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Should You Buy a Season Pass?

By September 7, 2010

Now that Labor Day has come and gone, thoughts begin to turn to fall activities - football, apple picking, foliage tours, and, if you're a die-hard snowboarder, the purchase of a season pass to your favorite resort. No small investment, season passes have both pros and cons. With the economy still lagging, many families will have to look long and hard this year to determine if buying a season pass makes sense. Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages behind this purchase.

The most obvious pro concerning a season pass purchase is savings. Used frequently enough, the large up-front investment (often between $750-$1,300) can bring the per-day price of a lift ticket well below a resort's daily ticket price. For example, a resort with a $79 daily adult lift ticket and a $1,000 season pass price would require 12.5 visits before hitting the "break even" point. For riders who plan to put in 15 or more days at the same resort, the purchase of a season pass seems to make sense. Other advantages include the convenience - no more waiting in the ticket line on a powder day, just boot up and go; "loyalty" programs which reward season pass holders with discounts on lessons, equipment rentals, meals and more; and the familiarity that comes with riding the same mountain all season long. Finally, holding a season pass means no more hemming and hawing on those "iffy" days when it's really cold, or when the skies and forecast are promising less than perfect conditions. Heading out for an hour or two is no longer a financial decision.

Then there are the cons. Buying a season pass means riders will likely spend less time exploring different mountains, even if nearby, due to the fact they've already laid out the money to snowboard at their home mountain. When hitting up the home mountain with non-passholder friends, the season passholder may not recognize the significant expense the others are faced with when purchasing daily lift tickets. Granted, the list of disadvantages is short, but depending on the individual situation, may be significant enough to warrant not purchasing this year.

Fortunately, there are alternatives being offered that promise near-season pass advantages without the long-term commitment. Many resorts are now offering 6, 8, or 12-packs of lift tickets at discounted prices. Frequent skier cards are also becoming popular, with a free day thrown in after so many days have been accrued. For folks that are looking to spread out their days on snow across a variety of resorts, these programs may be the best option.

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