The Graying of the American Skier

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Vail, CO, Sept. 15--For the first time, Vail Resorts, owners and operators of Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone, will charge customers aged 70 and over for lift tickets and season passes in the 2000-2001 ski season. Vail Resorts is following the lead of the Aspen Skiing Company, which announced earlier this summer that seniors will be charged to ski at its four resorts including Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass, and Buttermilk.

"A few months ago, one of our largest Colorado competitors made the decision to begin charging 70 and older guests for skiing," said Adam Aron, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts. "Aspen's move made us think twice about our own policies, especially since the vast majority of major ski resorts around the United States already charge seniors."

Indeed, charging those in their Golden Years to schuss down the slopes is a growing trend. Prominent areas such as Sun Valley, ID; Squaw Valley, CA; and Canada's Whistler/Blackcomb charge from $175 to nearly $1,000 for a senior ski pass and $25 to $42 for a day lift ticket.

However, numerous ski areas throughout the country still allow seniors to ski for free or at least for a $25 pass-processing fee. "We have such a tremendous senior following," said Scott Fortner of Loveland, CO, "that when you're a ski area like us and have such a loyal skier base, it's hard to change that policy."

However, Vail's Aron says that the 70-plus age group is becoming a bigger share of the skiing public, especially in the destination and second homeowner market.

"As the senior skiing population becomes larger, and with an expressed desire for lower prices from our other guests, we cannot continue to ask younger skiers to fully subsidize seniors," Aron said.

While Aspen has yet to announce its senior prices, Vail Resorts announced the new "Bargain Five Resort Senior Pass" for $99 valid at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Arapahoe Basin. Day lift tickets cost $35 for guests 70 and older at Vail and Beaver Creek and $29 at Keystone and Breckenridge. Previously a $25 pass-processing fee gave unlimited access to these resorts and a one-day ticket cost nothing.