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How the French could learn from the US

 Poster: A snowHead
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We're out in Colorado having visited Winter Park and now at Steamboat.

We've had over 60cm of fresh cold champagne powder past 48hrs.

Trouble is that came at the weekend, so the resort was very very busy.

But they really do know how to manage lift lines and control the runs, see the vid.

You can get a First Tracks ticket for an extra £39 and you start at 08:00 the lift line was busy at 07:35. They only open up a third of the mountain and position patrollers to make sure you do not ski what is closed again as you'll see in the vid.

Then at 09:00 they open up the rest of the mountain.

To get untracked we ski just out of bounds and then come back in again as you'll see in the vid.

But you do pay for it, lift pass is stupidly expensive.


http://youtube.com/v/v3cpTdMLk6g
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Fantastic conditions that looked lovely. Mind you £39 for an extra hour on top of the rip off pass prices is a bit nuts.

As you say the lift pass prices in the US have gone exorbitant of late.

A month or two ago I found an almost un-refusable deal on BA to Denver, with 4* hotel in Breckenridge, pretty much backing on to the piste. I was about to book till I checked lift pass prices on the Breckenridge website.

7 days was going to be USD 854, and USD 553 for kids for a lift ticket!! So USD 2,814 for a family of 4, and this was last week of the season! Crazy.
That would almost pay for a self drive holiday to 3v inclusive of accommodation, travel and lift pass for the same week in France, and an infrastructure that generally deals with the crowds without having someone telling me which seat to take and who to sit next to on a chair.

So basically for a 7 day epic ticket they wanted almost the same as what they were selling entire season passes for at the start of the season. I simply won't do it - I won't sub them selling cheap season tickets by paying exorbitant prices for a 1 week holiday ticket. I guess I won't be skiing in the US again any time soon then.

Needless to say I voted with my feet and will be driving to Europe, probably France, again at Easter.

I did have amazing conditions when I last went to Breck some years back - very similar to your video, stunning dry powder. But it was soooo busy because the conditions, that it was all well tracked within an hour or two anyway. How long did the fresh tracks last at Steamboat ? Pity you didn't get that dump mid-week!
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Gazzza wrote:
Crazy.
That would almost pay for a self drive holiday to 3v inclusive of accommodation, travel and lift pass for the same week in France, and an infrastructure that generally deals with the crowds without having someone telling me which seat to take and who to sit next to on a chair.


Are you serious?

In France they do nothing to discourage a free for all in lift queues at peak times, make no attempt to fill chairs and, without fail, allow 6 person chairs to go up half empty.

It really get a on my whatsits! Mad
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In Les Arcs over half term they were making much more of an effort to fill up chairs and there were multi lingual signs saying fill up chair or wait longer. However they could do more to sort out the scrum prior to gates.

See they also did a first run Wednesday lift pass extra

So I think they are getting there slowly.

Certainly when we skied in US late 90s after years in France, then returned to France 2002 they seemed to have adopted many US approaches.

I would like to see more Piste Patrols
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Bergmeister wrote:


Are you serious?

In France they do nothing to discourage a free for all in lift queues at peak times, make no attempt to fill chairs and, without fail, allow 6 person chairs to go up half empty.

It really get a on my whatsits! Mad


Yep and even with the lack of organisation/free for all you describe, I rarely had to queue long for a lift in Courchevel even at Feb half term last year (other than the gondola's out of Croisette maybe, which to be fair they were filling via a single rider lane), or at Val Cenis this half term (one or two pinch point 6 person chairs had a persistent queue, but even they were only a couple of mins tops,).
Generally it works out if it's busy and most lifts fill up, and if a lift goes up part empty it's generally for a good reason, eg. new/nervous boarders wanting the end seat - and in that situation actually better to send it up with 4 riders then force them on with 6 with the result they wipe out in the unloading zone and the lift stops, wasting more time. You get the odd cretin of course, but generally it works out.

In Courchevel we'd quite often use the single rider lane even as a family of 4, and just re-meet at the top.
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@Boris,

all they need is a separate line for anyone prepared to fill the empty seat.
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I'd still rather have that than the crzay US lift pass pricing invade us.
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Gazzza wrote:
In Courchevel we'd quite often use the single rider lane even as a family of 4, and just re-meet at the top.


Same here, use them every time available, though we do often get choice comments from (mainly British) idiots in the main body of the queue who don't understand the concept and accuse us of queue jumping rolling eyes
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My sense of things is that skiing is increasingly a rich man's sport in the US (a bit like golf) whereas in Europe it's still possible to ski reasonably cheaply, hence families still do it. The US are great at marketing and sub-dividing their market. Not sure I'd like to see the same approach in Europe. A bit like Disney - pay in and then pay more so you can avoid queues or get priority. However, I wouldn't say no to their champagne powder!!!
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There's a single line on the right side of the Intrets lift in Avoriaz - always the quickest way up.

I don't mid folk waiting for their mates on the side out of the way but too many numpties wait in the lift gates and then panic because one of the group is three rows back.
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Best ordered ski queue I have ever seen was for the White Lady t-bar in the Cairngorms.
Self-organised by the Skiers themselves, wo betide anyone who offended the rules ….!
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I will never, ever ski with the English because they have no idea how to queue.
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@davidof, if you can't beat them etc etc

We're as good as the Frechies and have even been told off by them (tourists) regarding our antics / strategy .

But that is one lift where on big snow days you should have avy gear but that is another debate.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@davidof, you mean properly?

To be fair I think a lot of English people have given up queuing politely in France given the pushing and shoving which goes on. Being naturally good at contact sports we're obviously now beating them at their own game Laughing
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
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In Silverstar, BC Canada, the break even between daily & season ticket prices was just 9 days!
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Poster: A snowHead
Boris wrote:
Being naturally good at contact sports we're obviously now beating them at their own game Laughing


talking of which, just got in from a bubble foot match tonight as a team building exercise... my boss broke her leg after another colleague crashed into her, I did say it was a pretty daft idea for middle aged people but they were like kids in a candy shop when they arrived.

My boss was still waiting for an ambulance to arrive when I left, she'd been on the floor for an hour looking very pasty, they initially refused to come out saying we could put her in the back of one of our cars.

Knowing the French health service they'll probably amputate... the wrong leg!
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davidof wrote:
I will never, ever ski with the English because they have no idea how to queue.


The English may not but they only have to look to their Scottish neighbours. Back in the day Cairngorm queuing was raised to a high art form. Totally fair and logical. I can remember up to 12 lines patiently waiting to get the Corrie Cas Tbar. As Bob says woe betide the selfish or ignorant that tried to push in before their turn Laughing
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@Weathercam, I assume you get breakfast included on the first tracks start - just like you do on the les arcs first tracks.

As for queues, I found the best were the Bulgarians. The queue on the main gondola was about one and half hours , but no one minded if you left it and came back with a coffee. The worst without doubt Soelden in Austria. Only the large could manage there.
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davidof wrote:
I will never, ever ski with the English because they have no idea how to queue.


Andorra in the 1980s was a classic example of british queueing, on weekdays, possibly 90% of skiers were British and the queues were long lines of two people side by side if it was a two person chair or single file for a drag lift.
At the weekend, the British either went home or went shopping and the skiers were 90% French or Spanish and the lift queues were fan shaped where you could not get on unles you pushed and shoved your way to the front.
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£39 for early access is exorbitant. Whistlers is £15 and includes buffet breakfast - but in reality there's only 1 lift open so you just got 2 runs on emerald chair before the rest of the people arrive and other lifts start opening. I don't mind opening a single chair servicing limited terrain early, but would be pretty annoying if all the chairs opened early to those willing to pay extra and everything got tracked out before us regular pass holders get on the hill.

Quote:

So basically for a 7 day epic ticket they wanted almost the same as what they were selling entire season passes for at the start of the season. I simply won't do it - I won't sub them selling cheap season tickets by paying exorbitant prices for a 1 week holiday ticket. I guess I won't be skiing in the US again any time soon then.


You just have to be organised. No different to booking flights, if you want the flexibility of booking last minute you pay a premium. Book early and get a good deal.

Quote:

My sense of things is that skiing is increasingly a rich man's sport in the US (a bit like golf) whereas in Europe it's still possible to ski reasonably cheaply, hence families still do it.


Actually, epic and ikon passes have made skiing cheaper for many living close to ski resorts. An epic season pass could be had for 600euro (local pass) or 800euro (full pass). I don't know what other resorts in Europe are charging, but Chamonix was 1000euros for an early bird season pass so significantly more expensive. For vacationers wanting to do just a few days it is expensive - although there are usually deals meaning most avoid paying the full window rate.
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Why only France with something to learn?
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boarder2020 wrote:


Quote:

So basically for a 7 day epic ticket they wanted almost the same as what they were selling entire season passes for at the start of the season. I simply won't do it - I won't sub them selling cheap season tickets by paying exorbitant prices for a 1 week holiday ticket. I guess I won't be skiing in the US again any time soon then.


You just have to be organised. No different to booking flights, if you want the flexibility of booking last minute you pay a premium. Book early and get a good deal.


This was looking in early January to go the last week of the season in late April so not last mintue (admittedly not super earlier either).

I've looked every few weeks since out of interest and have not seen a single deal.
And booking super early, the only deal seems to be on season tickets passes (or 4 packs, which are more suited to locals who want occasional ad hoc days)
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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In a pastime that is already expensive, I am troubled by the idea that people with sufficient means can buy extra powder, to the detriment of the enjoyment others.
Theoretically the extra income could be used to cross subsidise other lift tickets, but given the extra costs of staffing & policing this, the degree to which this cross subsidisation would help the average Jo is at best marginal.
Access to untracked areas can already be bought via heli-skiing, so there is really no need for this pay4pow access.
Open the mountain to everybody at the same time.

Nice vid by the way (though I did find the heavy breathing a little unsettling Smile )
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My GM season pass was half that being quoted for the Chamonix one. I think we worked out it was break even at 10 days. My sister has always raved about the organisation at US ski resorts, so I am not at all surprised the lift passes are so much more expensive. I like the French laisse faire attitude, you know where you stand or wrestle for your place, and do not wish to see us all following an American business model, thanks.
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@Gazzza,
Quote:

This was looking in early January to go the last week of the season in late April so not last mintue (admittedly not super earlier either).

I've looked every few weeks since out of interest and have not seen a single deal.
And booking super early, the only deal seems to be on season tickets passes (or 4 packs, which are more suited to locals who want occasional ad hoc days)


I wonder if the days of last-minute deals and early booking deals are over. Money is cheap these days so there is less incentive for TOs to encourage early booking and dynamic pricing has completely changed the pricing strategy of most businesses so, if they do it right, the only last minute 'deals' will be massively expensive.

@Cheesie168,
Quote:

I like the French laisse faire attitude, you know where you stand or wrestle for your place, and do not wish to see us all following an American business model, thanks.

+1 I like the relaxed approach, even if it may take a bit longer sometimes. There may be room for some improvements but I don't want to be herded like cattle in lift queues and constantly policed on the slopes.
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There are many stations in France that have a singles lane, it is the same lane as the ski school lane. The resorts don't have the anal organisation that the US has but do you really want people treating you like school children, telling you where to sit, how to ride etc etc

It is surprising that so many of the Brits complain about the French and the French resorts but still keep coming.

The French have a much more laid back approach to life and they don't like the rude tourists who always seem to be in such a hurry and who don't Bonjour and the Bonjour in France is sacred. If you don't Bonjour you are dead to the French.
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We’ve skied in Scandinavia for past 5 years and tried France for first time this year. Stark contrast. French queues are far longer ( even though resort capacity same each time (ie all resorts were equally full). The queue manners were really really poor in France in comparison and Everyone just seemed to push in.

One thing that surprised me though was how much longer the ski days are in Scandinavia versus France, so perhaps this explains the queues differences. Plus night time skiing is very common there.

Had a great time in all countries though regardless
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WindOfChange wrote:
In a pastime that is already expensive, I am troubled by the idea that people with sufficient means can buy extra powder, to the detriment of the enjoyment others.


I doubt the rich lose much sleep over it though Happy
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You know it makes sense.
boarder2020 wrote:
£39 for early access is exorbitant. Whistlers is £15 and includes buffet breakfast - but in reality there's only 1 lift open so you just got 2 runs on emerald chair before the rest of the people arrive and other lifts start opening. I don't mind opening a single chair servicing limited terrain early, but would be pretty annoying if all the chairs opened early to those willing to pay extra and everything got tracked out before us regular pass holders get on the hill.

Quote:

So basically for a 7 day epic ticket they wanted almost the same as what they were selling entire season passes for at the start of the season. I simply won't do it - I won't sub them selling cheap season tickets by paying exorbitant prices for a 1 week holiday ticket. I guess I won't be skiing in the US again any time soon then.


You just have to be organised. No different to booking flights, if you want the flexibility of booking last minute you pay a premium. Book early and get a good deal.

Quote:

My sense of things is that skiing is increasingly a rich man's sport in the US (a bit like golf) whereas in Europe it's still possible to ski reasonably cheaply, hence families still do it.


Actually, epic and ikon passes have made skiing cheaper for many living close to ski resorts. An epic season pass could be had for 600euro (local pass) or 800euro (full pass). I don't know what other resorts in Europe are charging, but Chamonix was 1000euros for an early bird season pass so significantly more expensive. For vacationers wanting to do just a few days it is expensive - although there are usually deals meaning most avoid paying the full window rate.


Hmmm, not sure about that...
Despite being local and a holder of one of the said passes, I can assure you that it is not overall cheaper.
For those that previously skied a bit but not enough to justify a season pass, it seems to have got a lot more expensive.

Vail resorts for example note that their demographic has an average income of US$170k, so clearly not targetting the budget market
http://www.vailresorts.com/Corp/info/strategies.aspx
For reference, median _household_ income in greater Vancouver is about CA$73k

Skiing is never going to be cheap anywhere, but a bit of a shame if people get priced out of doing it.
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Just a follow-up.

For the First Tracks we did not get a breakfast, and as I said they only opened up a third of the Mountain, two lifts that gave access to around 15 trails and a whole bunch of tree runs, plus if you timed it right you'd get to the top just as they open up the rest of the mountain which was pretty cool if you got the timing right, as in the vid above Cool

As I mentioned in the TR Colorado Road Trip report you do get to speak to a lot of people, and we were asking questions, the ICON pass seems to have upset a lot of the locals as more people (Weekend Warriors) are travelling to where we were, Steamboat, stealing their beloved trademarked (yes that have a trademark on it) Champagne Powder.

The other POV is that as the millennials are getting priced out, and it's the wealthier older demographic that is funding the lifts, and in the First Tracks lift queue there were not too many under 35!

There's a number of other "things" that they do better as well, and I'll be writing that up laters, along with how we were nigh on lost in the backcountry after going out of bounds, bit of an adventure, which is always the way when a plan goes wrong Laughing
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There's a reason why the US is 2 times richer than France...

Much more innovative and smart.

And better pow.
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I was thinking of creating a separate lift queue thread to vent some ire, but saw this one instead!

In Grand Bornand over half term, we only saw one liftie in the whole week attempting to encourage people to move forward in 3s or 4s or whatever. Quite a few empty chairs went up when there were pretty large queues backing up. Simply lazy work IMO on behalf of the liftie. Interesting in the video footage that employee who looked like he was even enjoying his job!

The worst lifts for us in LGB were Chatelet, Gettiers, Floria, Maroly and Terres Rouge. Busy lifts, yes, but then even more reason to monitor the queues a bit closer.

My pet hate were people texting in the queue and local ski clubs (hello, Annecy!) pushing through as though they owned the place Evil or Very Mad

When queuing for a lift on my own, it was easy to almost avoid queuing completely by nifty manoeuvering (I stop short of calling it pushing in, it's more navigating around ditherers) and aiming for empty areas and ultimately seats.
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@Whitegold, That and maybe the fact that the USA controlled / owned about 80% of global wealth after the 2WW. They're not so happy that the rest of the world has caught up a little #makeamericagreatagain Very Happy
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I normally go to Andorra (France/Spain). My British instructor, living there for 17 years, told us "ski like you mean it; queue like you mean it." No wallflowers get through. Treading on others' skis in the queue is quite normal - yes I do always rent my equipment!

Otherwise, I go to Banff, Canada. Everyone extremely helpful and friendly. I don't look at lift pass prices after I've already paid the plane tickets for the family. First Tracks in Lake Louise that I know of is a private lesson, not just early entry to the pistes. The season tickets are indeed the price of not much more than 10 days' tickets, but to my knowledge they are only sold to residents, thus not available to us alien Europeans. Though if anyone knows a way around that, let me know!
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Quote:

Despite being local and a holder of one of the said passes, I can assure you that it is not overall cheaper.


I can't speak for all the mountains on epic pass. However it definitely got cheaper for season passes in whistler:
Season before epic pass came in - $1,439
Season pass after epic - $1,229 (wb pass) or $1,117 (epic pass).

Which mountain are you at? What was the price pre-epic?

Quote:

Vail resorts for example note that their demographic has an average income of US$170k, so clearly not targetting the budget market
http://www.vailresorts.com/Corp/info/strategies.aspx


I'm calling BS. Vail does not know how much every one of their customers is earning. Even if they did the number would be extremely inflated by a number of super rich outliers. It's in their interests to make that number as high as possible to try and sell land for condos/shops. There are plenty of ski bums working in the villages and on the hill on minimum wage.


Quote:

The season tickets are indeed the price of not much more than 10 days' tickets, but to my knowledge they are only sold to residents, thus not available to us alien Europeans.


Season tickets are available to all. They may not ship to Europe but you can definitely pick them up at guest services.
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Aha, correct, my bad. Just checked and it is the LL Spring Pass which is limited to residents, not the season pass.
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boarder2020 wrote:
Quote:

Despite being local and a holder of one of the said passes, I can assure you that it is not overall cheaper.


I can't speak for all the mountains on epic pass. However it definitely got cheaper for season passes in whistler:
Season before epic pass came in - $1,439
Season pass after epic - $1,229 (wb pass) or $1,117 (epic pass).

Which mountain are you at? What was the price pre-epic?

Quote:

Vail resorts for example note that their demographic has an average income of US$170k, so clearly not targetting the budget market
http://www.vailresorts.com/Corp/info/strategies.aspx


I'm calling BS. Vail does not know how much every one of their customers is earning. Even if they did the number would be extremely inflated by a number of super rich outliers. It's in their interests to make that number as high as possible to try and sell land for condos/shops. There are plenty of ski bums working in the villages and on the hill on minimum wage.


.



So you're saying a multi-billion dollar company wouldn't have done the research into its customers and target market?

My season pass (look left to figure out which is my local-ish mountain!) Is indeed cheaper, but everything else is more expensive, so overall it is more expensive.
I ski a lot of days so my pass works out very good value ($20ish a day!), But if you can't go that many days it starts to get pricey.
If I bought food on the mountain, did lessons, and stayed in the village, it would be very expensive even at $20 a day for a pass.

Is there a different rate for epic passes for different mountains? Thought it was a buy one, covers all pass? Do they have sub-flavours?
Btw it is 1349 + tax for wb 19/20 season pass


Last edited by Then you can post your own questions or snow reports... on Wed 6-03-19 4:55; edited 1 time in total
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Btw, I don't mind spending comparatively more on a pass, if it is being spent well on organized lifts, someone to make sure they are used efficiently, patrollers to keep you safe, and open all the in bounds terrain, etc... snowHead
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Quote:

So you're saying a multi-billion dollar company wouldn't have done the research into its customers and target market?


Of course they have done their research. However, they can not possibly accurately know the mean income of their customers. You think they record the income of every person that buys an epic pass?! Besides as I said the mean would be totally screwed by a few mega rich outliers.

Quote:

If I bought food on the mountain, did lessons, and stayed in the village, it would be very expensive even at $20 a day for a pass.


I said it's cheaper for those living near a resort i.e. not needing accomodation and can visit frequently. Of course a season pass is only good value if you can get enough days out of it. There is zero reason to buy food at the mountain, everyone knows it's a rip off. In fact N America resorts are way better than Europe for taking your own food. Usually there is a lodge with microwaves, boiling water, condiments etc. where you can leave your bags and then eat lunch at.

Quote:

Btw it is 1349 + tax for wb 19/20 season pass


Exactly, it's cheaper to buy an epic pass than a whistler season pass.
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Orange200 wrote:
The season tickets are indeed the price of not much more than 10 days' tickets, but to my knowledge they are only sold to residents, thus not available to us alien Europeans. Though if anyone knows a way around that, let me know!


Nope. I've had various season passes in the US for much of the last 10 years. Pays for itself within a week and an incentive for a sneaky extra trip. Some even come with free Euro days. I've skied Verbier, Madonna and 3V with Epic days.
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