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The Ski Area That Broke the $300/Day Lift Ticket Barrier is Not One You’d Expect

Aren’t the small, local resorts supposed to be the ones keeping skiing affordable? Not anymore, thanks to dynamic pricing.

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Over the weekend, walk-up lift ticket rates at Arizona’s 777-skiable-acre Snowbowl, north of Flagstaff, came in at $309 a pop. That’s not for a season pass, or even a multi-day ticket. It’s for one day of skiing on the resort’s 55 runs and eight lifts.

Arizona Snowbowl
Arizona Snowbowl is on the flanks of Mount Humphreys, the tallest peak in the state. The ski area’s highest lift-served elevation is 11,500 feet. (Photo: Getty Images)

Nothing against Arizona Snowbowl, we’re sure it was skiing nicely this past weekend after nearly 70 inches of snow fell over the last seven days. And with 175 inches to date, the ski area is well on its way to its annual average snowfall of 260. But $300-plus for a daily lift ticket is, quite frankly, insane. A daily ticket at Vail over the weekend was $265—still a big number, but Vail has seven times the skiable acres of Snowbowl, and almost four times as many lifts.

So what gives?

Dynamic pricing is what. Long a staple of the airline industry and concert venues, dynamic pricing lets sellers jack up the rates when demand is high, penalizing people who didn’t plan ahead, or, in the case of Arizona Snowbowl, skiers who have the audacity to want to hit the slopes of their local ski hill after a powder day.

Lift tickets are sold online on a tier pricing system, meaning tickets will start out heavily discounted and rise with demand,” the ski area told website Snow Brains over the weekend. “We recommend purchasing tickets online in advance to ensure the best discount possible,”

It’s true that dynamic pricing offers some good deals when demand is low. Want to ski mid-week in February? Current advance-purchase rates on Snowbowl’s website are as low as $38—not a deal you’ll find at Vail any day of the week.

Snowbowl skiers sounded off about the perceived price-gouging on social media over the weekend, with most sharing the same sentiment.

“Quick raise your prices and absolutely gouge all your customers who didn’t buy tickets before the storm!” quipped one Instagram commenter. “No mountain in AZ should cost more than $100 regardless if you get good snow, your price increases are a joke.”

“Lift tickets for a family of 4— $1,236,” wrote another skier on Facebook. “Nice. I think I will go to Telluride and save $600.”

Dynamic pricing might have its place in the ski industry at destination resorts where people plan ski vacations well in advance, but we fear for the future of the sport if $300 lift tickets on powder days become the norm at the very areas we rely on to help hook the next generation of skiers.