Berthoud Shifts Gears

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Denver, CO Sept. 4, 2001--Colorado's annual season pass price war claimed its first casualty yesterday, as Berthoud Pass announced it would not open its lifts this winter.

Instead, the high-altitude ski area, a favorite of dedicated off-piste skiers, will operate as a snowcat area this year.

Berthoud had planned to charge $325 for its season pass this year. Last week, Copper announced a $209 unlimited adult pass, and that price was matched by Winter Park and Vail Resorts (for its Keystone-Breckenridge-A-Basin pass).

So instead of selling lift tickets, Berthoud will sell snowcat rides for $185 per day.

Charlie Mayfield, VP/ops and marketing for Berthoud Pass and SolVista Resort, noted that the single-day lift ticket at Copper has dropped to under $18 under their Four Pass plan. "That's well below Berthoud's cost of operation," he said. "We don't have destination traffic -- we have a very narrow revenue stream. Our visits were up 22 percent last winter, but most of the tickets we sold were two-for-ones and we saw no revenue increase."

"The snowcat operation is an interim solution," Mayfield said. He expressed hope that the price war would alleviate finance strains and that Berthoud could sell lift tickets again, profitably. Berthoud will maintain its lift licenses with the Colorado Tramway Board.

"The other front range resorts -- Eldora, Loveland and Cooper -- are all impacted," Mayfield said. "At SolVista, we're less affected because we're a four-season resort. We've even installed a new lift this summer."

SolVista/Berthoud owner Marise Cipriani has complained to the Department of Justice Anti-Trust Division of predatory pricing and collusion by the I-70 resorts.

The service begins Dec. 15 and will operate one snowcat six days a week on 1700 acres of steep woods and bowls. Seats sell for $185, including breakfast, lunch, skis, guide and instruction.

Bottom line: The snowcat program makes marketing sense. Berthoud Powder Guides will be the closest snowcat operation to a major city or airport anywhere in North America -- it will be a logical stop for adventure skiers headed from Denver's airport to the big resorts.