#1: Epic and Ikon Passes Announce Credits, Discounts, and Assurances to Customers:
First up this week is an update to what was easily the most debated topic of discussion from last week’s Top Five Fridays: the predicament that ski resorts have found themselves in in regards to issuing refunds for season pass holders who had their seasons ended unexpectedly early. To recap last week’s news, we shared a couple of stories in which both Ikon and Epic Pass holders had filed lawsuits against the companies, arguing that they were owed partial refunds due to the early closures. Comments across both SkiEssentials.com and YouTube (where Jeff is doing an amazing job of producing a video version of Top 5 Fridays), were largely mixed, with the underlying consensus that the resorts should do something to make the situation right with their customers.
At the very start of this week, Vail Resorts finally came forward and announced a plan to do just that. Utilizing a sliding scale of credit based on overall pass use, Vail Resorts is offering 2019/2020 Epic Pass holders anywhere between 20-80% off of a 2020/2021Epic Pass for those who purchase a pass before Labor Day. To determine just how much credit each pass holder gets, Vail is referring to how many days each pass holder used their pass. Those who never used their passes are being offered 80% of the price they paid for their ’19/’20 pass towards next year’s pass. On the other end of the scale, skiers and riders who spent more than 5 days at the resort will receive 20% of their paid price as a credit towards next year’s pass. Additionally, Epic Pass has also expanded their insurance coverage while also including it for free with all pass purchases. Previously, pass insurance was offered as an additional add on and more or less only covered season ending injuries. Now, the insurance is free and covers everything from injury and pregnancy, to disease and war. To be totally honest, the graphic is a bit surreal to look at, but reasonable considering the times we’re living in. To learn more about the new offers being extended to Epic Pass holders, click here.
In addition to the Epic Pass offering these concessions as an olive branch to its pass holders, Ikon has also recently released new discount and pass assurances for the 2020/2021 season. For their part, the Alterra Mountain Company, owners of the Ikon Pass, is doubling their renewal discount for next season. In previous years, Ikon Pass holders have been eligible for a $100 discount on their next Ikon Pass. This time around, Ikon Pass holders are eligible for a $200 discount. For Ikon Base Pass holders, the same math applies where previous discounts were $50 for the following year, and are now $100 off a pass renewal. Additionally, Ikon also is offering free “Adventure Assurance” on all passes, allowing pass holders to defer their Ikon Pass for a year should they decide that conditions of any kind make the season not worth the cost. To learn more about Ikon’s updated offer, check in with their official website.
#2: Ski Resorts Across the World Continue to Slowly, Cautiously Move to Reopen:
Next up this week is another story that builds on a highlight we brought you last week. As you may recall, Mt. Baldy ski resort in Southern California became the first ski area in North America to reopen after the universal coronavirus closures. This week, we slowly began learning of more ski resorts across the globe that are looking to follow suit. Most locally, in Colorado, Wolf Creek Ski Area is looking to reopen as soon as possible. Like Mt. Baldy, the resort has put together a strict operating plan that limits the resorts capacity to approximately 10%, requires reservations to be made in advance, shuts down food offerings, and implements a number of other sanitary precautions. So far, the resort’s plan has gained almost unanimous support from pass holders, area hospitals, the boards of county commissioners from three different counties, and even the U.S. Forest Service. There is however, one major hurdle that still requires clearing: Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently announced an update to his stay at home order that, while loosening restrictions in most regards, limits travel for recreational purposes to a 10 mile radius. In doing so, Wolf Creek’s potential customer base has become virtually non-existent. While the operating team at Wolf Creek currently has a request for exemption in with the Governor, the outcome of that request is yet to be determined. Until that request is approved, Wolf Creek will have to begrudgingly remain closed. For more on this, check out the excellent recap from the Colorado Sun.
Elsewhere in the world, a handful of ski areas are also beginning to reopen with similar, hyper restrictive policies in places. In Norway, Myrkdalen ski area has become the first European ski resort to reopen since the closures. There, much like at Mt. Baldy, resort capacity is being heavily monitored and services are limited. Additionally, the resort has also announced that it will not be offering a terrain park and has asked that guests ski well within their abilities to reduce the need for ski patrol. At the moment, the resort is scheduled to be open until Sunday, May 3rd, at which point their leadership team will convene and determine whether or not they feel safe continuing to operate the resort under their restrictive measures. For more on this, check in with the Independent.ie.
#3: Vail Receives Two Year Grace Period for Credit Repayment, Raises Billions in Bond Sales:
For our third highlight this week, let’s take a closer look at the other side of the coin featured in highlight #1. We’re all well aware that pass holders were quite upset when their seasons were cut short and no immediate refund was given. On the other side of that story though, is the economic impact that the closures had on ski resorts. We’ve touched upon this a few times over the last couple of months, but a new article has grabbed our attention and forced us to examine the difficult situation from yet another angle. This week, we caught a piece from Bloomberg, by way of Yahoo Finance, that pulls back the curtain and reveals some of the high level financial dealings going on between Vail Resorts, its bankers, and investors. For those not exceptionally well versed in high end financial dealings (ourselves included), the details are a bit dense to sort through. Put simply though, the headlining fact of the article is that the Bank of America has given Vail Resorts a two year break on repaying “key debt covenants”. While the article doesn’t specifically state what these covenants are, the bottom line is more or less that the bank has given Vail a two year grace period on paying back its loans. In doing so, Vail has been able to reassure its investors that, despite the general economic turmoil of the times, the company is still in a healthy financial position. By being able to confidently state this, Vail was able to move forward with an effort to sell approximately $600 million in bonds. That effort was met with an overwhelming response, having received $5.8 billion in bond orders. Ultimately, this will likely result in Vail Resorts coming away from the scenario with about $1.2 billion in liquidity (or in layman’s terms, cash). There are some caveats with the deal, such as restrictions on dividends paid to investors and capital investments during the 2 year delayed repayment plan, but all in all this should be seen as great news for all those rooting for Vail’s success through these difficult times. For the average skier, the ultimate takeaway can be distilled into a surprisingly simple message: despite the economic turmoil, Vail Resorts (and the Epic Pass), are in a great position to remain in business. To learn more, check out the full writeup from Bloomberg (you may encounter a pay wall), or Yahoo Finance.
#4: Rollerblades and Bikes See Explosion in Popularity During Social Distancing:
Finally, we’re fortunate enough to be able close this week’s Top 5 Friday article with a bit of fun, lighthearted news. As we all know, life, including recreation, as we know it has dramatically changed in recent months. While the concepts of staying home, sheltering in place, and flattening the curve are all well and good, the fact of the matter is that many humans, and skiers in particular, have a certain drive to recreate. With ski resorts closed, uphill skiing banned, mud season upon us, and a majority of our typical go-to’s suddenly restricted or completely shutoff, outdoor enthusiasts have had to begin exploring new ways to expend their energy. This week, we caught a trio of articles that showcase two excellent ways to do just that.
First up in that regard, is rollerblading. If you’ve been following SkiEssentials for the last few years, you’ve probably noticed that we began selling Rollerblades a couple of summers ago, and even posting reviews of some of our favorite options. Our mentality was simply, “rollerblading makes for great off-season cross training. We should sell rollerblades.” Well, now due in large part to the pandemic, many skiers are finally beginning to take note of the concept, with Rollerblade sales seeing a 300% increase in demand since the beginning of March, according to an article published this week by Powder Magazine. That particular article goes on to dissect what makes rollerblading such a close relative to the sport of skiing. Ultimately though the attraction of rollerblading is simple for any skier to understand: utilizing a very similar motion to skiing, you can achieve the same weightless, exhilarating feelings on rollerblades as you can on skis. For anyone who’s been struggling to find a way to exercise during these quarantined times, we’d highly recommend giving rollerblading a shot. If you’re in need of additional motivation to give the sport a chance, we also recommend giving this quick story from the NY Mag a read.
The other sport that’s seeing a boost in participation due to social isolation is biking. While the sport of mountain biking has been growing in mountain communities across the world in recent years, this new era of social distancing has resulted in a massive spike in bike sales across all channels. According to this article from Bike Mag, the trend started with kid’s bikes, but quickly became all inclusive as everything from adult city bikes, to gravel grinders and mountain bikes have been flying off the shelves. Now, due to the sudden unexpected spike in demand, the industry is facing challenges that they haven’t faced in years, as suppliers are beginning to run low on inventory and factories have slowed capacity due to operational restrictions. While that doesn’t exactly mean there’s about to be a worldwide shortage of new bikes on the market, it does mean that some orders are being delayed and some parts are becoming harder to find. So, with that in mind, if biking seems like the kind of thing you might want to spend some time doing in the coming months, we recommend making your move sooner rather than later!