Alta should reconsider ski rate hike

By By James Sewell

By James Sewell

In recent years, studious (and not-so-studious) students at the U have been able to purchase a season pass at Alta Ski Area for $499, provided they meet certain credit-hour requirements for the academic year.

This bargain-basement price enabled legions of skier-students to enjoy the magnificence of the Wasatch winter from the spectacular vantage points of High Rustler, Devil’s Castle and Wolverine Peak, among others. As tuition prices increased along with associated costs, such as books, parking permits, gas, food and rent, one could depend on the stability of affordable ski pass prices to provide some small comfort in our rapidly inflating economy.

Unfortunately, the good times have come to an end. Alta announced this year that a student pass would cost $649, a 30 percent increase over the previous year, and well above the rate of inflation in the overall economy, which is about 4.5 percent.

The costs of tuition and books have increased dramatically, and a student taking a 12-hour load at the U is paying $2,226, about $1,000 more than it cost 10 years ago. While the U is still a bargain compared to many other state universities and private institutions, the rising cost of higher education is an increased burden. In lean economic times, hard decisions have to be made.

That might mean fewer nights eating out and going to the movies or the bar. It might mean driving less and biking or walking more. It might even mean not buying a season pass. However, it seems that, as skiing enjoys a resurgence in popularity, the resorts’ answer would be to keep prices low and make the sport more accessible, financially speaking.

If season passes remain affordable, more students will buy them, and the resorts will reap the benefit of increased business. As an inveterate skier who lives for winter powder days, it’s likely that I’ll make many sacrifices to buy my pass, even when prices increase dramatically. After all, if I can’t ski, I’ll be spending my money on prescription antidepressant medications that benefit the pharmaceutical companies.
I’d rather hand my hard-earned cash over to a company whose mission is to provide the experience of a natural high, rather than a chemical one.

What about those who want to buy a pass, but are now unable to cope with the financial strain? I don’t want to pick on Alta and exclude other resorts whose prices are also rising, but as a lover of the Alta vibe, it pains me to see its risk of losing business, and the thought that my children won’t be able to afford to ski there down the road is almost too terrible to accept.

The Utah Freeskier Society is working hard to negotiate a better rate, and, perhaps, by next week, Alta will have heeded the warnings and adjusted its prices accordingly. Hope springs eternal.

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James Sewell