CORRECTION: In this story, an Eldora visitor misstated her food purchase. She spent $6 on hot cocoa and French fries. According to the resort, a cup of cocoa costs $3.93 with tax.
When Eldora Mountain Resort unveiled its slate of spring passes a week ago, skiers may have noticed a few options no longer were available. Now, some local customers are saying the changes are just the latest thing Boulder County's only ski resort is doing to alienate locals.
Among the changes to the slate of passes that went on sale March 3, the resort separated the alpine and Nordic areas in its passes, which in the past included both options.
Eldora season passes
Among Eldora Mountain Resort's 2014-2015 pass offerings:
Adult Super Value Pass: $269 (Features blackout dates, and no Saturday skiing in January and February)
Adult Off Peak Pass: $339 (Includes blackout dates)
Adult Full Pass: $399
Junior Full Pass: $249 (Ages 13-17)
Child Full Pass: $209 (Ages 6-12)
Family Full Pass: $999 (2 adults and 2 child/junior, or 1 adult and 3 child/junior)
For full pass information, visit eldora.com
Eldora spokesman Rob Linde said the resort is trying to focus more on its downhill skiing options, including the $269 adult Super Value Pass, which includes alpine access for the rest of the current season and the entire 2014-2015 season, with restrictions during certain holiday periods and on Saturdays and Sundays during January and February.
A full adult pass at Eldora costs $399 for the 2014-2015 season, down from $469 this season — but that no longer includes Nordic access. Eldora has not revealed how much it will charge for the new Nordic-only passes, which will be sold separately beginning this fall.
"It was just a business decision not to sell Nordic passes this season," Linde said. "We chose to focus on the Super Value Pass and chose to push and sell that particular pass, which is a great deal."
Linde said so far Eldora has been getting positive feedback on the new Super Value Passes.
"It's selling extremely well right now," Linde said. "People like the flexibility of it, and its a good value and priced well for people who have flexibility."
But not everyone is pleased that the Nordic area is no longer being included in the passes.
The resort also announced that after one year of being included in the Epic Pass package, which included several other Colorado resorts, Eldora decided not to renew its participation in that program this season. Linde said it was not likely Eldora would do so again in the future.
"There were pros and cons to it for sure, and again as a business decision we decided not to renew," Linde said.
Nederland resident Jonathan Lantz had been taking his entire family up to Eldora for both alpine and Nordic skiing, but said with the two areas separated, he could probably no longer afford to buy different passes for cross-country skiing.
"We skied both areas, and with a wife and two kids that was $1,000, and now it could be another $1,000 on top of that?" Lantz said. "It just seems very dollar driven, and has taken away a feature a lot of people came to love about the resort, without thinking much about the users and how it's going to affect them."
Linde said he understands some people might be upset at the decision, but said when a business changes its product, it's inevitable that some people are bound to be upset.
"Anytime you change up your product mix there will be people that are uncomfortable with the change," Linde said. "It's certainly not our intention or our hope, but just like any other business, when you decide not to carry a certain product certain people are going to be unhappy if they've had that product for a while."
But Lantz said Eldora has made several decisions recently that he said are turning away customers, and the separation of the downhill and cross-country areas was just the latest.
"That one was announced and it just kind of put me over the edge," Lantz said. "The overall experience and customer service has gone downhill, the food has been getting worse. Now they are taking away Nordic, and making me pay extra for something we've had for a long time just hurts."
'Trying to make business decisions'
The separation of the downhill and cross-country ski areas and terminating its involvement in the Epic pass program are not the only changes to Eldora's offerings.
Eldora is also no longer offering senior and midweek passes. Hollace Widdowfield of Nederland said the lack of a senior pass is a blow to long-time Eldora customers like her.
"They need to support those of us who are getting older and live around here and have been supporting them for years," Widdowfield said. "They just don't seem to be engaged in what's going on in their community."
Linde said the decision not to offer those passes was also another business decision — but said the resort's pass offerings could vary, year to year.
"It's dynamic, it's changing and that's just the way that most businesses are," Linde said. "It's just about trying to make business decisions that continue to make the resort profitable."
But Widdowfield said in recent years she has already seen crowds during the week get smaller and smaller, and believes the resort is beginning to price out locals.
"I think they already have frankly," Widdowfield said.
Lise Friisbaastad said she moved to Gilpin County from California partly in 2012 partly because of Eldora, but she said the resort is now out of her price range.
"We just see the prices go up, up, up," she said. "I was paying less to ski in California with a lot better service. I think they're spoiled because people come up from Boulder. They would create a better atmosphere if they embraced the locals a little bit more."
Resort a past mainstay of family outings
Katie Gesten lives about 25 minutes away from Eldora on Sugarloaf Drive in Boulder Canyon, and as a result she and her family have been long-time Eldora customers.
"Eldora has always been the mainstay of our family outings," Gesten said. "Our three kids grew up skiing at Eldora."
But Gesten said when she recently tried to take her granddaughter up to Eldora, she found kids under the age of 5 were no longer free.
"My granddaughter went on one run, then she wanted hot chocolate," she said. With the $12 ticket for her granddaughter and $6 for a cup of cocoa and French fries, Gesten paid almost $20 for a short experience.
"Not only are they not serving the community wisely and planning for their future skiers, they're no longer a family-friendly ski area in my mind," Gesten said. "I was so infuriated by all these business mistake they're making."
And it's not just the business decisions. Gesten pointed out that Eldora temporarily ended its arrangement with Ignite Adaptive Sports, a non-profit that had been offering a ski program for the disabled there for almost 40 years. After some public outcry, Eldora reached a new agreement with Ignite, but Gesten said the move disappointed her.
"They're taking away all the things that make the area so special," she said.
Gesten has decided she will not buy a pass this year, and will probably instead go to a bigger ski resort for a few days when she wants to ski.
"I will no longer buy a pass because it's no longer a good deal," she said. "I will not cave on this one."
'All about the local skier'
Rob Lewis of Allenspark has been skiing at Eldora since it was first built over 50 years ago. But Lewis said he will not be returning this year without the senior passes.
"On a personal basis that certainly affected me and a lot of my friends who grew up skiing there, and in my opinion it's short-sighted," Lewis said.
Lewis said he thinks the resort is trying too hard to target people from outside the Boulder County area, and in the process it is alienating its biggest customer base.
"They're trying to cater to the metro area and people who want to avoid the nightmare of I-70 these days," Lewis said. "But the local folks, not from Denver but Boulder, that is an especially large component of their base and to alienate them seems foolish to me.
"People aren't going to fly in from out of state to ski at Eldora, so I'm not sure what they are trying to do by alienating the local population."
But Linde said Eldora is not trying to scare off local skiers, and that Boulder County customers still fuel the resort.
"It is a local resort," Linde said. "Everyone is a local at Eldora. People from Longmont, people from Boulder, wherever. We're all about the local skier."
Lewis said he thinks while there are some people who will always choose to go to Eldora over more distant locations, fewer and fewer people will choose not to.
"Just because it's close, there will be some people who bite the bullet and grin and bear it, but some people will say, 'Enough, I just don't want to support you,'" Lewis said. "If this place doesn't want us, then we don't want them."