“I’ve been coming here for many years and the queues this week have been remarkably good,” a skier said from the balcony of his lodge in Thredbo on Thursday.
Daily prices are expected to lure skiers to Thredbo from Perisher, which Vail Resorts bought in 2015 from businessman James Packer and others. Day passes for Perisher sell for $225 compared to $189 at Thredbo.
“It’s a pretty big disparity,” says Toby Dames, a former ski instructor and owner of the Blackbird Bespoke Ski Co. “I would find it encouraging to go to Thredbo if I was in Jindabyne.”
Jindabyne is Sydney’s last town before the two seaside resorts. Some skiers credit Perisher with a big plus: “Epic” passes to some 40 resorts in five countries, including Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, and Vail and Beaver Creek in Colorado.
Annual passes, which include unlimited access to Perisher, Falls Creek and Mt Hotham, were sold for $1,149 through June 15. Discounts were offered for earlier purchases. Thredbo season passes sold for $1,699.
As a public company valued at around $10 billion (Events’ market cap is $2.2 billion), Vail Resorts has used its financial clout to add incentives to passes, including tuition, equipment and food discounts. Refunds are promised for government travel restrictions.
The tickets are part of an overall Vail Resorts strategy. Over the past five years, he’s been on a shopping spree, buying up well-known ski resorts and smaller ‘food’ ski areas, says Andrew Snow, a former US ski industry consultant .
“The idea behind these urban ski areas was that locals would purchase Epic packages and then spend their ski vacation at another Vail Resorts property,” says Snow. “I think a similar goal was probably behind their purchase of Perisher, Hotham and Falls Creek in Australia.”
Epic Passes are cheaper than the prices charged by many individual resorts. At the same time, Vail Resorts has dramatically increased the price of day tickets, making Epic Season Passes more attractive.
Last month, Vail Resorts chief executive Kirsten Lynch said sales of the Australian version of the Epic pass were up 28% at the end of May from a year earlier.
Given the disruption to Australian skiing from the New South Wales and Victorian COVID-19 lockdowns in 2021, the increase is starting from a low base.
But an international ski pass has probably appealed to many Australians heading overseas after a few bleak years at home. Which could mean there will be more Aussie accents on Colorado chairlifts over the Christmas holidays.