The reaction of some seniors to new season pass prices at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort has to make one wonder what might happen if there was a serious effort to reform Social Security or Medicare programs that actually are entitlements.
In this flap, DMR is on solid ground. Skiing is not a cheap sport and never has been. Purgatorys prices are comparable to other areas. (With I-70 deals come I-70 crowds and traffic.) Relative to the cost of a regular adult pass, the price for seniors is a good deal and, in an industry flat for years, as good as can be expected.
The ski area offers a range of pricing options, including day tickets, weekday-only passes and unlimited season passes. Passes are priced for kids, teens, college students, adults and seniors 65 and older. And there are three sales throughout the year with escalating prices. (Ski areas like cash flow early in the year and reward early pass purchasers accordingly.)
An adult full-season pass is $599 through Monday, $819 through Sept. 15 and $919 thereafter. A senior pass is $399, $509 and $609. For comparison, an adult single-day lift ticket is $75, for seniors it is $65, and for kids $45.
In other words, seniors get one-third off the price of a regular adult pass. That is hardly elder abuse.
The problem is that until this year DMR had offered two deals for older skiers. One, similar to the current senior pricing, was available to those aged 62 to 69, while skiers 70 and older got an even steeper discount. And judging by the complaints, it would seem they got used to it.
Last year, an over-70 season pass cost $149. DMR says skiers 65 and older typically ski 20 days per year. That works out to $7.50 per day. One has to be old to remember a per-day cost that low, even figuring season-pass prices of decades past.
That deal was an anachronism from a time when skiing retirees were a rarity and the sport was seen as dangerous. Giving skiers older than 70 what amounted to free skiing was smart marketing that carried with it the suggestion that if they could do it anyone could.
But skiing has changed and so has its market. Gray hair is more the norm than the exception, and lots of todays skiers stay active into their 70s or beyond. Older skiers are no longer anomalies to be showcased but customers like anyone else.
Paying $399 for an all-season pass for which someone just a few years younger would pay $599 is a nice nod toward fitness and a generous reward for customer loyalty. That it is also more than some seniors were accustomed to paying is beside the point.
The ski area also considered season pass holders age 62 to 64 who would have been eligible for the 62 to 69 price offered last year. Grandfathered in as honorary 65-year-olds, they, too, get the $399 rate. That was a thoughtful gesture that should not go unnoticed.
Skiers, boarders and ski bikers of all ages should take advantage of DMRs early season pass deals by Monday. They are their best bet to manage the cost of winter fun.