Mammoth, Calif., limits passes – and sells out |

Mammoth, Calif., limits passes – and sells out

MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, Calif. – Conditions were getting a bit crowded at Mammoth Mountain, so resort officials made a bold move – they placed a limit on the number of season passes they would sell.

Mammoth’s Value Pass is a $399, unrestricted season pass created four years ago and modeled after the sweet deals created in Colorado at the same time. That first year, the ski area sold 26,000 passes. Pass sales topped 30,000 two years later.

Mammoth communications manager Joani Lynch said, with pass sales rising significantly, ski area officials looked at skier visitor numbers, and the percentage of visitors using Value Passes and decided they didn’t want the program getting any bigger.

This year, 32,000 skiers bought Value Passes – the deal sold out in 27 days.

“It was an increase over last year, but we think we can keep it under control for the major holiday weekends and other busy periods,” Lynch said. “It really is about protecting the experience on the hill. And the problem wasn’t so much on the slopes as it was crowding at our base area facilities.”

Business sense dictates that a resort company – Intrawest owns 58 percent of Mammoth – sell as many passes as possible. Lynch said the proposal to limit pass sales spurred “a few arguments between the bean counters and the senior vice president of marketing.”

Mammoth Mountain encompasses 3,500 acres of terrain. The resort is at the limits of its U.S. Forest Service permit boundaries. On its busiest days, the ski area logs more than 20,000 visitors.

In Summit County, crowded slopes are a frequent complaint (albeit largely from locals interested in keeping powder days all to themselves) and have also been implicated in contributing to accidents on the mountain. But area ski resort officials said there are no plans to put a cap on pass sales and, furthermore, that comparing Summit resorts and Mammoth is misleading.

Copper Mountain spokesman Ben Friedland said the resort does limit the number of Four Pass sales each year. Friedland said the Four Pass is one of the ski area’s most popular products. He added that blackout dates are another way the resort attempts to control crowds on weekends officials know will draw a large number of skiers.

“Value is perceived in different ways,” Friedland said. “You can look at the price or at providing uncrowded slopes. We try to strike a balance.”

With 2,433 acres of skiable terrain and crowds that approach 14,000 skiers on the busiest days, Copper logs 5.75 skiers per acre, compared to 5.71 skiers per acre at Mammoth.

Vail Resorts also uses blackout days to help control crowds on holiday weekends. Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kelly Ladyga said the company has considered limiting sales in the past but hasn’t enacted limits for a couple reasons.

“We don’t have the physical limitations Mammoth does,” Ladyga said. “One being parking – we continue to invest in that at all our ski areas. We’ve also made significant investments in adding terrain – Blue Sky Basin at Vail and Peak 7 at Breckenridge, for example.”

Ladyga also noted that Mammoth Mountain and Colorado ski resorts attract different markets – Mammoth drawing drive-in skiers from around California, and Summit County resorts attracting destination skiers – which means the resorts must use different marketing and pricing strategies.

On its busiest days, Vail Mountain will attract about 20,000 visitors, which spread out to 3.78 skiers per acre on its 5,289 acres. A day with 15,000 skiers on Breckenridge Ski Resort’s 2,208 acres works out to 6.79 skiers per acre.

Vail Resorts sold more than 100,000 Colorado and Buddy Passes last year.

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or

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