Even as a youth, long before I had a university degree in the subject, I was an economist.
Then, my task was simply to squeeze every last ounce of value for money from my daily ski pass: nagging parents to get me to the hill before the lifts opened, skiing at breakneck speed to get to the bottom faster, then cutting the lift lines trying to beat the hordes to the top again. I skied long after my jeans had turned stiff with ice, my feet had gone numb and my legs had turned to jelly. The game was to pack as many runs as possible into a day, and winning was measured by an ever diminishing ‘cost per run’
A half-century later many things have changed. Very expensive but infinitely more comfortable gear has replaced frozen jeans and lace up leather boots, and ‘vertical feet skied ‘are now tracked with a smart phone app, but the boy inside me has not.
Skiing economics is still a shrewd calculus, and the game is still to squeeze the most vertical feet out of each lift pass dollar. So, each year at this time there begins a grand game of chess between the boy inside me and the lift pass purveyors of Whistler Blackcomb. Which pass should I pre-order for next winter to ensure the ultimate bang for my bucks? It is a match which, sadly, I have lost for the past several years, ending the season with unused days on my multi- day pass. As they expire with the melting of the snow those days taunt me: Whistler won -I paid for more runs than I was able to ski!
Granted, there are reasons for my losses. I have been variously side-lined by accident and illness, and even by clients who unreasonably expected me to attend to their legal needs on perfect, bluebird, powder days. Truly, there is no justice!
With the sale of Whistler to Vail Resorts I face a new, and possibly craftier Chess Master this year, with Vail announcing an array of new options to tempt and bewilder.
At a quick glance, the best possible bargains are available to local students. I tried that one on for size, explaining to the sales rep that I was a Student of Life, so should be entitled to the best rate, but alas to no avail.
Next to catch my eye was the “Founder’s Pass”, a full season pass with extra perks, offering 50% tax deductibility as a charitable donation to the Whistler Foundation. Since skiing and dodging CRA are two of my favourite activities, the combo looked irresistible – until I clicked through to the price – a cool $6,000 ! One of the founder’s pass perks is lift tine priority for your first ride up the mountain each day, to avoid the plebeian scrum. Frankly, Mr. Vail, I would expect an honour guard of liveried lift attendants and my personal gondola for that price!
The new pass getting most of the press however is the “Epic Pass”. It’s lure is its portability, – you can ski practically anywhere on the planet with it. It fired my imagination immediately- perhaps I should buy one and create the ski bum winter I never had as a youth, flitting from Whistler to Kicking Horse to Vail, catching some Telluride powder, and exploring Park City and Arapahoe Basin before heading east to the famous glades of Stowe and Mount St Anne, then on to Europe to sample Val D’Isere and 30 other famous resorts, and ending up with a week of spring skiing in Japan’s Habuba valley. An Epic ski pass indeed.
Thankfully my chiropractor brought me back to earth even before the family finance committee learned of my daydream, sagely pointing out that I practically lived in his office after just a regular day on the local slopes, so, the damage done by a ski bum holiday was sure to be epic, or worse. He, rather than I, was far more likely to enjoy a vacation as a result of my purchase of an Epic pass.
So, as I click the button to renew my boring, restricted, seniors 5 day pass I light a votive candle and mumble a prayer to the Ski Gods, asking for their indulgence next year. Let it be the year I guessed right, and ended up ahead of the game. of ski economics.