The Economics Behind my Ski Season
While this may not surprise many of you, two of my greatest loves in life are skiing and finance. My day job is being the CFO at Thread Wallets. My “weekend job”, from the end of November until the resorts close towards the end of May, is skiing as much as possible. I love skiing for many reasons. I really don’t think there is any better feeling than spending time in the mountains with friends and family, while making deep powder turns, or ripping down a freshly groomed run. Skiing is also good for my mental health. The more I ski, the more I have come to realize that the mountains are my happy place.
Being a finance guy, at the end of the season, I like to look back at the year and see what the season cost me. With Snowbird closing last weekend, my ski season has come to a close. So let’s take a look at where I ended up for the year!
The Ski Passes
For the 20/21 ski season I bought three different passes. I bought the IKON pass, a Snowbasin season pass, and a Sundance season pass. Across these three passes I was able to ski 37 times at 10 different resorts. I also logged one day of skiing for business, which was covered outside of these three passes bringing my yearly total to 38 times. My initial goal for the year was to get out 50 times, but considering it wasn’t the best snow year, this goal will have to wait until next year to be achieved!
The IKON Pass
I have thoroughly enjoyed having the IKON pass over the past few years. It has been a great option that allows me to ski all over the west for a rock solid price. (If you want to read more on the IKON pass experience in Utah, I wrote another medium article highlighting the pass.) As a renewing pass holder, I was planning on paying $899 for the IKON pass, but because of COVID-19 closures at the tail-end of the 19/20 season, IKON doubled their renewal discount which made my pass $799 for the 20/21 season. In Utah I skied 7 days at Deer Valley, 1 day at Brighton, 1 day at Solitude, 4 days at Snowbird and 1 at Alta. I also got two out of state trips in. One trip to Big Sky Montana and the other to Jackson. All in I got 19 days in on the IKON pass bringing my daily rate to $42.05. Not bad if you ask me!
This was the first year that I was a Snowbasin season pass holder. There were a few reasons I got the pass. The first was because it has been on my bucket list for years to ski Sun Valley. For those who buy what is deemed the “Snowbasin Premier Pass” you get 5 days of use at Sun Valley as both Snowbasin and Sun Valley are owned by the same company. I was still considered a young adult at Snowbasin so I qualified for the young adult pricing. With tax I paid $578.07 for my season pass. For the year I logged 11 days on the pass. I fell in love with Sun Valley so much that I used all 5 of my allotted days + 2 additional days. With a Snowbasin pass when you use all of your days at Sun Valley you get additional days at 50% off the walk-up rate. With that in mind I spent an additional $155 on two day passes to Sun Valley, bringing my total to $733.07 spent at either Snowbasin/Sun Valley. This brought my daily rate on this pass to $66.64 for the year.
For someone who grew up in Provo, Sundance will always have a special place in my heart. I get a season pass to Sundance every year because it is so convenient and I like supporting my local ski hill. I am not positive, but I think I’ve had a season pass to Sundance for close to 20 years out of the 27 years that I’ve been on this earth!
Just like the IKON pass, Sundance also gave a discount to renewing passholders due to COVID-19 closures. I spent $562.50 on a full season pass to Sundance and skied there 7 times. I usually ski quite a bit more at Sundance, but due to lack of snow, the whole mountain didn’t really open until a large storm on January 23rd. This also coincided with my first day skiing the resort. I usually make it a priority to get to Sundance on their opening day, in addition to skiing some mornings during the week, but with such bad snow, it took me until the end of January to start my ski season at Sundance. With all of those considerations, my daily rate on my Sundance pass ended up being $80.36, the highest rate out of the three passes that I purchased.
For the 2020/2021 ski season I spent a grand total of $2,094.57 on ski passes. Spread across the 37 days, my blended total came out to be $56.61 per day of skiing. While the ski resort model has certainly shifted over the past 10–15 years, and the price of day passes has skyrocketed, if you buy a pass early, and use it somewhat regularly, you can still get quite a bit of value out of the sport. It is important to note that my blended total does not factor in meals or travel to the resorts.
As a reference, I have attached below some screen shots of day pass rates at some of the resorts that I skied this year. As you can see below, it really only takes a few days of skiing to cover the cost of your ski pass. If you plan on going more than just a handful of times each year, getting a season pass is the way to go.