If you talk to folks about the Ikon Pass and its blackout dates, you’ll certainly attract a wide range of opinion.
The second series of this season’s pass blackout dates occurred over Martin Luther King weekend.
For hotels, reports Owen Page, business was good; Sierra Nevada Resort, Alpenhof, and the Village Lodge all reported being sold-out on the weekend in question. “We were slammed at the front desk,” said Louie Allen at the Village Lodge.
Robert Schaubmayer, owner of Alpenhof and Petra’s, said that the hotel was booked through the weekend but noted some “oddball nights” between Clocktower and Petra’s where business was solid but nothing extraordinary.
Schaubmayer noticed a tangible difference between MLK weekend and the following weekend, January 25-27, estimating a 35% increase in the crowd at Petra’s and Clocktower from one weekend to the next.
Alexis Rausec at Stellar Brew also commented on the difference between the two weekends, noting that Stellar Brew was slow until the Monday after the blackout weekend while the following weekend was substantially busier. Rausec also explained that the rush hadn’t been expected, which can create resource issues if demand outstrips supplies.
On the retail side, “It wasn’t the busiest MLK weekend we’ve had,” said Suzanne Strunk at Kittredge Sports. “This past weekend was way busier.”
Strunk attributed the slow pace to many IKON holders already having their own gear; beginner/casual skiers may not yet have a need to purchase any gear.
And “people are counting their pennies,” said Strunk, referencing pricing changes at Mammoth as another possible deterrent.
According to Lara Kaylor at Mammoth Lakes Tourism, the occupancy rate in Mammoth Lakes for MLK weekend was 76%, with the highest rates occurring Saturday and Sunday nights.
“We’ve heard from businesses that it’s still really steady business coming in,” said Kaylor. Kaylor also reported that inbound flights to Mammoth Yosemite during MLK weekend were between 54%-63% full while outbound flights were between 61%-71% full. The Denver service was only 31% full for inbound flights and 45% full for outbound flights. United was forced to cancel all flights on January 16 due to inclement weather.
“Blackout dates are helping level it out so [businesses] are not getting crushed and employees aren’t getting wiped out,” Kaylor told the Sheet.
Joani Lynch, Mammoth Mountain’s V.P. of Marketing and Sales, elaborated on the “leveling” theme in a phoine conversation Thursday.
She said if you look at the three-week period bookending MLK weekend, you’ll see that the total numbers are about even, and that in terms of total skier visits, Mammoth is running ahead of last year.
But because of the business being dispersed, you don’t have that crush of people at any one time.
Mammoth Lakes Tourism Executive Director John Urdi also cited the numbers. He said December TOT revenue came in $116,000 ahead of last year and that TBID revenue categories (retail, restaurant, TOT) were up across the board.
Matt Hammer of Black Velvet Coffee thinks the blackout date policy actually helps his business, because he can only serve so many people at a time and doesn‘t really have the capacity or labor to provide good customer service when it’s completely packed.
Others in the food and beverage business are not so sanguine.
One sent a long text to me which stated, “The previous article you wrote about the blackout dates … did not reflect the real story of how detruimental Mammoth’s business practices are for local business … local vendors have confirmed this is the worst winter we’ve had in more than a decade.”
This person cited Mammoth’s day ski pass rates and food prices as crippling and causing people to stay away.
And yet, the numbers from Lynch and Urdi don’t reflect that.
Perhaps – and this is guesswork – when you have such a disruption in the business model, it creates a recalibration, and maybe even a different set of winners.
Looking forward, there’s one final series of blackout dates to brace over President’s weekend in mid-February. It is interesting that Mammoth just sent out a marketing blast offering two days skiing over President’s Weekend for $199. That’s a clear signal that they’re still looking for the magic formula. If everything were roses, they wouldn’t be discounting President’s Weekend.
Further research required.
As for me, I skied three days of powder at Mt. Bachelor outside Bend, Oregon last weekend. And that three-out-of-five ticket cost me $264, or $88/day.
And the salesperson at the ticket window told me I could have bought that same three-out-of-five ticket preseason for $150.
And the beers at the lodge were “only” seven bucks.
Here’s a fun fact for you. Did you realize that Mammoth’s Airport Engineer/Consultant Reinard W. Brandley is 96 years old? And that in the cost breakdowns, his time is charged at $300/hour?
My guess is that it used to be $450/hour but they had to discount it on account of the naps.
I know what you’re thinking. Ageist jerk. But when you have a set-up like that, you’ve got to convert it into something …