Steamboat Springs Steamboat Ski Area’s decision to hike the prices of senior ski passes has left some of the area’s most loyal skiers fuming.
The $699 seniors will pay for a 2017-18 season pass represents a 40-percent, or $200, increase from the 2015-16 ski season’s $499 price tag.
By comparison, the early-bird price of an adult ski pass has gone up only 9.5 percent, from $1,049 to $1,149, in the same two-year period.
Steamboat Ski Area season pass rates
*Prices are early-bird prices for passes purchased before the end of May
“To say I’m angry is probably an understatement,” Steamboat resident Ed Miklus said Monday about the latest price bump for seniors. “It’s disrespectful. I have had no increase in my pension over the last 10 years. Zero.”
Skiers and riders must have turned 70 years old before a ski season begins to qualify for the discounted senior pass.
The price of a season pass for a teenager is unchanged, remaining $599 for the 2017-18 season, meaning seniors will be spending $100 more for their passes.
When local photographer George Fargo, who has been skiing Steamboat since 1969, checked the price of a senior pass for the upcoming ski season, he found himself thinking "not again."
He said Monday the price increases have him thinking hard about whether to purchase another season pass.
“I understand Ski Corp. has to make money, but I don’t understand increasing the price for seniors more than the full-price people,” Fargo said.
Asked why the price of a senior ski pass is going up at a significantly higher rate than passes for other age groups, Katie Brown, the ski area's vice president of sales and marketing, said the pricing followed a review of what other ski areas were offering in terms of senior discounts.
Brown noted Steamboat’s senior pass rate will amount to a 40-percent discount from a regular adult pass next ski season.
Brown said the discount is still higher than many other resorts are offering.
“Vail Resorts doesn’t offer a senior Epic Pass,” Brown said. “We are proud we offer 40 percent off regular price.”
Brown also noted there are added benefits to Steamboat’s season passes next ski season.
These include unlimited skiing at Winter Park and an increase in the number of discounted lift tickets a season pass holder can get for friends and family during off-peak times.
Many senior pass holders interviewed Monday said they still plan to fork out more money for a ski pass, adding they consider themselves a sort of “captive customer.”
But in a town where seniors once skied for free, the singling out of the senior passes for greater price hikes isn’t sitting well with the older generation of skiers.
Seniors critical of the price increases note many senior skiers have spent years paying full price for access to the lifts.
“Terrible, just terrible,” longtime skier Ann Ross said of the latest price increases for seniors. “I’m very disappointed. We used to ski for practically nothing. I think a lot of people think seniors have a lot of money. I mean some of them do, but a lot of them don’t.”
The 20 percent price jump announced last ski season prompted a flurry of criticism and letters to the editor.
Patti and Tom Zehner questioned why seniors were facing four times more of an increase than adults.
They also claimed Aspen had raised the price of its senior passes less than 3 percent during a similar three-year period.
Miklus, a retired school superintendent who moved to Steamboat from New Jersey, said the local price hikes are coming at a time of “stagnation” and will hurt seniors who aren’t seeing their Social Security payments or pensions grow at a similar rate.
The price hikes have also dinged his view of the ski area.
“I’m just livid about this, I’m livid. I’m beyond livid,” Miklus said. “My feeling is they don’t care. They’ll take the heat and leave it over a 37-percent increase.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10