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11/27/2003

Colorado ski areas attack online lift ticket auctions

The Associated Press

DENVER — A number of Colorado ski areas are complaining about the online auctioning of discounted lift tickets, a booming business as the ski season begins in earnest.
Hundreds of sellers on eBay are offering discounted tickets good at nearly a dozen resorts, including Aspen, Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Steamboat Springs.
Even some of the 17,000 free lift tickets Crested Butte handed out at a Denver Nuggets basketball game last month are selling for $45 each on eBay, a nice discount from the $65 walk-up rate last season.
“Obviously that’s not in the spirit of any of these promotions,” Crested Butte spokeswoman Gina Kroft said this week.
Tickets from other North American ski areas are also being sold on eBay.
A Squaw Valley ticket was being offered for $1.
That Internet bargain-hunters can get discounted lift tickets is particularly tough for Vail Resorts.
This year, the company ended its longtime practice of doling out half-price lift tickets to employees — because they were selling them.
The sale of half-price lift tickets to visitors who were likely to pay full price led an estimated $1 million loss last year, says Bill Jensen, chief operating officer for Vail Resorts’ five ski areas.
“You are doing all these things to benefit individuals with an experience, and people take advantage of that and try to benefit themselves financially,” Jensen said.
Resorts take a number of steps to prevent tickets from being counterfeited or copied, and police will arrest skiers who try to scam their way onto the lifts. Online ticket sales can’t be halted, however.
“I would be very wary as a consumer,” said David Barry, head of Copper Mountain and Winter Park ski areas. “Why spend your money on the street when there are such great deals out there? What are you really saving?”