Preserving the culture of Gnar: A-Basin CEO explains why they’re ditching reservations and selling 10% fewer passes for 2021/22 season

Preserving the culture of Gnar: A-Basin CEO explains why they’re ditching reservations and selling 10% fewer passes for 2021/22 season

This is why they call this mountain “The Legend”

VicesMarch 12, 2021 By Will Brendza

It’s been a wild few seasons for Arapahoe Basin. They vastly expanded their mountain’s area, opening Beaver’s/Steep Gullies in 2018/19; then they parted ways with Vail Resorts immediately afterwards, sticking it to the man to fly solo; before jumping into the arms of Alterra Mountain Company the very next season.

Then came the pandemic which fundamentally turned the entire experience of skiing in bounds on its head.

As a result, this season, Arapahoe Basin has been operating on a reservation system (like most mountains in the state) and at limited guest capacity. COVID restrictions have made it hard to maintain the “local’s mountain” vibe A-Basin is renowned for. It’s really cramping their style. And they’ve already decided that next season, they’re doing things differently.

On March 12th, Arapahoe Basin CEO Al Henceroth posted a blog explaining what to expect in the coming 2021/22 season. Not only will the Basin be ditching the reservation system entirely (thank Uller!) but they’re also reducing the number of unlimited-restriction full-season passes they’re selling — by 10%.

“Moving forward to the 2021-22 season, we are taking more major steps to preserve the culture and vibe,” wrote Henceroth on his blog. “COVID forced us to learn in a few months what probably would have taken us five years to learn otherwise. Next season we are going to continue to restrict our pass and ticket visits.”

Not only are they reducing the number of full-access passes sold by 10%, but they are going to continue to reduce the number of day passes they sell, as well — and no lift tickets will be sold on site. Henceroth writes in his blog that they fully anticipate selling out on weekend days throughout the season, regularly.

Why are they doing all this?

First a foremost, to protect their staff and the quality of their mountain. But, Henceroth adds, “We also think a critical factor for a successful day is keeping crowd size down and skiers and riders spread out. For decades, a key strategy for us was to keep adding more and more skiers. That is no longer the case.”

He says their target will be to have a “comfortable” number of skiers every day, to keep lift lines short and quick, to keep parking spots available and to give skiers and riders their own space on the slopes. No one likes crowded ski days, and it seems like A-Basin is taking that fact in stride and adapting with it.

“This is a big, big change. We are ready for this change.” Henceroth writes. “We know our skiers and riders want to preserve the A-Basin culture and vibe.”

The response to Henceroth’s announcement has been resounding stokedness. Colorado’s skiers and boarders are happy for A-Basin and proud that the mountain is standing up to fight for its own image instead of being corporately co-opted by their conglomerate partners. A-Basin is making a decision based on quality of gnar instead of quantity of revenue — and people clearly respect that.

“Just The Legend being legendary. Well done.” Wrote u/rattailedjimmy187 on a reddit post about A-Basin’s announcement.

“Just confirms what I already knew. A-basin is the shit.” Commented u/bfsueddaht.

“Love this change, love this mountain, love Al.” said u/stanleys_bagels.

Truly, the move is unprecedented in ski culture. Reducing the number of passes sold per day and per season is not something you see often in this profit-hungry industry. Normally decisions are made to make more money, even if they make people a little less happy.

This is exactly the opposite — and it is extremely refreshing.