Still dwelling in Telluride about the season pass

Although I certainly don’t wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking about the rate hike on the season pass for the upcoming season in Telluride, when it does cross my mind I get somewhat depressed and kind of angry.

For the most part, I’m a true believer in the purity of the free market ; however, when it comes to the utilization of limited public lands as a substantial foundation for a private interest to seek financial gain, I think there needs to be a certain level of regulatory controls and oversight. I’m all for a business making healthy profit, but I do believe fair and reasonable access to public lands ought to trump the former.

Aside from my underlying philosophical notions, the price increase is something which most people in town are just flat bummed out about. The cost was high enough at $1,000 last year … let alone $1,200 this season if you’re able to swing the early bird rate. Otherwise, you’re shelling out $1,850 regular rate for adults. By comparison, a season pass at Arapahoe Basin is $309 for 2008/2009. If you live in Summit County Colorado, you can ski or snowboard all season (which lasted until June this year) for about 1/4 the price of Telluride. Granted the lift lines and parking can get insane at A-Basin, but you can still get in your days skiing or snowboarding by being selective of times and such.

Given how difficult it is to stay afloat financially in Telluride, it’s hard to break away from work to get in your days on the mountain. As the cost of living in town continues to rise, the average local will have to work more and play less to get the equation to balance out. Sometimes it involves making compromises in one’s life. I’m lucky enough to be able to juggle my hours, so I can make it work for the most part. Many locals will hang on to a job over the years which pays well (but typically has a ceiling on earning potential) and offers the time or flexibility to get in their days skiing … but they’re still JUST getting by. So, $200 increase on a season pass is a big squeeze! If they raised it $200 this year, what will it be next year? Or, in five years?

While Telski employees receive a season pass as part of a compensation package it may see they’re unaffected, but in reality may still adversely affect some individuals. At $1,200 passes will be harder to come by with employers other than Telski, so you may think twice about quiting your job as a lift op or at the ticket window. I’m sure plenty of Telski employees are happy with their positions, but many may now feel more “stuck” than ever. Combined with the surprise removal of a guaranteed retro bonus last season, it seems morale may be a bit on the downside.

I understand the need for a business to adjust it’s fees periodically, but typically this is done in the context of the broader free market. While there may be both national and regional competitive fores operating, it may be said that the Telluride Ski and Golf Company is operating as a monopoly on the local level. This position directly affects local’s ability to access public lands in a fair and reasonably manner as well as live within a local economy which isn’t unduly influenced to its detriment.

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