Is Skiing Too Expensive?

Fall Line

There's no question that skiing can be an expensive endeavor, especially for a family traveling across the country to a premier destination resort with a ski rack full of the latest and greatest gear. And in the past 20 years, the ski industry has not helped itself by allowing only its most expensive products to grab all the headlines. But once you cut through the industry's hyperbole, the fact is that skiing can be downright cheap¿and a true value when compared to the price of a round of golf or movie tickets at the local cineplex.

Ski suppliers put Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices on their equipment that are 10 percent to 25 percent above what you will pay if you shop around for a good price. Privately, many ski company CEOs admit that MSRP is a foolish practice that only makes equipment seem more expensive than it is. Publicly, they cling to the inflated price system for fear of alienating a few high-end retailers who charge close to MSRP. At some point, they may want to ask themselves "Who's the real customer?"

The big news each fall is how high the daily lift ticket will go. In the past 20 years we hit $30, then $40, $50 and finally $60. The truth, of course, is that few people ever buy a full-rate daily ticket. And, to their credit, resorts nationwide are now offering deeply discounted season passes that are dispeling myths that skiing is only for the Grey Poupon crowd.

This fall, I once again attended Gart Sports' famous SNIAGRAB sale (that's "bargains" spelled backwards) in Denver, Colo. It's a spectacle featuring great deals on equipment, skiwear, accessories and season passes. Here, thousands of people from wildly different ethnic, financial and skiing backgrounds share just two things in common: an appreciation of value and a passion for skiing. The scene inspired me to assemble my own MasterCard ad:

K2 shaped skis, Marker bindings, Tecnica boots: $299.

Gore-Tex parka: $99.

Unlimited season pass for Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin and Keystone: $299.

The opportunity to cruise at 40 mph on buffed groomers, ski 10 inches of fluff in the trees, have a beverage with my friends in the sunshine and, that night, sleep like a baby...