Doug Fish, Indy Pass President & Founder, joined The Storm Skiing Podcast Host, Stuart Winchester, to talk about the inception of the newest multi-mountain pass and provide a sneak peek at what’s new this year.
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Read the interview below:
Doug: I realized a long time ago that the heart and soul of American skiing really lives at these small to mid-sized authentic independent hidden gems that most people have never heard about. And in 2017, when Alterra announced their coming out party and started merging with everybody, we just thought everything was changing, it was like musical chairs and we started thinking about, ok if there’s going to be a new pass, why can’t it be us, why can’t we do it?
Welcome to the Storm.
Stuart: I’m your host Stuart Winchester. How are you doing today? Talking about one of my favorite topics today – multi-mountain passes.
Before we get to that though, a reminder to please subscribe to Storm Skiing newsletter at skiing.substack.com to get all future podcasts and other content as soon as it’s live.
Episode 16. Doug Fish, President & Founder of the IndyPass.
There are 2 kinds of skiers – graduators and explorers. Graduators think you learn on small mountains and work your way up to really big ones and then forget about everything in between. This is your buddy who won’t ski anything smaller than Sugarbush, or the guy you know at work who will only ski out west even though he lives in New Jersey.
Explorers are different. They believe that the quality of a mountain is not stapled to its size or how many high speed lifts it has. There are lots of things that make a mountain worthy of spending a day at… terrain, atmosphere, cost, location. Explorers believe that some days Killington is the best thing in the world, but other days you might downshift about 50 gears, not drive as far north, and hit Magic. Going to have a different kind of day, and that’s a good thing.
The IndyPass is built for Explorers, and it’s built for people who are tired of expensive lift tickets. $199 bucks gets you two days each at 52 ski areas. There are 7 new mountains this season, including Cannon in the east, Tamarack out west, and a bunch of headliners in the midwest. There’s a new kid pass this year for $99 bucks and season pass holders at any partner mountain can tack on an IndyPass for $129.
Doug Fish, based out of Portland, OR, launched the pass last season. We’re going to get the origin story today and talk about everything that’s new with the pass. It’s a long one, so we’re going to get right into it. Let’s do it.
My guest today is the president and founder of the IndyPass, which provides 2 days of skiing at 52 ski areas in the US and Canada for $199. He’s the producer and founder of Snowvana, the Northwest’s Get Stoked festival for the snow sports industry and enthusiasts. He’s also the chairman of Fish Marketing, a branding and digital agency that specializes in lifestyle and outdoor recreation accounts and has been working with ski resorts of all sizes for more than 20 years.
Doug Fish is my guest.
Stuart: Doug thank you so much for joining us.
Doug: Thank you Stu, it’s great to be here.
Stuart: Doug, it’s been a crazy few months for all of us with the full COVID-19 shutdown. Where have you been holed up and how have you been doing?
Doug: You know, I’ve been for the most part holed up in my house in Portland, OR, and working out of my kitchen. I moved my office home on March 16th and my wife and I are empty nesters and fortunately, she hasn’t killed me in my sleep yet.
Still hanging in there. I think that was around the same time that all of us went underground. March 12th I believe was my last day in the office. Here we are surviving though.
Stuart: So let’s talk about the IndyPass. Big announcement last week, but I want to go back to the beginning. You created the IndyPass basically out of thin air. It’s filling a huge vacuum left by the Ikon and Epic passes. How did the IndyPass come to be?
Doug: Well. Like anything in the ski business, the main reason that people get into the ski business is so that they can get free lift tickets and I thought this would be a great way to do that. But I’ve skied all over the west, I’ve been really lucky to ski a lot of resorts from the Rockies west, and I have nothing bad to say about these mega-resorts, and these big great resorts, I love skiing them and I’ve skied many of them… But I realized a long time ago that the heart and soul of American skiing really lives at these small to mid-sized authentic, independent, hidden gems that most people have never heard about.
And in 2017, when Alterra announced their coming out party and started merging with everybody, my partner and I were sitting around thinking about what was going to happen and we decided that maybe there was room for a new pass that would incorporate the resorts that were left out of the Vail and El Terra roll-ups. We were familiar with the Mountain Collective pass cuz we had been the agency of record for Snowbasin in Utah which is on that pass, and we have clients on the Powder Alliance which is a reciprocal season pass program out here in the west. And we just thought everything was changing, it was like musical chairs and we started thinking about OK, if there’s going to be a new pass, why can’t it be us? Why can’t we do it? And that’s really how it got started.
Stuart: So you and I met in person up at Catamount, which is about 2 hours north of NYC. It’s not a mountain that a lot of people know about in the way that they know about Hunter or Wyndam. It’s an IndyPass mountain. It’s a great little mountain, 1,000 vertical feet, really nice lift system, owned by the Schaefer family, which also owns and runs Berkshire East. When we were there sitting in the cafeteria that day, you gave me a little back story. You said you were riding the chair lift at Red Lodge, Montana and the idea for the IndyPass just hit you. So take us into your head at that moment. When was this and how did the thought hit you?
Doug: It was February of 2018 and we had been doing some digital marketing for Red Lodge, so I was out there for a visit, to meet with the management team, and check out the mountain. My daughter was going to school in Bozeman. I was out riding / skiing the mountain. It’s a nice sunny powder day, President Day weekend I was skiing fresh tracks there and it was incredible. So I’m riding the chair lift by myself and I get on the chairlift with this couple and start chatting with them and they tell me that they’re from Minneapolis. And I said, “Wow. That’s a long way”… “Yep, 16 hours, we drive it straight through and we come out here every President’s weekend. This is the first best place we come to when we head west.”
They come out every year. They ski at Bridger and maybe they’ll do a day at Big Sky, but they really like Red Lodge. And they were telling me about this and I thought, “Wow, that’s crazy. And I said, “where do you ski back in the midwest” and he said “oh we don’t ski in the midwest. This is our only ski trip… This is it for the season.” And I thought, “Oh my gosh. I’ve been marketing to skiers my whole career and you know I’ve always been focused on the hard cores like myself. And I thought wow, this is a market that I never really knew existed… And I look at these people and they have 20-year-old gear, their skis are straight as an arrow and skinny as a pencil, but they are passionate, they love it and they would describe themselves as skiers to anyone they met. But because of their circumstances, they only could get 3-4 days a year.
So a little while later, I’m on the chair and I meet a couple from Grand Rapids, and it’s the exact same story. So I’m thinking, “Wow, I need to rethink what is going on here in the ski business.” And that’s when I realized that there was this gap in the market. There are two gaps really. The industry, and I mean resorts, manufacturers, and media – they’ve always been focused on core skiers who do about 50% of all the skier visits. They buy season passes, they spend a lot of money. But nobody is really spending a lot of time focused on people like I had met on the chair lift.
And the other gap is that all the big resorts have these huge marketing budgets and they’re controlling all of the messaging. So the casual skier, as far as they know, there’s only 50 resorts in all of North America cuz that’s all they hear about. So that’s really what created the essence for the IndyPass. It was that epiphany that hit me that day at Red Lodge.
Stuart: So I’ll say first of all Doug. Neither of those stories surprise me at all. I grew up in the midwest, and if there was a road to the moon those people would drive there. They will drive anywhere. Distance is no obstacle at all. As soon as I could I drove from Michigan to Colorado for a ski trip. No surprise there.
So this idea forms in your mind. It’s just one of these brainstorms. So you told me you skied straight down to the GMs office and pitched the idea to him. What happened next?
Doug: Well I met with the GM for lunch and we sat at the bar and had hamburgers. Jeff Schmidt had been the long time GM there. He had been a ski guy all his life. I told him my idea and he thought it was great. He said, hey a pass like that would be perfect for them. That’s our customer, he said. So that was a little bit of validation and I kind of left Red Lodge with an idea that I hadn’t arrived with.
Stuart: And what was his reaction to the whole pitch?
Doug: He thought it was a viable model. He thought there was a market out there that would buy the IndyPass. You know, casual, occasional skiers and riders who don’t buy season passes, and he thought that whether it was for travel and vacation, or for their daily dose of skiing that there was a market for it. And I thought he had a pretty good opinion of the whole situation.
Stuart: So you had the concept. You had some validation from at least one mountain that you respected. What did you do next? Did you throw yourself into this thing? Start blitzing the independent mountains in your region?
Doug: No. We really took a step back. We spent the next several months doing a lot of research and really fine-tuning the program. We had a kernel of an idea. I’m a marketing guy and I know how to market things, but I didn’t know how to create a pass. We had to figure out how the back end would work, how to approach resorts. There’s just a lot of things that we didn’t know that we had to find.
So we spent the summer doing that. But the further that we got into it, the more validation we realized for the concept. There are 700 ski areas in North America, and like I said, the casual skier really only has exposure to maybe 50 or 75 resorts, and it’s pretty much all the big ones. And it’s because those guys have been dominating what I call the snow-porn media for 50 years. You don’t go to a Warren Miller movie and see a travel log about Red Lodge, MT., or Beaver Mountain UT, or Pats Peak, NH. You see the same big ones, because they have the money to pay for that exposure. The casual skiers that we’re trying to reach are not listening to this podcast. They probably don’t even know it exists, and that’s fine.
So we’re after the skier or rider that averages four days per season. And that’s a statistic that we got from the National Ski Areas Association. The average season pass holder skis ten days a year. The average non-passholder skis four days per year, and that’s who we’re targeting. Our mission is to tell the story of Indy resorts and give that casual skier a great deal. Because right now they’re paying through the nose for day tickets, and they’re leaving the sport in droves. The number one reason that people lapse from skiing and riding is because it’s too expensive. And the number three reason that they leave the sport is because the gear is too expensive. So clearly there is a perception problem within the industry that the sport is too expensive and I think it gets back to the fact that all the big resorts are dominating the media and dominating the messaging, and they’re charging $150 or $200 a ticket, and that’s what these people hear and they decide well I think I’m going to take up golf or tennis. I’m not going to be a skier because I can’t afford it. And the IndyPass and all of the great resorts that we represent, are for them.
Stuart: As these ideas were forming in your head, and on paper, and with your partner, and then you go out and you’re recruiting these mountains. How big of a part of your pitch was that marketing angle? Like look, Vail has whatever, 7-8-9 figure marketing budget. You, Mt. Local don’t… but if you’re part of this, that is part of the package. You are going to be part of a pass that is going to have a national marketing angle to it, and anyone who goes to explore resorts in their region will automatically see you. How big of a part of that Doug, was part of your pitch?
Doug: It’s huge. It’s a huge part of our pitch. None of these guys… I shouldn’t say none, but most of these small resorts, are not going to get national media coverage. Once in awhile they’ll get picked up on a top 5 Indie list or whatever, but for the most part, they only have the resources to market to their local communities, maybe their regional markets and the IndyPass has the ability to create a national brand, which we’ve done. We’ve managed to create a national presence in just a few short months. We launched on September 1st of last year, and we’ve had numerous articles written in snow sports media. We’ve made the Boston Globe. We got a mention in the Wall Street Journal in February, and it’s just the beginning. We’re not necessarily promoting individual resorts, although when we get down to a regional level we do… but what we’re promoting is the concept that these indies are just awesome places. They’re affordable. They’re uncrowded. They’re welcoming. And if you want to take a little weekend getaway and do a vacation you can stay in some really cool places, whether at the resort or in one of the nearby communities and you can do all of this for a fraction of what it costs to going to a big resort. And like you’re going to Disneyland. These big resorts have become Disneyland with chair lifts. I think that that authentic experience is what a lot of people want.
Stuart: So they obviously liked what they heard. When you announced the IndyPass last year to the wider world, last March, you had ten commitments, all of them out west. What told you Doug, that you had enough momentum and enough buy-in to make this thing known to the world?
Doug: Well I figured if we could get ten commitments from resorts that didn’t know me and had never heard of anything. Why couldn’t we get 20? If we could get 20, why couldn’t we get 40? And if we could get 40, why couldn’t we get 80?… So that’s what motivated us. The very first commitment we got was from Brundage Mountain in Idaho. The GM there is Ken Rider, he’s a really smart guy. He’s an out-of-the-box thinker and a true pioneer in the ski business. I’d known him from when we both did work at Tamarack and he went to the board with it and they said, yeah let’s give it a shot. And so I leveraged his commitment to everybody else. I said, well this guy’s in, how about you?… And then I’d get a couple more, and I’d say well they’re all in, so how about you? That’s how the ski business works. Oh, I know him, yeah we worked together over here and OK if he thinks it’s cool then I’ll take a look at it. It’s a real tight-knit community and nobody wants to go first in the ski business. Nobody wants to make a wrong move because everybody’s going to hear about it. So that first commitment was key.
And I took that and I packed up my laptop and my best ski buddy and we rented a 27-foot trailer and we headed out on a month-long journey around the west. We covered 6,300 miles. We visited 20 resorts in 26 days, and at the end of that trip I had 10 commitments. And that’s what launched it.
Stuart: So that initial announcement included that $199 price. That’s a really aggressive price point. How did you arrive at that number, and what made you think it was enough to build a business off of?
Doug: Well. It’s all math. It’s just based on math. The average non-passholder skis 4 days a year, and we know that these resorts are happy to get around $40 – $50 a visit, even if they’re charging $60 – $70, and you divide $200 by 4 and that’s $50. Take out 15% for overhead and marketing and software licensing and everything, and the rest goes back to the resorts. And this year they realized over $48 per visit.
Stuart: That doesn’t seem completely out there to me because if you look at prices on Liftopia for example… ?? Reese has also been on the Storm Skiing podcast and the way that he broke it down it’s in order to reach more skiers the price that we think of as the price, ski areas have long ago dispensed with being married to that as I must get this number. That’s sort of a starting point for discussions and this seems like a different variation of that same sort of pricing model.
Doug: It really is. If you look at the statistics that came from NSAA’s financial surveys that they do, the average ski resort in the US gets about 50% of their rack rate for an average ticket revenue… In other words, if you take all ticket revenue and pass revenue and divide by the total number of visits, it’s about 50% of your highest ticket price, which we refer to as rack rate. So if that’s the benchmark. If 50% of rack rate is the benchmark, I figured ok if we can come in above that, and hopefully not everybody shows up the day after Christmas, then we’ve got a viable model. And last year we came in at 67% of average rack rate.
Stuart: Yea. The disparity there is not as big as what I see on a personal basis with for example the IKON pass where when I was out at Steamboat, a day ticket was going for $219. I paid $600 something for my IKON pass and I think before the season was up I might have gotten that down to $30 a day. So they were getting from me a small fraction of what they were charging.. And I understand that I ski more than most people, but that sounds like it’s working out pretty well for the partner resorts. I’m curious about how you arrived at the 2 day number.
Doug: Again. It’s just math. Averaging the number of visits that people are going to ski and if you figure it’s 4 days, then if you can offer them 2 days at 2 different resorts, that’s 4 days, and if they can get to those 2 resorts and have fun and sleep in their own bed, they get their money back. They make a little bit of money. And if you went to 3 days then now they can get 6 days for $200 and sleep in their own bed, and maybe they stretch it and they want to drive 3 hours each way they could get 9 days and at that point you’re going to start to cannibalize season passes… cuz the average pass holder skis 10 days and the average season pass is between $500 – $600 for a small to mid-size resorts. And if you can ski 9 days for $200 you’re not going to buy a pass. And if that happens, we’re out of business. Nobody’s going to want to touch it, so 2 days is really key and it’s not a season pass. You can’t look at it as a season pass replacement, because those people want to get their days in. They’re skiing 10, 15, 20 days, most of it at their favorite mountain. And if they buy the IndyPass, they’re going to have to do a lot of travel to get that kind of volume in. And people just aren’t willing to do that. So that was a big part of the perception. Everybody thought it was a season pass, or that it was going to replace season passes. It’s nothing of the kind. It’s basically like a frequency pass, like a 4-pack that they sell for $189 at a lot of places. You get 4 days. That’s the category that the IndyPass is in. It’s called a frequency pass.
Stuart: Having that 2 days it kind of gets people to try it out, right? So there’s a mountain I tried out last year in upstate New York, Greek Peak (?) which I had just never really thought about before, but it was on the pass and I was passing through there and I said I’ll stop in. And you know what, it was really nice! So that kind of gets it in my head ok here’s this nice mountain that’s not that far from me that I could come back to. It would be a good family mountain to bring my kids back to, let me try it out, so looking at it from that frame of mind, it’s one of these things where you really don’t have anything to lose.
Doug: Yeah. It’s a sampler. It really is, it gives you an opportunity to sample. If you’re just starting in the sport, you can check out a lot of places and decide which one you like the best. We’re hearing from a lot of passholders – I heard from this one woman and this is a quote, “I grew up skiing small independent areas and there’s definitely still a place for them in the industry. This pass encouraged me to revisit some old favorites.”
Pat’s Peak was really worried about cannibalization of their daily lift ticket, which is top price. So they surveyed every single IndyPass visitor all season long and they asked them one question. They said, “Have you ever been to Pat’s Peak before?” And the results were shocking. 89% of those IndyPass visits had never been to Pat’s Peak before. So when they saw that, Chris Blunback, the GM when he saw that stat was like Whoa, this is incredible! They can market to those people now, they get their contact information and they can reach out to them, which they did, and say hey, thanks for coming and checking out Pat’s Peak, why don’t you come back and try us again. Why don’t you maybe buy a 10-pack or a season pass. They become part of their database and they can convert them to regular customers.
Stuart: Yea, it’s so easy to overlook mountains out here in the northeast. We just have so many and the big names are so well known and that’s where everyone goes. So that doesn’t surprise me one bit that people are like OK, it’s on the pass, let me try it. I want to talk a little bit about these coalitions of independent mountains like the Powder Alliance and the Freedom Pass in which ski areas have banded together to offer comp tickets to one another’s pass holders. You’ve told me you think this is a bad deal for ski areas. Why is the IndyPass a better way to go?
Doug: Well I don’t know that it’s necessarily a bad deal, but it’s evolving into not as good of a deal as it was originally intended to be. It’s a great deal for passholders and what we’re talking about are reciprocal agreements or affiliate partnerships between different resorts for their passholders, for their season passholders. In other words, you buy a season pass at this resort and you get 2-3 days for free or at a discount at several other resorts. Most of them are just hand-shake deals between resorts and there are a couple of formal branded partnerships like you mentioned, the Freedom Pass and the Powder Alliance… but I think when Vail came out with the Epic Pass, this was the indie resorts answer to the multi-mountain passes, that was obviously very popular. So they started forming alliances with each other, it helps them sell season passes. Now, most resorts in the country have some sort of reciprocity with other resorts. And in my opinion, I think they’ve kind of created a monster because Vail and Alterra are not giving away any free days. You may think they’re free but no, you spent $600-$700-$800 bucks for that pass and you’re going to one of their mountains and that mountain is going to get paid for your visit in some form. But now all these other resorts, these independents are literally giving away hundreds of thousands of free visits to passholders from their partner resorts. I mean let’s face it. The ski business is tough. And it’s getting tougher especially for the smaller resorts. Margins are thin. You’re reliant on weather. Global warming is here. Competition is fierce. And for the last 20 years participation levels in the United States are flat, so the sport isn’t really growing ok, so it’s getting harder and harder to maintain or increase your piece of the pie. I mean how much longer can these guys afford to give it away for free? and that’s what they’re doing. And so what the IndyPass, or maybe there’s another pass that does the same thing, but basically it monetizes all of those visits. Our partner resorts can sell an IndyPass to their passholders, or they can buy it directly from us for $129. And now they’ve got access to, well today, it’s 52 resorts, eventually it’s going to be more… and they get 2 days at each one, but instead of those visits being free, now they’re monetized and like I said, we paid out almost $49 per visit. So I really think that the days of the reciprocal agreements are going to go the way of the straight ski, and eventually some other model, like the IndyPass is going to take its place. It will be more fair. People who want it can pay for it. People who don’t, they don’t have to. But that’s my thought on reciprocal agreements.
Stuart: So fast-forwarding to the 2019-2020 ski season you spent a lot of time putting together this coalition, and by the time the pass went on sale in September of last year you had 40-something mountains signed on and you kept adding others all the way up through the beginning of the ski season. What was the initial reception like among skiers?
Doug: It was great. You know, it’s hard to get the message out, especially to the casual person. But Ski Magazine came out with a great article about it on August 27th, I’ll always remember the date. We went on sale a couple of days later, and I remember getting up the first morning and opening up my laptop and nervously looking to see if we had sold any passes and we sold about a dozen passes that first day. I think they could hear me yelling all the way to Bend. It was validation. And these were not friends and family, these were strangers that were buying the pass cuz they had heard about it. And again, if we can sell 1 we can sell 10, if we can sell 10, we call sell 100 and so forth. Last November we went out to the Boston Ski Show, it’s the biggest ski show in the country. We set up a booth and we hung out. We were next to Magic Mountain and across the aisle from Bolton Valley and we just talked to people. We weren’t trying to sell passes, we were giving away a little discount coupon, we were just talking to people. We met with hundreds and hundreds of skiers and riders from the Boston area who stopped by and told us what they thought. We explained it to them. Some people were like yeah, this is great. This is cool. We’ll buy one… While others said I’ve got my Epic I’m good to go, but it gave us feedback that was really helpful, especially there in the Northeast. We’re not as familiar with that region as we need to be and so that was one way we got some good customer feedback that’s been very valuable to us.
Stuart: So what ended up being your strongest markets, both as far as actual sales go and as far as actual usage?
Doug: You know, I’m not exactly sure why. But Washington state was just huge for us. We sold 30% of our passes in Washington. The Puget Sound region / Seattle was probably ⅔ of that, and then Spokane area was huge. Minnesota was #2 at about 8%, and then Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts were all kind of grouped together in 3rd place approximately. So pretty good diversification across the US. Man if we can just duplicate what we’re doing in Washington, then we’re going to sell a lot of passes cuz they just ate it up.
Stuart: It seems like from what you just described, that those geographies cluster rather well around where you have a critical mass of ski areas. You told Ski Magazine that you hit around 9,000 skier days last year. Taking out that chunk, that month or 6 weeks, or whatever you want to call it, that we lost to COVID, was that about in line with what you had been expecting?
Doug: You know, for the first year we wanted to do more, but we had no idea what to expect. And as the season progressed, we thought we’d get to 10,000. I think we would have hit that number or come close had it not been for the pandemic.
Stuart: Anyone max it out? Anyone get all 94 days?
Doug: No. If somebody maxes it out, I will give them a free pass for life. Nobody will ever do that. It just won’t happen, and if they do it, they deserve a free pass for life. There were 3 people who skied 16 days on the pass. Those were our champions.
Stuart: I think Eagle Crest is going to be the tough one. You can’t even drive there.
Doug: Well Sunrise, AZ is a bit of a haul too. The romance of taking a ski trip and hitting 25 ski resorts is really cool. It sounds great, but I did it and it is a brutal road trip to do that. You’ve got to have a lot of time. You’ve got to have a lot of money. And you’ve got to have a lot of stamina. There are people that have that. But everyone dreams of that, everyone aspires to that, taking that trip where you visit a dozen ski resorts and you travel all over, and it is an incredible experience. I’ve done it now in all parts of the country, but you really have to be committed, that’s for sure. I think it’s the allure of that type of lifestyle, that’s why people buy these multi-mountain passes. They see themselves doing that.
I know you do that Stu. I’ve read your posts. You walk the walk, and you talk the talk. But that’s what people envision when they buy one of these passes in October. There’s no more optimistic person than a skier in October.
Stuart: Well I can tell you, Doug, I will not be hitting 104 ski days next season. No question about that.
Doug: Free pass for life, if you do.
Stuart: So the skiers really loved it. How did this work out for the ski areas? I know you touched on the comparison of rack rate earlier, but how do you manage the fact that some ski areas have day tickets – like you said, Pat’s Peak, I think I looked and their day ticket was in the $90s for a peak Saturday ticket or whatever, you compare that to someplace like Catamount where you can walk out for $50. Does everyone get the same payout? Is there some kind of sliding scale based upon your pricing grid? How do you work all of that out?
Doug: Well that’s a really good question. Last year to keep it simple, we just took total revenue, divided by total number visits and that’s what we paid out. It came out to $48.68. But we had some resorts in the midwest, their highest ticket prices are in the low $40s, and here they were getting a check for $48 every time somebody shows up. I mean, they hit the jackpot right. But then some of our Rocky Mountain resorts were charging $85 bucks and Bolton Valley is at $84 bucks, and we just didn’t think that was fair. So for this coming season, we’re going to, as you say, a sliding scale, and it will be pegged to rack rate. We have a mathematical formula that I suppose it’s high school algebra but I couldn’t figure it out. We had to hire somebody to write it, but we think we’ll be able to deliver somewhere between 60 – 65% of that rack rate. If you’re at $100, you’re gonna make $60, and if you’re at $40, you’re going to make $24. We think that’s a more equitable situation and you know, we took this to all of our partners and we said, hey what do you think about this idea. You’re going to make a little less, you’re going to make a little more, you OK with that? And everybody was. 95% of our resorts are returning and have renewed their contracts for next year and it just speaks volumes about what this has done for them.
Stuart: And is there further differentiation there if you’re skiing, let’s say MLK Saturday or President’s Day Saturday as opposed to some random Monday or Tuesday in March, or is it just a daily rate based on your resort period, and there are no other considerations?
Doug: No other considerations. What we’ve found is interesting, 35% of our visits were mid-week, those are coveted, every resort wants more visits during mid-week and we’ve delivered that. If you dig a little bit deeper, 57% of all of our visits were non-peak. If you consider Christmas and the weekends between MLK and Presidents, those are your peak ski weekends pretty much universally. You take those out, and 57% of our visits came on a day other than that. Again the industry has a problem with overcrowding on those peak days. You see it in these pictures that go viral of these big resorts that have these immense lines on powder days that happen to fall on a peak weekend. There’s a very simple solution to this overcrowding issue and it’s been around for about 350 years and it’s called supply and demand. If you have too much demand, you raise the price. EPIC and IKON keep tweaking the formula. But it’s an incredible deal. For $699, you get basically unlimited skiing at all these resorts, and in order for them to dial that back, they would have to raise the price to where people probably wouldn’t buy it.
Stuart: So I wanted to get into your announcement from last week. You announced your 2020-2021 pass suite. Looks like you’re sticking with the $199 base price even though you’ve added a bunch more mountains. Is this a nod to the economic reality of the moment, or is $199 just the price that works for this pass?
Doug: We created that price with the consumer in mind. I think we have a pretty good handle on who our consumer is. They’re used to buying a day ticket from anywhere from $40 to $100, or $200. Nobody has a pass priced as low as $199, so it stands out, and it’s accessible. And financially it works for our partners. The whole model is based on 4 days of redemption. If we find that redemptions on average go way above 4, we’ll have to raise our price, but right now we want to keep it as low as possible and get as many passes in people’s hands as we can.
Stuart: So you had a lot of other parts with that announcement. $99 kid’s pass, is one that I think a lot of people will be really excited about. That is an amazing price and it fills an important gap. What told you the IndyPass needed a kid’s option?
Doug: Well it was interesting. We didn’t have a kid’s option last year and in fact we started out not selling passes to anyone under 13 because you can buy a day ticket and get 25% off if you’re 12 or under. But parents were calling us every day saying they wanted to buy one for their kid, how come I can’t? I said, oh OK, we’ll take away the age restriction and you know 5% of our passholders were under the age of 13 by the time it was all done. Another 5% were teenagers, so there’s definitely a market for it. And I think by lowering the price as we should because kid’s tickets are generally 40% cheaper than adults, I think we’re going to sell a lot of them. That product was created by the consumer. They told us that they wanted it.
Stuart: Another big add-on was the $129 season pass add-on. I believe this was available at a limited number of partner mountains last year, but this season you’re making it universal. Anyone with a season pass to any of your partner resorts can tack on an IndyPass for $129 bucks. How did you get everyone on board with this, and why was it important to do that?
Doug: We believe that the more value we can give to our resort partners, the better off we’ll be. And if we can give a break to their season pass holders, that’s value to them. That gives them value for being a part of the program. And there were I think 7 or 8 resorts last year that sold it directly to their passholders, and it was at $159 last year so we’ve lowered the price. We were able to track those redemptions and what we found was what we expected… If you have a season pass to your home mountain and you’re going to get the bulk of your days there. If you buy an IndyPass you’re only going to be able to use it so much and so the average number of redemptions for an add-on pass is lower than a regular IndyPass. So we were able to lower the price and still pay out a solid yield to our partners for each visit. Everything is determined by that per visit yield. And again if we find that the add-on passes get used more than we expect, than that price will probably go up. We’re also making that pass available to employees, in other words, if you’re an employee of one of our partner resorts and you get a free season pass, then you can buy the add-on for $129.
Stuart: Oh nice! So they actually buy that through you though right? So if I go buy a season pass at Berkshire East slash Catamount I would then need to go to Indy on September 1st and buy my pass there.
Doug: That’s correct. There will be a mechanism where you can upload your proof of purchase for your season pass and then we’ll activate your pass.
Stuart: You’ve also added a Plus Pass. This is a $299 option. It avoids blackouts, but as of now according to your press release, only 3 mountains all out west are even planning to have blackouts, so this is really for a very specific audience that plans to visit those mountains on busier periods right?
Doug: This is a very unique year with the pandemic. Honestly, a lot of resorts aren’t sure if they’re going to do blackouts or not. I think they’re waiting to get a feel for how their pass sales go and how their lodging bookings look, and just a number of factors. We’re letting them wait as long as they want, or as long as we can to make that decision. But yes, it’s for someone who wants to be able to go anywhere and ski any day and not worry about blackouts. But it’s also for – our goal is to attract some bigger and more high profile resorts and these are resorts that are charging over $100, or $90 – $120 a ticket, and 60% of rack rate is probably not enough to get them excited for a yield on a peak day. Those are the resorts that are selling out on those peak days, so we created this pass and what it allows us to do is if you want to black-out your peak days, if you’re worried about your yield on those days now we take that extra $100 that we sell the pass for, and we apply it just to those blackout days to those resorts, and now our yield goes up to between 75 – 80%, and that’s a pretty good yield even for a holiday weekend at a big resort.
Stuart: So another big part of that announcement was a pass assurance plan. It’s really pretty simple. We’ve seen this a lot with season passes right? Because skiers are basically demanding, “Hey what’s going to happen if the mountains shut down again, if we don’t have a season, if this COVID-thing keeps messing with our ski life, you know what are you going to do about it?” … I thought it was interesting, you actually just de-coupled it from that all together and your pass assurance just basis the – it applies a credit to the following year depending on how many days you ski. Period. Doesn’t matter if mountains shut down, if you get injured, nothing else. If you ski 0 days you get 80% credit towards a 21-22 IndyPass; if you ski 1 day you get a 60% credit; 2 days 40%; 3 days 20%… Take us into your thinking here Doug. Why did this structure make sense to you for the Indy Pass?
Doug: Well. 1, it’s simple. You just described the whole thing in about 30 seconds, which is really important. And 2, we can do it because of our technology. We have a great technology partner in Entabeni systems. They’re based out of Granby, Colorado, and Nelson, BC, and they’re a ski company that is way into technology. We can track every single visit, by every single pass holder so we know if you only got 1 day on your pass and you’re probably not going to be very happy about that, so rather than waiting for the flood of emails and phone calls from people who say, I went here and they were capped out because of the pandemic and we weren’t allowed to ski, I want my money back. We’re just going to say, hey, this is what you’re signing on for. We understand that there’s going to be challenges this year and we’re willing to work with you and we hope that everybody gets their 4 days in. And if you get 4 days in then that’s a pretty good deal. But if you didn’t, then we’re just going to automatically issue a credit to your account and when you go to buy next year you’ll be able to apply that credit to next year’s pass.
Stuart: So let’s get into your new partners. But first I want to discuss the specific challenges of the off-season and this upcoming season. Most mountains, or at least most folks that I’m talking to and most things that I’m reading, they’re planning for various scenarios around the 20-21 season, including the possibility of having to operate at severely reduced capacity. So I have to imagine that that fact has caused some potential partners to hesitate and in fact when I had ( Mad River Glen) General Manager Matt Lilliard on the show a couple weeks ago, he said, “I really like the IndyPass. We love what they’re doing. We want to support that part of the business, but we can’t commit to bringing more skiers on the mountain right now until we know how many skiers we can have.” …. Are you seeing a lot of this as you negotiate with potential new partners, that they’re worried about capacity issues and IndyPass contributing to that?
Doug: Yes. We are hearing that from a lot of people. In some cases, it’s contributing to their decision not to join the program and in other cases, they’re joining anyways and they’re going to figure out a way to deal with it. But it’s definitely a factor. It’s not even June yet and we don’t know what it’s going to look like. But certainly some states are going to be faced with restricted capacities at the very least in the lodges and restaurants and rental facilities and lessons. There are going to be some caps put on that. Whether or not that impacts a ski resort is going to depend on how busy they are anyway. You know a lot of places they can do social distancing every day of the season and it’s not a problem, but some of these resorts on a Saturday are going to have some issues. Our passholders are like anybody else. They probably fall into the day ticket category and if they have to make a reservation then that’s what they’ll have to do. If they have to get there early, if it’s a first come first serve model, then that’s what they’ll have to do. We can inform our passholders what the rules are at different resorts in their region. I think it’s going to be a challenge for the industry to keep people informed because there’s going to be a lot of upset people that show up and aren’t able to ski.
Stuart: Yea a lot of mountains at least in the springtime that managed to reopen were all moving to some kind of reservation system, including Arapahoe Basin, which reopened this week. But nonetheless, despite those challenges, you signed 7 new mountains. I’m really excited about these. I want to start here in the east where the podcast is based and focused. So you signed Cannon. That is an absolutely huge sign. It’s a big ski area by eastern standards. It’s a real skier’s mountain. It’s pretty much universally loved. It’s probably the highest-profile mountain you now have in the region. How big is Cannon for the IndyPass in the east?
Doug: Cannon is huge for us! It’s a real feather in our cap. We’re very proud to have Cannon Mountain on the program. We’ve heard from scores of people back east that are just thrilled. I can’t tell you how many people have said, “that’s it. That’s all I needed. I’m in.” So we’re just thrilled to have those guys on board. I skied there in February and I was blown away. I just thought the mountain was incredible. The facilities are really nice. The mountain is immense by eastern standards. It just has such a great history and legacy. We’re really pleased.
Stuart: So Cannon is huge for the east. I’m also pretty excited about the Midwestern mountains you signed. You have some real headliners there. In fact, you signed the largest and most high profiles both in Minnesota and in Wisconsin. You have Lutsen in Minnesota and Granite Peak, Wisconsin. I believe they share ownership. Both of these were MaxPass mountains but were left out of the IKON pass party. Talk about how these partnerships came together, and why the IndyPass was the right place for these mountains.
Doug: Well, you’re right they have shared ownership. Charles Skinner and his brother own Lutsen, and Charles owns Granite Peak in Wisconsin. I first met with him last spring at the NSAA Convention and we stayed in touch. In December I took a trip out there and skied a bunch of the mountains that we had and stopped in at Granite Peak and skied there. It’s a great hill. Definitely big by midwest standards and numerous detachable quads and a great lodge, and I met with Charles. We had lunch there and we talked about the new pricing model that we were kicking around and he actually contributed some really good ideas to that. We just stayed in touch and he likes what we’re doing. He is one of the best independent operators in the country I think, and we’re just super stoked to have both his mountains on the pass. Lutsen, is, I’m told by people in the midwest, that it’s the nicest resort in the midwest and Granite Peak is definitely the biggest thing going in Wisconsin, so we’re really happy about that.
Stuart: Interesting that you say that Minnesota was one of your largest markets before you signed the biggest mountain in the state. I have to think that that’s going to make that thing take off there. So that’s a big deal. Two states over in Michigan, you signed Crystal Mountain. That means that you now have half of the lower peninsula Michigans… so lower peninsula of Michigan has 6 really built up sort of ski resorts. They have a lot of mountains, a lot of little hills. You also have partnerships in the lower peninsula with Caberfae and Shanty Creek. Crystal is right up the road from Caberfae, and they’re pretty intense competitors. How did you sell Crystal on the IndyPass?
Doug: Well. I went there. It was one of the last places I skied before the country shut down. I was there during the 2nd week of March this year. I drove up HWY 131, which goes past everybody and I met with the management team and leadership team at Crystal Mountain and shared our vision for the midwest, and they liked it. They want to draw more people from Chicago, as does Granite Peak and now we’ve got a pretty good story to tell in Chicago. You can head over to Granite Peak or you can drive up the other side of the lake and hit 3 great resorts in Michigan. That’s what it’s all about. That’s the value that we try to create for the passholders. It’s that density that we have in Washington state that gets people excited and now we have that to a much greater degree in the great lakes region.
Stuart: Yea, that addition of Crystal really makes it a no brainer in the lower peninsula in Michigan. The 3 other large lower peninsula ski areas, Boyne owns 2, Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands, both of those of course are IKON pass partners. That leaves Nubs Knob as a free agent. That is a really beloved ski area in Michigan. Any chance we see them on the IndyPass? Cause that would really knock it out of the park.
Doug: Laughing. That was the last place I skied this year. I can see why it’s beloved. I had heard the stories and I was really impressed. I had a great day there. I missed my flight because I stayed too long at Nubs Knob. But as a matter of fact, I got an email this morning from the GM and he just checked in with me and said congratulations on the announcement of the new resorts. He said, you know once we get through all this COVID craziness they’re going to take a real close look at it. So I’m hopeful in 21-22 that Nubs Knob will give us that 4th piece of the puzzle that we’re looking for in Michigan.
Stuart: That would be a great addition. Out west you added Tamarack as your headliner. Just a huge ski area and one that’s had a rough infancy, but seems to finally be evolving in the right direction. How big is that Tamarack signing for you?
Doug: It’s very big. I’ve had a long history with Tamarack. They were a client of mine for many years until the economy imploded in 09, 08. And between them and Brundage, now we have a really great story to tell in Boise. Both those resorts are about 90 miles from Boise and now you can get 4 days at 2 incredible resorts for $200, and I think that we’re going to sell some passes there.
Stuart: You also have Silver in Idaho, which I was checking out because it’s on that pass. That looks like a pretty awesome ski area too. Tamarack, Brundage, Silver – these are mountains that if you don’t live in the Pacific Northwest or upper Rockies you probably aren’t really aware of them but these are pretty big mountains with a lot of snowfall. Doug, why should a road trip to Idaho maybe be our next consideration if we do pick up an IndyPass?
Doug: I can guarantee you’ll have one of the best ski trips of your life. You can fly into Boise and head north, or you can fly into Spokane and head south. All 3 mountains are just amazing. They have great northern rocky mountain snow. In fact Brundage, they tout themselves as having the best snow in Idaho, and I think it’s arguably true. They get lots of dumps. They have a CAT operation there, and they have the very charming town of McCall 8 miles away. It wraps around Lake Payette, just a beautiful, beautiful alpine setting. A few miles down the road is Tamarack, which is a newer resort. They’re finishing their village this summer. It’s got an incredible mountain, detachable quads, 2,800 vertical feet and again some fantastic snow. And then just a couple hours north, just off of Lake Coeur d’Alene is Silver Mountain. Silver has this awesome village with a water park and the longest gondola in North America. You get on at the bottom and it takes you up to the top and you ski at the top and then you ride down, and some unbelievable terrain. I mean they’ve got some legit black diamond tree and glade skiing that’s as good as anything, I think. So there’s 3 resorts, 6 days, and you could do that trip for half the cost of what it would cost you to stay at a village at one of these mega-resorts, if not less. And I think the experience will be better.
Stuart: And you can slide right across the border and ski another one of your new partners, Sasquatch. I’ll be honest, I don’t know BC skiing at all. Tell us about Sasquatch.
Doug: Sasquatch is a great little hill. We have 2 kinds of mountains on the IndyPass. We have day ski areas, that serve their local communities for the most part. And then we have destination resorts that do both. Like the 3 I just mentioned. They’re all legit destination mountains. Sasquatch is a day area. It is between Vancouver BC and Apex Mountain, which is farther east and they’re a great little hill. I think they get like 500 inches of snow a year. They just get dumped on, so tie that together. Fly into Seattle. You can hit Mission Ridge, White Pass, drive up to Sasquatch, over to Apex, and then down to Spokane, and hit a couple of resorts there and fly home. There are all kinds of great loops that you can do now, and that’s what we’re trying to do is put together these strings of resorts that you can hit in these 3-4-5 day loops.
Stuart: You have some really nice clusters going in the upper Rockies, Pacific Northwest and the upper midwest and in the northeast. One of your new partners is kind of hanging out there on its own. That’s China Peak in California. This is not too far from Mammoth as the crow flies, but if I put it into Google maps and it’s like a 7-hour drive. I think they’re like 30 or 40 miles apart, which is one of those funny mountain things. When you think of California skiing you think Mammoth or Tahoe or the areas right around LA, tell us about China Peak.
Doug: China Peak. Nobody knows about it. It’s another one of our hidden gems, but it’s the 8th largest resort in California. Their base sits at 7,000 feet in the Sierras and they serve the central valley. They pull out of Fresno, Bakersfield, and Modesto I guess. It’s a great hill and we’re just really stoked to have them on the program. Eventually, we’d love to have a line of resorts from Vancouver, BC all the way down to the LA area and they’re another piece of the puzzle. The owner is a pioneer. He’s an out-of-the-box thinker, Tim Kohee, and he’s going to give it a shot. We’re really excited about it.
Stuart: So you have some really strong additions this year. I want to end by talking about potential partners. Starting with the midwest, just because I think that’s where the IndyPass is the most complete. So with the 3 additions you made this year, plus what you already have in the region it’s really kind of a must-have, especially in the upper midwest where you can easily buy this and without too much effort get 10-12-14 days in. IKON only has the Boyne mountains in the region. Vail’s mountains in the region are really quite small, urban feeders that really have no weekender appeal, so they’ve kind of ceded it to you. Where do you have room still to add in the midwest?
Doug: South of the great lake states. Iowa, Illinois. There are some pretty good resorts down there that we would love to talk to. I can’t say who’s in or who’s out or who’s thinking about it at this point, but there’s a lot of opportunities still in the midwest despite the density that we already have.
Stuart: I want to ask you specifically about Mt. Bohemia, in Michigan’s upper peninsula and I know that lots of folks always get fired up about this, but in my opinion that is without comparison, the best ski area in the midwest, and I don’t think it’s close. In fact, it’s one of the most unique ski areas in the country. If it had another 1,000 feet of vertical, it would basically be Alta. Have you talked to them? Is there any chance we would see Bohemia on the IndyPass.
Doug: No there’s not. I have talked to them. I agree they’re an incredible mountain and by all standards would be a prototypical Indy resort. The problem is that he sells season passes for $99, and that’s his model, right? Everybody who even might go to Mt. Bohemia buys a season pass early season. If he was on the IndyPass nobody would do that. They wouldn’t have to. They would buy an IndyPass, and they could go to Mt. Bohemia or not and he’d lose all that revenue. So it will never work, but maybe there’s a way that we can have some kind of a special offer for IndyPass holders to go up there and get a break on a day ticket or something. I think what that resort is doing is really cool. It’s super hard to get to, so I don’t know if I’m going to make it up there myself any time soon but I’d love to ski there from what I’ve heard.
Stuart: Yeah you can buy yourself a $199 IndyPass and a $99 Bohemia pass in the upper midwest and you are set for the season. Moving out to the east, EPIC and IKON are pretty strong out here. Most of the biggest and most built-up mountains are spoken for, but there are some marquee names available, and I know you visited a lot of them when you were out here. You have Jay Peak. You have Mad River Glen, which we discussed early. Smugglers Notch. Waterville Valley. Brenton Woods. Whiteface. Gore. Any of those mountains in particular, or any states in particular where you’re focused on adding?
Doug: We are open to adding a handful of additional resorts in the northeast. And when I say the northeast, that’s New England and New York. I think that’s the proper geographical vernacular.
Stuart: Yeah, it is. I typically throw in Jersey and the Poconos, but that’s just my own New York City-centrism.
Doug: People in Boston I hear would take exception to that. Yeah. We’re open to a few more partners. I mean I’d like to say that we can have everybody on the pass, but we can’t. We’ve got to maintain a certain amount of density. We can’t have too many. We can’t have too few. There are still some gaps that exist. We’re talking to virtually everybody in the region, and hopefully, we’ll be able to announce something else before this season starts. But if not, we’re going to keep at it until we get there, and Stu, you’ll be the first one to know.
Stuart: Well if the ORDA people are listening, they manage Whiteface, Gore, and Belleayre. If you add those 3 that’s an automatic buy for anyone who lives in New York City or the environs, cuz those are 3 really great run state mountains. One place where EPIC and IKON have big gaps in the east, that I think the IndyPass could fill in really nicely. We have a lot of these mid-sized, around a 1,000 vertical foot ski areas, they’re within 2-3 hours of major cities. Great day trip options, right. I’m broke (?) and I can’t always get up to Vermont. If I have my daughter I don’t always want to go that far for a day trip. I’ll go to these places, like Mountain Creek, it’s right outside the city and I actually have a pass there cuz a season pass is $200. You have the Poconos. You have places like Blue Mountain or Montag, or Elk Mountain, which is a little north of the Poconos actually. You have Plattekill in BelAir in the Catskills, Jiminy Peak, Butternut in Western Massachusetts. So you have a few of these already. Like Pat’s Peak, Shawnee and Mohawk, so you have some of these sorts of mountains that are sort of, you could easily hit them from the city. How much are you focused on building up those sort of feeder mountains?
Doug: Very much so. We’ve talked to every resort that you’ve mentioned at some level or another. Like I said, we have day ski areas and then we have more destination-focused resorts. It’s that mix that really gives the IndyPass its value proposition. We’d love to have all or most of those resorts that you mentioned. We continue to put our message out there and hopefully we’ll be able to expand in those areas sometime soon.
Stuart: So moving out to your neighborhood. Unsurprisingly since this is where you’re based, IndyPass is really strong in the Pacific Northwest and the northern Rockies. But there are some areas for growth in the west. I think the most glaring example is Colorado. Obviously dead at the center of skiing in the United States. That’s where Alterra and Vail are based. They both have incredible offerings there. But you do have a lot of independents. You have Ski Cooper, Loveland, Monarch, Wolf Creek. Arapahoe Basin of course is already on the IKON and the Mountain Collective passes. Why is Colorado so hard to get a foothold in?
Doug: Well. That’s a good question. It is the mecca, if you will for skiing, and there’s probably more skiers per capita in Colorado than anyplace on the planet. Maybe outside of Austria. A couple of things I think. We talked about the reciprocal agreement, and their reciprocal agreements in the Rockies are really strong. They have really great programs. Some of these resorts have 30 partners that they have reciprocity with, so they’re reluctant to do anything to upset that equilibrium. That’s reason #1. #2, you know ticket prices are healthy there and there’s a huge demand. EPIC and IKON have created, admittedly some overcrowding issues in their backyard, so a lot of people are gravitating towards these smaller resorts and frankly they don’t need the marketing support like a lot of other parts of the country. They have plenty of customers basically and the IndyPass is essentially a marketing program. So I think it’s those 2 reasons. We continue to talk to all the resorts that you mentioned. I’ve skied about half of them and think that they’re great places and hopefully someday we’ll be able to include Colorado on our list.
Stuart: So probably your biggest hole outside of Colorado as far as skier zeitgeist is Tahoe. Obviously EPIC and IKON are both very strong there. Some of the best ski areas in the country are right there. There are more than a dozen ski areas dotted around Lake Tahoe, including some pretty big ones that are unaffiliated as of this moment. You have the likes of Sierra Tahoe, Mt. Rose, Homewood, all great mountains, what do you have to do to tiptoe into that market?
Doug: Same thing I think as Colorado. Some of the same considerations exist there. Ticket prices are high. Demand is high. These smaller resorts are really seeing a resurgence in that area because the big ones are getting so crowded, and there’s just less need for them to go with a program like ours. Having said that, we continue to talk to the folks at Sierra Tahoe, to Mt. Rose, Homewood, Diamond Peak, to Dodge Ridge, which is a little south of Tahoe. Those are all mountains that we would welcome to the program and who I think would be a great fit, and who I think we could send some new customers.
Stuart: How about the LA ski areas? Mt. Baldy. Mountain High.
Doug: Those are the two.
Stuart: Well you have Big Bear, but that’s taken.
Doug: We’ve talked to both Mt. Baldy and Mountain High and we’d love to have a little mini-cluster down there in SoCal, I think it would be great.
Stuart: So big potential in your home state of Oregon with Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline, both unaffiliated. They’re both on Mt. Hood, which always blows my mind that you have these 2 huge ski areas on the same mountain, but things are different out there. Any chance of partnering with either of those or any other mountains in Oregon?
Doug: You know, there’s a lot of weekend crowding issues on Mt. Hood. Portland is a huge ski town. There are actually 5 ski resorts on Mt. Hood. Mt. Bachelor is 3 hours from here, which is just an incredible mountain. So it’s a really healthy market. Timberline is parked out nearly every weekend from Christmas until early March, and Meadows has some issues with crowding on the weekends. They’ve gone to some dynamic pricing, which has helped. But again, when demand is high and competition is low, they’re not as motivated to get on a program like ours. I know all those guys. I know all the people at all those resorts quite well. Timberline and Mt. Hood Ski Bowl are clients of ours on the marketing side, and certainly we continue to have discussions but economics are just different out here and we’ll have to see how it goes.
Stuart: How about the Southwest? You added Sunrise Park last year, which I thought was a really nice addition. That whole region is kind of dominated by Taos, but there’s a bunch of really good ski areas out there that are probably a lot better known regionally. Places like Ski Santa Fe, Ski Apache, Angel Fire, and then of course Arizona Snow Bowl, which is just a huge ski area. Any talks with any of them?
Doug: Absolutely Stu. You know, we’ve talked to everybody. I’m not shy about calling people because I think we can help them and we’ve at least sent emails or had conversations with all the resorts that you’ve mentioned today. My hope is that someday many of them will become IndyPass resorts and we’ll be able to have a network that stretches from North Carolina to British Columbia, and from Maine to Los Angeles.
Stuart: So IndyPass goes on sale on September 1st as I said for $199. 52 ski areas now. You said you’d like to get to 60 by September. Can we expect more ski areas to be announced over the summer?
Doug: Yes. I’m not exactly sure who. But we’re in discussions with several who are interested and I think at least a couple of them are going to sign up.
Stuart: Do you think 60 is your max?
Doug: Yeah I think we’ll get to 60 this year, just organically. Just by the pace that we’re on. I think that we’ll probably reach peak density for the North American market at around 75 resorts. And once that’s done, there will be very little movement I think as we move forward. We need to see 3 years’ worth of data. You know, consumption behavior, and redemption patterns and all that before we can really say what’s a healthy density. But that’s my guess at this point. I could be high or low.
Stuart: Alright. Well I can’t wait to see who you add. I cannot thank you enough for your time today Doug. I went way over, but I’ve been waiting for this one for a long time. I’m really excited about what you’re doing and can’t wait to see what happens next.
Doug: Thank you Stu. It’s been a pleasure.
Stuart: That’s Doug Fish. President & Founder of the IndyPass. Lots of good stuff there. I always feel bad when I keep people longer than I book them for. My goal is really to make the podcast less than an hour, but when there’s so much to talk about sometimes we keep going and Doug was very generous in giving us a little extra time and a whole lot of insight into where the Indy Pass is headed. So thank you very much for that Doug.
So what do you all think? Is the IndyPass on your list? Are you happy with your EPIC? With your IKON? With your local? Let me know. What does your pass set-up look like? Thank you all for listening. If you want more of that kind of thing, subscribe to the Storm Skiing newsletter for free at skiing.substack.com. Stay safe out there. Stay healthy. I’m Stuart Winchester. I will talk to you again very soon.
This Storm Skiing podcast is a Quick Silver Films production.