Pond Skimming at the end of the season at Arapahoe Basin. Photo: Ashey Ojala. Arapahoe Basin. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.
Pond Skimming at the end of the season at Arapahoe Basin. Photo: Ashey Ojala. Arapahoe Basin. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.

Arapahoe Basin, a local’s favorite with a rowdy selection of daunting steeps and a rootsy vibe, has thrived for 10 years under a deal with Vail Resorts that included the 1,428-acre ski area on the industry-dominating Epic Pass. Last fall the company sold more than 825,000 of those passes, offering skiing at 65 different locations.

Vail Resorts once owned Arapahoe Basin for a hot minute. But the U.S. Department of Justice in 1997 forced Vail Resorts to sell the ski area near the summit of Loveland Pass, citing antitrust issues after Vail acquired Ralston Resorts’ Summit County ski areas: Breckenridge, Keystone and A-Basin.

Vail’s Summit County ski areas have partnered with Arapahoe Basin on various shared passes since 1998.

Arapahoe Basin, which is owned by Canada’s Dundee Resort Development, was Vail Resorts’ first partner resort on the Epic Pass, which now includes access to privately owned, independent resorts such as Telluride, Sun Valley and Snowbasin.

The partnership worked well for Arapahoe Basin, which has spent $40 million in upgrades and expansions in the last 15 years, including the 468-acre push into the Beavers and Steep Gullies that debuted this season.

The year before Vail Resorts unveiled the game-changing Epic Pass in 2008, Arapahoe Basin paid the U.S. Treasury $243,000 in revenue-based rent for use of the White River National Forest’s public lands. In 2016 — the last time the Forest Service broke out individual resort lease payments — Arapahoe Basin paid more than $484,000.

That’s a nearly 100 percent increase in rent in the first eight years under the Epic Pass. (Ski areas pay rent to their federal landlords based on gross revenues. After sharing individual resort payment information for more than a decade, the U.S. Forest Service last year said it would no longer disclose those payments, citing resort operators’ “trade secrets.”)

Swimwear Day at Arapahoe Basin- Photo: Curtis De Vore- Arapahoe Basin. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.
Swimwear Day at Arapahoe Basin- Photo: Curtis De Vore- Arapahoe Basin. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.

The doubling of revenue at Arapahoe Basin between 2007 and 2016 marks the largest increase of any resort in Colorado during that period.

“We are still on the same trajectory,” Henceroth said.

After years of flourishing, Henceroth said it’s time for Arapahoe Basin to leave the Epic Pass, largely due to the parking pressures that accompanied its growth. It’s a roiling world for independent resorts these days, as ski areas across North America divide into two camps, either aligning with the Epic Pass or Alterra Mountain Co.’s inaugural Ikon Pass.

The popularity of those passes — the two companies easily sold more than 1.1 million of the passes across the country last season — is fueling record traffic at ski areas, especially on the weekends.

Arapahoe Basin has 1,950 parking spots. It’s not enough. Even though there are rarely lift lines, the number of cars flooding the resort on busy days has caused safety issues, with cars spilling from parking lots onto the precarious mountain highway near the resort. A new parking plan has worked to ease the car crowding by encouraging carpooling this season, but the Colorado State Patrol last weekend began cracking down on cars illegally parked on U.S. 6.

The resort is working to lure skiers beyond weekends. Last year Arapahoe Basin — a little more than an hour’s drive from Denver — started selling a $299 weekday pass that has been received “extremely well,” Henceroth said. “We are going to keep pushing more and more of our visitors to weekdays.”

The proliferation of passes has clogged the high country in recent years, with weekend traffic jams and parking issues flaring up at nearly every resort on the Interstate 70 corridor.

Arapahoe Basin April 13, 2018 -. Photo Dave Camara. Arapahoe Basin. Mountain Goat Plaza. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.
Arapahoe Basin April 13, 2018 -. Photo Dave Camara. Arapahoe Basin. Mountain Goat Plaza. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.

Epic Pass crowds overwhelmed Boulder County’s Eldora ski area in 2013-14 and the resort ended its pass partnership after only one year. The resort now is part of the Ikon Pass and parking remains an issue, with drive-up skiers occasionally turned away on peak days.

The resort in December reversed course on a plan to charge $20 for parking for cars with fewer than three passengers and now offers free RTD bus passes for visitors coming up the canyon from Boulder.

Henceroth said Arapahoe Basin is hoping it can compete in the shifting resort industry by elevating its stand-alone appeal. He said his resort is ready to endure a decline in visitation as it leaves the Epic Pass, but he hopes he can entice Arapahoe Basin loyalists to buy his own pass.

“I definitely think there’s interest out there for Arapahoe Basin for a whole lot of reasons. Obviously the big resorts are doing great because that’s where the majority of people like to ski,” he said. “But there is an increasing and growing demand for the Lovelands and Eldoras and Arapahoe Basins and Wolf Creeks of the world. Not everyone wants that huge resort experience and we are going to play with that.”

Arapahoe Basin, with its peak at 13,050-feet, typically has one of the longest seasons in North American skiing, with its opening day often arriving in October and lifts turning into May.

Arapahoe Basin April 13, 2018 -. Photo: Dave Camara. Arapahoe Basin. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.
Arapahoe Basin April 13, 2018 -. Photo: Dave Camara. Arapahoe Basin. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.

Vail Resorts earlier this season announced it was investing in snowmaking upgrades at Keystone, allowing the resort just down the hill from Arapahoe Basin to be the first to open every ski season, an early-bird perch typically owned by either Arapahoe Basin or Loveland.

Vail also announced it was extending the season at Breckenridge through Memorial Day, giving the resort operator a potentially six- to seven-month ski season at its two Summit County resorts.

On Monday Vail announced a Keystone Plus Pass to replace its Keystone-Arapahoe Basin Pass, with unlimited access to Keystone, spring skiing at Breckenridge and five days at Vail Resorts’ Crested Butte Mountain Resort for $369.

Henceroth said he was open to talking with any other resorts about a pass partnership.

“It’s gotta be the right thing. It has to work for our guests. It has to work for our employees and it has to work for our business,” Henceroth said. “We are not in any hurry to jump into something. It’s going to take several months for us to figure out.”

More info: Colorado Sun.

A groomed run - Grizzly Road - Photo: Dave Camara. Arapahoe Basin. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.
A groomed run – Grizzly Road – Photo: Dave Camara. Arapahoe Basin. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.

The-Ski-Guru TRAVEL can organise your bespoke ski trip to the Americas, Alps or Japan, including for those going from Britain to Europe, booking your Eurotunnel trip, and for all trips: lodging, lift tickets, rentals, ski school, and all you need for an excellent vacation. Go to https://www.the-ski-guru.com/travel and upload your information – this page will be updated soon with more travel ideas. Check our February offer for Zermatt staying at the Chalet Zen or Penthouse Zen, our amazing Ski Safari in the Dolomites , stay at the San Lorenzo Lodge White Deer in the Val Pusteria of Sudtirol, in the Hotel Petrus in Riscone, for skiing Kronplatz, or check our Easter offer to Obergurgl-Hochgurgl and Sölden to ski with your family. You can ski to have lunch in the Rifugio Sofie in Seceda, Val Gardena, in the Dolomites.

You can start thinking about your trip, by reading the articles on the Planning your Ski Trip tab.  Or how to pack for your family ski trip.  If taking your furry friend abroad to the continent, read about the new Pet Travel Scheme update from DEFRA. Check out our tips for driving to the mountains.  If flying and renting a car in Europe, beware of the extra charges they will pass to you if you want winter tyres, snow chains or ski racks. If driving, check the winter tyres news for Europe and North America.

Or you can read our last news on equipment as seen at the London Ski Show. Also, the new range of skis of Black Crows, one of our favourite brands. Shred-Dog is a definitely favourite brand for parents of growing kids. And check the new Mohawk helmet with augmented reality. You can see my review of the Head Nexo Lyt 100 boots for women.  A new app, Ski Tracker Pro offers you a one month free download if using a promo code.

Arapahoe Basin April 27, 2018 -. Black Mountain Lodge - Photo: Dave Camara. Arapahoe Basin. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.
Arapahoe Basin April 27, 2018 -. Black Mountain Lodge – Photo: Dave Camara. Arapahoe Basin. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.

We have already covered many news due to this latest spat of snow storms in Europe, as the hotel that was hit by an avalanche of 300 meters of width in Eastern Switzerland. In the same place, a couple days later, a second avalanche affected the structure of the Säntis Suspension Railway. And two ski patrollers got killed setting avalanche control charges in the French resort of Morillon in the Grand Massif. Also two workers died in Jammu in the Gulmarg in India, when they’ve fallen from a cable car during a mock rescue drill.

Lots of snow makes you wonder how the resorts deal with the avalanche danger. Here you can read the interview to Coco Torres, former Head of Operations of Las Leñas, in Argentina, as how they dealt with avalanches at the resort. 

Or perhaps you may choose to read the Ski Resort NewsSki Passes News, and the Must-Read Guides to Lech,  Zermatt,  CourmayeurVal di Fiemme and Crans-Montana. Coming soon will be the guide to St Anton. Or  watch an amazing heli flight over the Mont Blanc Massif. Also see tips on how not to be scammed when booking a ski chalet.

You can also read what’s new at Les Trois Vallées and the last article on what is new at the Tirol ski areas, in Les 2 Alpes,  in Cervinia, in La Plagne, in 3 Zinnen Dolomites ,  in Adelboden, Lenk and Kandertal, in Gstaad, in Chamonix,  in Georgia’s Gudauri Resort and in the Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn. And how the US Ski Team has chosen Alpe Cimbra to train for the following four ski seasons as their European home.  Here is the link to our post on the My Voucher Codes ranking of best European Ski Resorts.  

A mum and her kid enjoying quality family time at Arapahoe Basin. Photo: Dave Camara. Arapahoe Basin. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.
A mum and her kid enjoying quality family time at Arapahoe Basin. Photo: Dave Camara. Arapahoe Basin. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.

Crested Butte will have a new chairlift to replace Teocalli lift for the 2019/20 ski season. Jay Peak is officially for sale. Another North American resort, Fortress Mountain Ski Resort, is eyeing in opening by 2020.

You can plan where to eat in Aspen Snowmass or which events to attend on-mountain while there.  And Cortina D’Ampezzo is getting ready for this winter and the 2021 World Ski Championships. 

Another classic resort, such as St Moritz has been in the news for its famous Cresta Run be opened again for women after a 89 years ban.

Also, you can read how Grandvalira will be staying together as one lift ticket company and how they are adding Ordino Arcalis to  this offer. Grandvalira is opening now all of its six sectors.  And also read how someone tried to sabotage some lifts in Vallnord’s Pal Arinsal. And as if it is starting to be a trend, there were two lifts sabotaged in Passo Rolle, in Val di Fiemme, Trentino. Fortunately they were repaired in record time to open to the public. It seems also that the deadly fire in a Courchevel employee housing building was arson. Uber has launched its service UberSki in some resorts in France, after having done so in the United States.

End of season at Arapahoe Basin - Mountain Goat Plaza. Photo: Ashley Ojala. Arapahoe Basin. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.
End of season at Arapahoe Basin – Mountain Goat Plaza. Photo: Ashley Ojala. Arapahoe Basin. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.

Also, Mt Hood Meadows was forced to evacuate one lift with 150 skiers and boarders due to a power failure. And the same was the case in a lift with 140 skiers/boarders in Whitefish, Montana. A last one to report was now in Stowe, VT, with more than 150 stuck skiers and boarders that have to wait up to two and a half hours to offload. Cervinia sent a helicopter to rescue 27 in a chairlift. Recently a British skier was killed after suffering a cardiac arrest on a chairlift falling 32 feet to the ground in Méribel resort in Les Trois Vallées. You can see our recent article on how avalanches claimed two lives in Switzerland the past week. And read more what is the real risk of avalanchesThree Germans have been killed by an avalanche near Lech and a fourth is missing. Two were caught in an inbounds avalanche near Kachina Peak in Taos and taken to hospital. 7 were killed as a helicopter and a light aircraft crashed over the Ruitor Glacier near la Thuile in the Italian Alps. Two were killed by an avalanche in St Christoph-en-Oisans in the French Alps. And another one was killed and three injured in an in-bounds avalanche in Crans-Montana.

Or read about the latest investments in Whistler Blackcomb. Or see how Taos is going against the industry trend, and instead of merging with the two biggest oligopolies in skiing at the moment, it goes and buys an airline to get more bums in resort. Or how Jackson Hole is appealing to families and beginners – it is not only a resort for expert skiers anymore. Another great area for families is Stubaital in the Tirol. And a new coming ski area that got funding for its first lift is Skeetawk in Alaska.  Courmayeur is opening this season two new trails, one that is 70% steep – not for the faint-hearted! Or read how a group of experienced industry insiders got together to purchase Tamarack Resort and now they’ve started with their major facelift operations. . And how Peak Resorts finalised the acquisition of the resorts of Snow Time. You can also check how Vermont’s ski passes are the most expensive in New England. And talking about Vermont, you can read on how Killington is planning to change its North Ridge triple chair with a fixed-gripped quad.

Also read how one employee of Aspen Ski Co got caught in an avalanche but got out unscathed while scouting terrain for the Aspen Mountain Powder Tours. Or how the a gondola of the new American Eagle lift from Copper Mountain crashed into the snow in a trial run. The resort confirmed that the chondola will be fixed before it’s opening day. Plus this week, some gondolas got tangled in Hochzillertal. And there was a gas explosion at the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof that injured six, before its opening date.

You can keep up to date on how are the sales for the EPIC and IKON passes are doing here. Read how Emma, the first Digital Mountain Assistant, is launched in Keystone now and will be rolled to eight other resorts this season.  Breckenridge and Keystone are one of the resorts with the longest ski season in the United States. And even read about the new incorporation to the IKON Pass: Valle Nevado. Here is also a post on the South American resorts.  

Arapahoe Basin ski map. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.
Arapahoe Basin ski map. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking.

Or you can see the inspiring story of the “Cholitas” – the indigenous Aymara ladies who are attempting to climb the highest peak of the Americas – the Aconcagua at 6,962 meters/22,840 feet.

Also, Rob Katz and his wife Elana Amsterdam donated 2 million USD in grants to support mental and behavioural health programs in ski towns of North America. And see how Aspen Skiing Company released its sustainability report 2018.   And also check Aspen’s Give a Flakecampaign. The Audi Power of Four Mountaineering Race is coming back to Aspen. And the ’12 hours Head NonStop’ is going back to Sierra Nevada.

And here is a summary of a report by LISTEX on the State of the UK Snowsports Market. The US had it first National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Day with 6,200 lessons given. You can check which ones are the most expensive ski resorts in the USA.

And what Switzerland could look by 2060 due to climate change.

Or check out how now with the EPIC Pass you can ski in Europe, specifically in Les Trois Vallées and the resorts of Skirama Dolomiti in Trentino’s Italy. Or see our review of L’Héliopic Hotel Sweet & Spa if thinking in staying in Chamonix this winter. Or check out the new Snowpine Lodge in Alta, Utah opening late January 2019. And for those that thought that skiing in Whistler was only for the rich and famous, now the new Pangea Pod Hotel offers them a chance to stay in the cheap in the new cool hotel in the middle of Whistler Village. Those going this season to Avoriaz and wanting to be by the slopes, can stay in the pop-up Flying Nest hotel.

Featured Image: Photo: Arapahoe Basin- Dave Camara. Matt and Rio on the lift. A-Basin quits the Epic Pass cash cow due to their lack of parking. 

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