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'Airline pricing' coming to Northwest ski areas

Flickr Photo/Ryan Harvey/

A popular Pacific Northwest ski resort is moving to airline-style ticket pricing this season.

The cost of lift tickets at Mt. Hood Meadows in Oregon will rise and fall daily based on demand. What the ski industry calls "dynamic pricing" was pioneered by major resorts in Colorado, Utah and California. It has been slow to spread to the Northwest.

Dave Tragethon, vice president for sales and marketing at Mt. Hood Meadows, said the inspiration came from how airlines and hotels price their product. He said his resort wants to use lift ticket pricing to deter overcrowding.

"This isn't so much us trying to maximize how much money we can make on a peak day. It's much more us trying to manage the peak day experience by giving incentives to people to come during off peak times," Tragethon explained. "We feel that this system is enough out there that people have experienced it, that they'll understand.”

On good snow days during winter holidays or weekends, parking lots at Mount Hood can reach capacity and latecomers get turned away.

"While I am more concerned about the initial response and trepidation from our guests to potential sticker shock, I am confident this is the right move for Meadows — and Mt. Hood for that matter — to address peak day challenges," said Jake Bolland, Meadows chief operating officer, in a statement.

Bolland said he is still unsure how high lift tickets could go this season. He said the expected cost of a single day adult lift ticket could vary from $49 on a slow day to $99 or more.

Last season, the walk-up prices for a single day adult (seven-hour) lift tickets at Mt. Hood Meadows were $79 on weekends and holidays and $64 on weekdays.

To save money, Tragethon recommends buying online and early.

"The best price that you can get will always be through our website and the earlier you can purchase your ticket, the better that price will be," Tragethon said in an interview Tuesday. "We really believe this is the future, not just for Mt. Hood Meadows, but for other resorts as well."

Tragethon said half-day and night skiing lift tickets will be maintained with fixed prices as the resort gets the hang of the new pricing system.

Vail Resorts, an early adopter of dynamic pricing, acquired Stevens Pass in Washington earlier this year and Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia in 2016. Both of those Northwest ski areas have begun to display lift ticket prices in a calendar view that shows wide variations between dates.

Crystal Mountain Resort in Washington's central Cascades does not use dynamic pricing. It boasts of its "consistent" rates on its day ticket price web page.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.