Friday, March 4, 2022

State of The Basin - Numbers and Comments - Volume 2

On March 3, 2020 I did a blog post that was an update on our journey to change things up at Arapahoe Basin. Our objectives then and now are to reduce crowding and improve the guest experience. Two years ago I said that by every measure we have improved the guest experience. That has only gotten better since 2020.

During this journey, negotiating COVID has been like negotiating a mine field. The 2020-21 season was just bizarre. The demand by skiers and riders to get outside was much higher than we anticipated and from a business perspective, we did OK. One of the greatest challenges we had was limiting actual skier numbers to meet operating requirements from local and state regulators. We did that primarily by limiting the number of season passes and daily tickets that we sell and by requiring all tickets be purchased online and in advance.

During our first season with Ikon, we did have some days that were too big and we caught some negative feedback for that. Using lessons from COIVD to better manage peak days in 2021-22, we continued to limit the number of season passes and daily tickets that we sell and we required all tickets be purchased online and in advance.

Comfortable Carrying Capacity (CCC) is a planning tool we use with the Forest Service in our planning process.  It considers the size of our parking lots, acres of terrain, number of toilets, uphill lift capacity, number of dining tables and a variety of other factors. At The Basin, our most limiting factor is parking. The actual capacity of our lifts, terrain and other facilities is much higher than our parking capacity. CCC is not finite like the capacity of a water bottle. The actual comfortable condition can vary widely. For example, over the Christmas holidays families come with many people in a vehicle and we can actually park many more people than our CCC would indicate. On a Spring powder day Saturday, more people show up one person per car and parking can overflow when we actually have far fewer people than our CCC. 

The CCC at A-Basin is 4,140 skiers per day. On a day when the parking lots are just full and we don't go to overflow parking (The Whiskey Lot), the number of visitors is very close to the CCC. As a guide we try to just fill the ski area parking lots and not go to The Whiskey Lot. Using our CCC and limiting pass sales, having Ikon Passes be good for only 5 or 7 days, and limiting ticket sales, we have been very good at coming close to the CCC. In fact, this season we have only exceeded CCC one day and it was by 114 skiers. That day was Sunday, February 27 and from about noon until 12:30 we had to limit the parking lots to "one in and one out." The real objective, of course, is not about precisely hitting the 4,140 CCC number. The real objective is about making incredible guest experiences, not overflowing the parking lots and letting people have fun.

Season to Date (STD) skier days through February 2022 were 62% of STD skier days through February 2019, our last year with Epic.

STD skier days through February 2022 was 93% of STD skier days through February 2020, our first year with Ikon. 

For the 2022-23 season we are going to continue to limit pass and ticket sales. Despite that, we do have some soft spots to work on. Looking forward we will be developing products and programs to boost the quieter times. The early season has plenty of room for more skiers and riders and next season there will be a $99 Fall 3-Pack and a $279 Fall Pass. Some of you noticed the holidays were kind of dead. We are going to eliminate the Ikon blackout days. We have realized we don't need them and we can control visits better by limiting ticket sales.

We are very happy with the environment our guests and staff have created. We have been open 141 days and we have had 30 minutes when the parking lots were completely full. The result has been minimal lines. The atmosphere has been laid back, fun and easy. On a daily basis, guests reach out to us saying they appreciate the new atmosphere. People are simply enjoying themselves and their biggest frustrations are gone. I think that is good. 

We are laser focused on making this journey an incredible success for our guests and our staff. Season passes go on sale March 10.  2022-23 Full Season Pass holders will continue to get days at Taos, Monarch, Silverton and Bluebird Backcountry. I am super psyched about the addition of 3 days at Bridger Bowl. The number of passes for sale will be very similar to what we sold last season. I don't know when we will sell out, but we will sell out. 

I think we are heading in the right direction. Thanks for joining the ride.