Should you really brag about $81 for a lift ticket?
December 6, 2005
“There’s a certain bragging right that comes with charging the highest lift ticket price in the country,” said Adam Aron, CEO of Vail Resorts, on the $81 price for a one day lift ticket for Vail and Beaver Creek.I love to read. Whether I have five minutes standing in line, or an evening to while away indoors, I’ll read, magazines, letters, even books on how to perform electrical repairs myself, even though I will never install an outlet. Oh, I’m sure I could do it, but years ago at age 3, I stuck a car key into an outlet to see what would happen. Two things happened. My elderly babysitter, Anna, walked in just as the key closed the electrical circuit, producing a magnificent blue flash that startled her into the hospital. As a result, I’m gun-shy around electricity; reading about how it works is enough for me.I’ve never met Adam Aron, and quotes of things he has actually said (not to be confused with press release blather) and the insight real quotes provide, are hard to find. Either he just doesn’t say much in public or he says a lot but not in a “quotable quote” form that gets into print; think Jeffrey Bergeron and the Summit Daily’s “Reporters Notebook.”
Jeffrey is no more or less insightful than other Breckenridge Town Council members, but he speaks in sound bites that make great quotes which I and others enjoy reading.But what Aron says is important because what he does can make an enormous difference to my business and my skiing. He and his cohorts have been great for me, spending millions on improving the Breckenridge ski experience while making only inconsequential changes in their business lines that could hurt my business model. So when Adam Aron makes the papers with the rare quotable quote, I like to roll it around a bit, imagining where he said it, to whom, in what context, and whether it says anything at all about the man and the future. In this case, I went from being outraged to laughing to just scratching my head and wondering, why brag about an $81 lift ticket?As a Breckenridge resident, I know that bragging about a super-high priced lift ticket is a very Vailish thing to say. Being loud and proud of high prices and the supposed selectivity that it produces is a Vail way of trying to equate itself with Aspen, a town and an experience overpriced and exclusive in a way that Vail aspires to be but will never be. Maybe the notion is that an $81 price tag gives him and other Vail residents the right to brag to each other. Actual skiers, of course, don’t view $81 as bragable, first, because they will never buy a single day lift ticket and second, because they’re adult enough to assign bragging rights based on the ski conditions and the runs, not the ticket window.
And it’s hard to imagine bragging about the ultra-high price of a lift ticket to the nascent skier, the first timer anxious to enjoy the same fun on the slopes as those of us lucky enough to live here. Reading about $81 to ski has just got to kill the curiosity and desire in someone thinking about skiing for the first time. Sure, there are cheaper options for a one-day ticket, to say nothing of the Buddy Pass, a Godsend to every regular skier. But a never-ever has no way to know that there are cheaper ways to ski. All he knows is that every fall the media publicizes the new high price of a one-day ticket, a price so high that it quenches his enthusiasm for taking up skiing.
It’s a media axiom that there’s no such thing as bad publicity – any free mention in the papers or on television is inherently a good thing. In this case, the annual fall ritual of “bragging” about the new one-day lift ticket price is a case of bad publicity being just that – bad publicity. The same year that I stuck a key in an outlet, the city fathers of my home town handed out buttons proclaiming “44 below keeps out the riff raff” in honor of a recent cold snap. They knew, of course, that 44 below was incredibly rare, but to a potential visitor, 44 below was good reason to go elsewhere. $81 is nothing to brag about; while it may be an ego boost for Vail residents, it hurts, in ways that matter more than ego. Marc Carlisle writes a Thursday column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.