Epic Pass

So far this season, I’ve spent $1,777 dollars to ski at Vail.

In retrospect, I could have purchased an unrestricted season pass for almost the same price, but I didn’t know if I’d be here that much, I didn’t want to leave cash on the table. But it’s been an epic season, and I’m not complaining, I’m a member of the hard core.

Let me tell you how this breaks down. I purchased a $599 Colorado Pass. It gave me unrestricted skiing all season at Breckenridge, Keystone and A-Basin, where I never go, and ten days at either Vail or Beaver Creek. I paid $100 extra to eliminate blackout dates at the big kahunas. I just renewed it for another ten days at Vail and Beaver Creek for $479. The rest of the money? Almost too complicated to explain. My pass came with four $45 tickets, and six floating price tickets that discounted the regular $92 per day rate by anywhere from $7 to $25. And, I got a Web special for three days the week before Christmas for $129. Furthermore, I had to be in Colorado between April 1st and 30th in order to be eligible for this pass. Sound complicated? Sound like the varying prices of music: big box retail, indie retail, Amazon, iTunes? It is. To the point where many people stay away. They figure skiing is too rich for their blood, certainly at Vail. Kind of like those $18 CDs the industry was so enamored of.

When I emerged from the Lodge this morning and there was endless hoopla, I didn’t know what was happening. But, the balloons and free coffee and donuts were there to announce next year’s Epic Pass. As the banner said, "Unlimited, Unrestricted, Unreal". Every day at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and even Heavenly for $599. All you’ve got to do is purchase it before November 15th.

Now if Vail Resorts, the company that owns all these ski areas, were a record company, they would want Bob Lefsetz to continue to pay almost $2000 a year to ski at Vail. He’s got no choice. His girlfriend has got a condo in the Lodge, he’s a captive audience and he loves to ski. The people who are addicted to music should be forced to pay as much as possible to feed their addiction. Don’t you get most of your revenue from your best customers?

But by doing this, by charging its best customers thousands of dollars, Vail Resorts was abandoning the casual user. The person who likes to ski, but thinks it’s too expensive. Hell, that person has no incentive to ski. $92 a day, that is expensive. Plus parking and food and equipment… But if that same person can get in at a bargain price, knocking the price of the sport way down below retail, he’ll lay down his money. Hell, everybody likes a deal.

So, does Vail Resorts want a few people at exorbitant prices or a ton at a cheap price? Vail Resorts decided on the latter. When is the music industry going to do the same thing?

Oh, don’t tell me about Rhapsody. It’s a shitty interface on a shitty device you don’t want. That would be like Vail Resorts offering a $299 unlimited ticket to Keystone. No self-respecting expert wants to be at Keystone. They want to be at Vail.

And don’t tell me you don’t own the ski days, that it’s apples and oranges. That music you download? Your hard drive fails, maybe you even delete tracks because you need storage space. You can’t figure out how to get the music to a new computer. The format changes! If you think music files are forever, you probably think today’s Macs can read floppy disks holding Microsoft Word 1.5 files. They can’t. That was years ago.

Now maybe the ’08-’09 season will be a bust. Maybe it won’t snow. You’ve heard of global warming, haven’t you? Too bad for purchasers of the Epic Pass. Meanwhile, Vail Resorts has gotten their money in advance. Kind of like charging every consumer $50 to $100 in advance to trade music for a year. Could be a shitty music year. Makes no difference. But snowmaking will insure there will be some skiing, you can go six times and break even. You can download enough music to satiate you. And, chances are you’re going to sign up for the next year’s installment, since you’re an optimist and you believe great snow and great music is coming.

Even better, it’s another epic season, a great music year, and you feel like you’ve gotten the deal of the century and you tell everybody they’ve got to sign up!

Don’t tell me about the value of music. Come check the infrastructure at Vail. Almost two dozen high speed lifts and the most groomed slopes on the planet. The electricity bill alone is staggering. And they’ve got to continue to spend in order to keep you coming! God, at $599 a year, ski bums are going to be using the facilities for $5 a day! That’s not fair. Skiing should cost more! But more people will be buying passes so the total accumulated will be greater than the sum generated if everybody has to pay $92 a day. If everybody was a music customer, the pool would exceed that generated when CDs are in excess of ten dollars and a track is a buck.

You can argue all you want with my analogy, but it makes no difference. You’re just demonstrating your ignorance, your marriage to the old model. Because this scenario will ultimately exist. And presently does exist, it’s just that the copyright holders are not being paid for acquisition of their works. Are they going to wait until years from now, when rental is a viable business model, or start charging now, for the privilege of ownership?

By suing P2P users, the majors have just managed to frighten away the casual traders, the hard core has not stopped, is still stealing. Just like $92 a day tickets have scared casual skiers away from Vail. Legitimize P2P trading, sell licenses for a year, in advance, just like Vail Resorts. Get that pile of money rather than crying that your old business model is threatened.

And with everybody owning music, because of the low price, more money will be spent on concert tickets, merch and ancillary products.

This is a no-brainer.

Epic Pass

This is a read-only blog. E-mail comments directly to Bob.