Good deals available despite ski industry recovery

DENVER (AP) Ski resorts will be offering discounted passes again this year even though skiers and boarders hit the slopes in record numbers last season.

In Utah, host of the 2002 Winter Olympics, resorts will be offering $20.02 off lift tickets for skiers staying in participating hotels. Kip Pitou, president of Ski Utah, said ski areas want to make sure the games don't drive away snow riders.

''We need to be pro-active. People think we will be too busy and too expensive during the games and that is not the case,'' Pitou said. He said the games only last 17 days, and only 2 percent of the trails and terrain will be tied up.

Colorado resorts, battling for riders from the growing population along the Front Range from Fort Collins to Pueblo, are leading the way as usual.

On Wednesday, Vail Resorts announced a ''buddy pass'' price of $249, good for unrestricted skiing at Keystone, Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin. It requires four peonridge and A-Basin are all in Summit County.

On Friday, Vail Resorts replied by lowering its prices to $209 for its ''Buddy Pass.''

''There is an old marketing adage that the dumbest competitor sets an industry's prices. The Colorado ski industry is highly competitive, and Vail Resorts is happy and willing to match Copper Mountain's recent price initiatives for the benefit of the consumer,'' said Martin White, senior vice president of marketing and sales.

"They released their pricing first. Those within close proximity were then forced by market condition to respond, said Ben Friedland, spokesman for Copper.

''That competition is brutal,'' said Katja Dahl, spokeswoman for California's Squaw Valley.

Vail said for $299 a rider can have 10 days on Vail Mountain itself as well as unrestricted skiing at the other three areas.

A pass sold for $379 allows adults to ski at both Copper and Winter Park. Winter Park has a weekday pass for $249 and an unrestricted pass for $299. Winter Park's ''buddy pass,'' whose initial sale in 1998 triggered the ski pass wars, brings the unrestricted pass down to $198 if four people buy passes together.

Last season, the ski industry rebounded from two below-average seasons to notch a record 57.3 million skier-boarder visits. A visit represents the purchase and use of a lift ticket.

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