Riding With A Friend Pays Off: (Laughing in the face of corporate snowboarding)

You hear it all the time, “never ride alone.” In backcountry circles, riders stick to that cliche like glue if theyíresmart. But how might that same wisdom apply to resort riders? Whatís a partner or “buddy” really worth?

Well, in Colorado, friends who ride recently appreciated, theyíre up to two hundred-something dollars each.Thatís right, scrounging up three friends and buying a Buddy Pass good to ride at Keystone, Breckenridge,and Arapahoe Basin, saved savvy riders about 600 bucks compared to the regular price of an adult seasonpass for any one of those resorts. But, it was Winter Park Resort more than any other that ignited the Fallpass wars, all aimed at the Coloradoís Front Range (Denver area) market. Resorts typically offer a FamilyPass thatís available to married couples with two kids, theyíre a good dealóif youíre married and have twokids.

It took the brain surgeons at Winter Park to reevaluate the pass system. Joan Christensen, the resortíscommunications director said that when they really looked at their customers they found that most of themdidnít fit into the Family Pass program, so they came up with the Friends and Family Pass. $795 for fourunrestricted adult season passes, any four people. Needless to say, the People spoke in droves and a frenzyensued.

Copper Mountain batted second, selling more passes than during any season in their history. And asthe lines lengthened, Vail Resorts reacted with the Buddy Pass, same deal but for A-Basin, Breck, andKeystone. According to Jim Felton at Breckenridge, passes in the Fall of í98 were the same price as duringthe 1977/78 season (and that was for just one mountain). “Itís like buying a set of tires,” Felton added. Twohundreds bucks each, but you have to buy four. They claim to have sold 61,000 passes. On top of rallyingtakers from the hordes of folks who normally buy one-day lift tickets, the offer also convinced riders fromsurrounding areas to forego outlandish season pass tariffs at their local mountains and sample the goods nextdoor, loyal only to the riding. What nobody seemed to factor in, though, was the impact the Friends, orBuddy Passes, would have on resort employee pools. You see, most dedicated-but-grovelling resort riderswork for the pass, itís no secret.

Now, they could buy it and actually get to ride during the day instead ofshoveling SPOREs onto the lift or piling penne onto a fifteen dollar plate. Riders relocated, sleeping with theenemies they had always heckled. Jim Smith, a long-time Colorado rider was planning to live in Vail. Whenhis mom called to tell him about the radio advertisements bombarding Denver with pass deals, he swoopedon the Summit County offer, the KAB (the money still went to Vail, though). He wished that he had jumpedon the Copper pass as well (the best parks). Is there a drawback, a catch? Not that Jim can see, except forthat on weekends, “itís mad.” “Denver overload.” But that could just be early season eagerness. Will ithappen again?

That’ll depend on the bottom line, of course. But no one’s opposed to it. BreckenridgeísFelton didnít say anything for sure, but simply stated, “Weíll compete.” So, with what is probably close to ahundred thousand people riding for around three dollars a day, Iíd have to say that riding with a friend reallydoes pay off. Plus, youíll always have someone to video tape you in the park. Thanks cool resorts, thankscapitalism.