Are Vail Resorts and Alterra Too Powerful in the Skiing Industry?

Home » Are Vail Resorts and Alterra Too Powerful in the Skiing Industry?

Over the past 10 years Vail Resorts has continued to consolidate the skiing industry to the point of monopoly or certainly oligopoly proportions.  The formation of Alterra in my opinion was one of necessity to combat the market controlling actions of Vail Resorts.  So now there are 2 major corporations which dominate the skiing industry in US and extending into Canada. While each is powerful, Vail is certainly the most powerful.

First, what’s attractive to skiers / riders about the roll-up of ski areas?  The Epic Pass!  There’s a variety of Epic Pass season passes flavors which enable skiers from all parts of the country to use their pass at resorts from New Hampshire to California to Canada and even to Japan, Australia and Europe.   To your average skier who skis 10-15 days a year, an Epic Pass has broad appeal. If I live in Harrisburg, PA and go to Ski Roundtop on the weekends, if I plan a trip out west, where am I gonna go?  Logically and Epic Pass holder is gonna to go to a resort owned, controlled or in a marketing agreement with Vail Resorts Inc.  I mean why would you go to Aspen or Jackson Hole if you have an Epic Pass because with Epic you can ski at Breckenridge, Heavenly Valley, Park City and so forth with your Epic.  So, Vail Inc “locks you in” to their resorts.

Alterra’s model is similar.  Live in Albany NY and ski at Stratton all the time?  When it’s time to head west, you’re likely to hit Winter Park, Deer Valley, Aspen or some other resort attached to a flavor of Alterra’s IKON Pass.

Wow, you think this is great!  And yes in ways it absolutely is.  As a skier who gets his / her monies worth at their home resort and then goes west it’s like getting “free” lift tickets at the BIG resorts. YES!!!

So even though I have an undergrad degree in Economics (and wrote my Senior Thesis on the Skiing Industry) and an MBA in Finance I’m not here to dive into the details here today, but if you’d like to discuss the topic, reach out to me on my Contact form and I’d be glad to chat.

That said, take a look at the prices of the passes…yep, each year they pretty much go up $50 and while it might not seem a lot initially, if you’re looking at a family of four, you’re probably paying close to $1000 more for your family passes than you did 4 years ago.  But, the reality is, it’s still a great deal if you get out west each year.

And, growing up skiing the east and loving Vermont…there’s simply nothing like Colorado sunshine, Utah powder and California warmth.

If you’re looking for a great place to go…feel free to contact me as I’ve skied at most of the resorts across the country and glad to offer my insights.

So is the combo of Vail Resorts and Alterra too powerful?  Time will continue to tell but for right now,  it’s still good news for active skiers.  For employee’s?  That’s a whole other story to dive into on a future run….

Here’s links to pass info




Doug Lifton at Mammoth Mountain
Doug Lifton at Mammoth Mountain