Seniors make sitzmark with season ski-pass fuss

Could you get the true meaning of the letter Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort sent to its mature customers? It starts with a personalized salutary “Dear Valued Passholder.” This was spot on because I have skied at Purgatory for 24 consecutive seasons. Then, it explains the designations of “Silver” and “Golden” and that the resort is doing away with those terms and using the generic term “senior.” I had finally achieved my lifetime skiing goal of getting to “Golden” (much like the former Illinois governor thought he would be with Obama’s Senate seat) and DMR decides to “align ourselves more consistently with the ski industry.” So instead of $169 next year, I will pay $399 to ensure I keep my honored status as a “Valued Passholder.” With your insight into the curious world of ski-resort marketing parlance, please provide the executive summary interpretation of the letter. Many others are awaiting your answer. Sincerely, Wayne Bedor (Another DMR Valued Passholder)

It would be an honor to provide guidance for this messy metallic matter. However, you aren’t going to like the answer.

In a previous life, Action Line had to write several of these letters, having served for a decade on the resort’s marketing cabal while setting the standard for exuberant snow reporting yet to be equaled.

Anyway, the letter is a carefully crafted communication that goes to great lengths to not say this:

“You guys have been getting a smoking deal for years, but the party’s over. Resorts finally got the courage to insist older customers pay their fare share. You are still getting a discount. It’s just not the ridiculously out-of-whack discount you are accustomed to.”

It appears that the content is not so much the issue as it is an impersonal greeting, but what business customizes a price-increase notification? That’s likely the real issue here. The resort is a for-profit business, a classification that many people can’t quite accept.

Especially senior citizens, who really have their knickers in a twist about a couple hundred bucks.

Their protestations have been vociferous, indignant and, at times, downright crotchety.

Sorry to say this, but more than a few young whippersnappers are rolling their eyes – and the facts justify this dismissal.

On average, retirement-age skiers use their pass more than 20 times a season, according to Purgatory’s ticket-scanning data. That’s equal or comparable to every other type of pass.

Purgatory’s data also show skiers in the 70-plus age bracket have the highest pass-usage rate of all, skiing more frequently than even college students.

The golden age of senior discounts might be fading into the sunset.

Just last week, the Christian Science Monitor asked in a blunt headline: “Do the swelling ranks of seniors deserve a price break when younger generations are struggling more?”

The newspaper cites Pew Research figures showing that in 2009, “the median net worth of households headed by people 65 and older was 42 percent higher than the same-aged households in 1984 … but households headed by those younger than 35 had 68 percent less wealth in 2009 than the same aged households 25 years earlier.”

To put is succinctly, today’s older folks have more money, enjoy better health and live longer lives. So why the complaining?

When writing that $399 check for a DMR season pass, please make this note in the memo line: “Thank you for the opportunity to write this check.”

There are many seniors out there who are physically unable to ski, who didn’t save for retirement or who never lived to celebrate their 65th birthday on a snow-kissed slope.

There also are many people out there who aren’t retired and never have enough hours in the day to get everything done.

Be grateful. Be of good cheer. Wave to that younger guy cruising down Paradise with his two kids. He paid $937 for his pass and the kids’ passes at preseason prices and has to take time off work just to enjoy a weekday of powder.

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you ever ordered dinner at 4:30 p.m. just to take advantage of an ‘early bird’ dining special.

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