Reviewing the News w/ Cody Townsend (Sep 2021) (Ep.184)

On our latest Blister Podcast, Cody Townsend and Jonathan Ellsworth discuss the NFL(?); the massive increase in Epic Pass sales; the name change to “Palisades Tahoe”; whether you should shower; some of our all-time favorite TV characters; and more.

Cody Townsend is back to review the news of September in the outdoor industry. And since the NFL is mostly played outdoors, that’s fair game right? We also discuss the massive increase in Epic Pass sales; the name change to “Palisades Tahoe”; whether you should shower; Cody’s latest Fifty Project episode; our ideas for your next adventure project; some of our all-time favorite TV characters; and more.



14 comments on “Reviewing the News w/ Cody Townsend (Sep 2021) (Ep.184)”

  1. My 2 cents on the Epic pass price cut potentially causing ski resorts to exceed critical mass: Keep an eye on Seattle and the Seattle area resorts. Stevens is under Vail, Crystal is under Ikon, Snoqualmie is under Boyne (and can somewhat substitute as an “indie” resort).

    Notably, while Epic has decreased costs, Crystal moved up to the Full Ikon pass this year (~$1000) after being on the Base pass for the last 2 years since joining Ikon.

    Crystal has long had expensive passes (I recall seeing $1200-$1400 before Ikon). When Crystal was on the Base pass, they suddenly had a surge in demand that overwhelmed their parking lots and generally created crowds that the area had not seen before. This year, the season pass price is going up and they are implementing parking fees for day ticket skiers. This is all aimed at trying to maintain Crystal’s status as the “elite” ski area in the Seattle area.

    Stevens, on the other hand, has long suffered long lines and limited parking compared to the volume of people trying to go skiing. Thus far, the only improvements since Vail’s takeover has been the upgrade of the beginner chairlift and an old double that used to serve the park (Brooks). With these new lifts, the park has been moved off brooks to use that space for various blue runs (which really end up on the lower end of blue runs. A good amount of Steven’s terrain is off the Backside in Mill valley, which can only be accessed from mid mountain lifts that are served by either an old double (Big Chief/Kher’s) or a quad that services the main “development” Blues (Hogsback). The Park has also been moved to Hogsback. So this season, Steven’s is primed for some serious traffic jams as backside, beginner/intermediate, and park traffic is all going to be funneled through Hogsback, and and without the park there is not enough engaging terrain to pull intermediate skiers away from hogsback and onto brooks. And if the backside doesn’t open, all the skiers are forced into the handful of frontside lifts.

    So this season, we get to see what happens when a ski area raises prices to limit access, and what happens when a traffic choked resort lowers prices.

    Its going to be interesting

    • I should also note, the other driving factor for Epic in the region is proximity to Whistler. If you can only afford one pass, you are probably going to go for the one with the big-name resort within Weekend-trip driving distance.

      Disclosure that I am on Epic this season for Whistler and that Stevens is 45min closer than Crystal from my end of town. which is compounded by the extra 45min each way I have picking up my friends to carpool

    • We’ve seen it in Australia this past season. (The example is limited because of various lockdowns) Perisher is owned by Vail and Epic prices dropped a little, even with fewer skied numbers due to lockdown (so they groomed less, and opened less terrain) it was often crowded with occasional long queues when the snow was good. Thredbo, nearby, is going for the “prestige” market, and almost doubled their season pass price, to AU$1,700.00. As a result, lots of locals, who could choose between the two, bought Epic passes at around half the price, so Thredbo was rarely busy at all, with few queues. With hopefully a full season next year we’ll know for sure. Personally I’d rather pay the extra if it doesn’t go up more, and have less people sharing the mountain. As you say, will be interesting.

  2. Five great female TV characters (Google them to see which actor:which shows) –
    Eve Polastri
    Beth Ann Stanton
    Simone Grove
    Cameron Howe

    • Epic Pass Sales Increase – I think one think that you missed in the discussion is that jump is on all pass products. Including the epic day pass options. For someone going on one trip, it was significantly cheaper to buy a 5 day epic day pass instead of buying your typical 5 of 7 day lift ticket package. So I don’t think your replacing single day pass buyers at the ticket window but replacing the people that would buy a 5 of 7 day pass closer to their trip. Same folks but now they have an “epic pass “ product and vail has their money in September and locked them in for some lodging and food money later. Great for stock holders looking for a company that makes money year round.

  3. On the Vail topic… Via @epicliftlines on Friday. Call VR geniuses and invite them to innovate on the new problem at hand. As an ongoing talking point.

    Dear Vail Resorts,

    Congratulations on your success. Many years ago you unveiled a product that has revolutionized the ski industry. The season pass experience is now enjoyed by millions around the globe.

    The Epic Pass (and competing similar passes) have driven impressive on-mountain capital investment and insulated the industry against poor winters. Your shareholders seem very pleased. The success of your organization is crucial to countless communities.

    If only this were the end of the story.

    It’s not.

    Your primary product disregards the visitation patterns it creates. While you sell more and more of it. The regions and communities in which you operate are subject to the consequences of these recently changed visitation patterns. Now that the globe *should* visit on short notice, the globe *does* visit on short notice, on the same dates and times.

    It’s becoming a problem.

    STRs eating into local housing/staffing – mega passes make it worse.
    Roads gridlocked on pow days, weekends and holidays – mega passes make it worse.
    Customer service channels overwhelmed by customers – mega passes make it worse.
    Mountain access points unable to handle peak days – mega passes make it worse.

    One of the themes Vail Resorts celebrates about itself is around the idea of innovation. It is time for you to take seriously the collateral impacts of your primary product and innovate a solution to it. Otherwise we’re all going to be stuck in this economic cul-de-sac held hostage by shareholder expectations with guest and stakeholder misery as the only mitigating factor.

    Building bigger ski lifts is an expensive band aid. It is time to move from disregard of community capacity to regard for community capacity.

    Find a way to sell your Epic Passes *and* smooth out the crushing peaks of visitation it has brought. Innovate. Solving the problem starts with acknowledging it. The industry will follow. Start next spring perhaps.

    In the meantime – quite a winter on the way for all of us.


  4. In no particular order, some of my favorite stand-out Female TV Characters

    Leslie Knope – Parks and Rec
    Jess – New Girl
    Daenerys Targaryen (khaleesi) – Game of Thrones
    Pam – The Office
    Ruth – Ozark
    Casey – Atypical
    Beth – The Queens Gambit

    • Very good list. If the final 1 or 2 episodes of Game of Thrones hadn’t happened … Khaleesi would have probably gone much higher on my list. (It’s all very subjective, of course, but the writers turned that incredible character at the very end in a way that did not seem earned.)

      Ozark’s Ruth Langmore. Terrific. But I’m also a massive fan of Ozark’s Wendy Bryde – Laura Linney is fantastic in everything she’s in.

      And I’m sure for a lot of people, Elaine Benes / Seinfeld would be high on the list. I just … don’t love that character.

      Finally, big yes to Leslie Knope. And come to think of it … is Leslie Knope the original Ted Lasso??

  5. I’d love to hear some discussion on solving the ski resort crowding and pricing problems by addressing the supply side – creating more ski areas. I’ve heard almost nothing about this. We’re a solidly middle class white family, and although I completely support increasing diversity in skiing and outdoor pursuits in general, I’ll freely admit I’m concerned that my own kids will be priced out of skiing by the time they have families of their own.

    If ski resorts are overcrowded, there’s obviously plenty of demand and simple economics says the resort should increase prices. It seems to me that this country has enough people who want to ski and who have enough money to keep ski resorts over-full at even higher pass prices. By essentially taking the supply side off the table, what alternatives are available to enable young lower middle class families, or historically underrepresented groups to take up the sport? What’s the alternative? Create an artificial cap and leave who knows how much money on the table? How can a company justify that? Create a multi tier pricing system so one group is prioritized over another? Submit a prior year tax return to determine your pass price?

    I know any new ski resort would be viciously fought against by certain segments of the country. Maybe including us. It might even be nearly impossible on public land given the incredible amount of opposition that pops up for even minor expansions at existing resorts. I’ll admit, I’ve been pretty opposed to some ski resort expansion plans I’ve heard. Maybe my opposition was short-sided. You’ve had some great discussion on the supply side of the housing crisis. But I’d be interested to hear your take on addressing the price and crowding issues in skiing from the same perspective. Thanks!

  6. 4 Great Female Characters (from someone who hasn’t watched a lot of TV lately)

    Willow Rosenberg (from Buffy, which is still the best TV show ever)
    Meadow Soprano
    Abbi Jacobson & Ilana Glazer from Broad City

  7. Obviously backcountry is picking up a chunk of supply slack… but maybe a few more Silverton or Bluebird-like operations? Would love me another Silverton or two!

    Selina Meyer, Veep – Julia Louis-Dreyfus
    Charlize Theron – general badass, but great multi-episode run on Arrested Development
    A whole bunch of greats on SNL over the decades

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