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Purgatory defends 2012-13 senior pass price increases

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

“It was great to be able to drive 45 minutes and ski locally,” said David Ellisor, who plans to spend more time skiing at Wolf Creek because of pass price increases at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort. The cost of a senior pass bought at early-bird pricing was $149 for a 70-year-old for the most recent season at DMR. However, the price for a 70-year-old buying an early-bird ticket for next season is $399 through Monday and will increase after that.

By Herald staff writer

Monday will be the last day to buy early-bird ski passes for the 2012-2013 season at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort, but some seniors are boycotting purchases because of a hefty price increase.

Last month, DMR announced a consolidation of the “silver” and “golden” senior passes to create a new all-season senior pass “more in line with what other ski areas are charging,” said Kim Oyler, DMR’s director of communications.

The new senior pass, for skiers 65 and older, will cost $399 if purchased by Monday. The price will be $509 through Sept. 15, and increase to $609 starting Sept. 16 through the 2012-2013 season.

An unlimited pass to Vail, Keystone, Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin, known as the “Epic Pass,” can be purchased at the early-season price of $369 for seniors 65 and older.

Previously, DMR’s silver pass was $349 at early-bird pricing; the golden pass for ages 70 and older had cost only $149 at early-bird pricing. That amounts to a 168 percent increase for skiers 70 and older.

One plus in this situation: 2011-2012 season pass holders ages 62 to 64 will be “grandfathered” into the senior pass pricing structure for next season. So existing pass holders who expected to receive the senior deal next season will be offered one at $399.

DMR’s rationale for the increase in prices? Seniors are more active.

“People are living longer, healthier lives and are more active later in life,” Oyler said. “We’ve analyzed historical data, and people in the age group 65 and older are using their passes more and more – approximately 20 times per season, due to their healthy lifestyles.”

“That usage is similar to the amount of days college students use their passes,” Oyler said.

“From a national perspective, seniors who mostly ski do so with the greatest frequency of any demographic,” said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association in Lakewood.

“The older generation is steadfast in their activity – even those who have never tried, pick up skiing later in life because they have more time,” Berry said.

The price increases have not been well-received by some of Durango’s 65-and-older crowd.

David Ellisor, 72, retired from Southern California and moved to Durango seven years ago. He has skied every year since but doesn’t plan to next season because of DMR’s senior-pass price increase.

“The price increase – $149 to $399 – is unbelievable,” Ellisor said. “It seems to be a flagrant disregard for the senior ski population.”

Ellisor says he and several friends inflict only light usage of slopes while pouring money into other DMR offerings.

“The skiing has been a tremendous benefit to me in the sense of being able to go out and socialize,” Ellisor said. “I have a lot of friends who are in this category, and we only go out, normally speaking, for two or three hours a day because of our physical limitations, and we usually spend around $10 to $15 for lunch and drinks.”

The price increase has left some seniors in Southwest Colorado fuming.

“It’s a slap in the face – we were feeling very grateful to DMR for the ability to go out and do something physical that motivates us for a fair price,” Ellisor said. “That motivation has diminished now.”

DMR stands by the price increases.

“We believe the senior all-season pass offers a great value for our customers,” Oyler said. “It’s $200 less than an adult pass, which translates to a 33 percent discount.”

The break-even point for the senior pass is six days of usage, Oyler said.

“Seniors often do ski less than a full day, but our other season pass customer segments also ski fewer hours because of their time limitations, family, school and work obligations,” Oyler said.

Because of the reaction to the increase, DMR executives said they have been talking with seniors.

“The senior segment has offered many thoughtful suggestions on how to improve the facilities and services for our senior customers,” Oyler said. “The executive team is currently reviewing these suggestions and discussing the feasibility of some of these ideas.”

But that hasn’t satisfied Ellisor.

“I will not buy a pass at this point. Emotionally, I’m not at a place to be willing to be treated that way,” he said. “I want to continue contact with the locals here to see if it would be possible to have an open forum with DMR. It needs to be a win-win.”

At Wolf Creek Ski Area, seniors 65 and older may take turns all season long for $246 if a season pass is purchased before Oct. 1.


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