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IKON Pass marketing strategy

IKON Pass marketing strategy

Marketing strategies that the IKON Pass, and other big ticket purchases like ski passes, cruises or luxury goods use are different from other products.

Learn how to get customers to put down big bucks, because these are tactics all marketers can use.

IKON Pass marketing strategy

How ski passes handled COVID-19

The IKON Pass is a season-long ski pass that’s usable at many mountains around the US and the world. Considering it includes 43 different mountains, it’s no surprise it comes with a hefty price tag. At $1,049 this pass is not aimed at those who focus more on the apres scene.

The IKON Pass uses a marketing strategy that targets skiers who would otherwise go skiing multiple weekends a year, or purchase a season pass at their local mountain. This demographic is prepared to put down serious money to pursue their passion.

The strategy to get customers to open their wallets and put down a month’s rent for a ski pass relies on several tactics all marketers should use. These strong emotional drivers help convince customers they need to make the purchase to make the most of their winters.

The rewards for winning these customers are rich - customers are now locked into your mountain spending ecosystem, relying on the resorts for lodging, liftside-dining, transport to and from, and more. It’s a ticket for a chairlift for the customer, and a ticket for further money to be made for the resorts. This is doubly true for cruises, where time off-boat is limited.

a glance at how ski passes handled covid-19

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Snowsports are seasonal, and for mountain operators the industry is jokingly referred to as snow-farming. This cyclical cash crunch was partially eliminated with the creation, in 2018, of the IKON Pass and its competitor from Vail Resorts, the Epic Pass.

Getting skiers and riders to plop down next season’s money in the summer, or at least a deposit, is a great way to make it through the lean months. Similarly, a boat’s sailing date may be far off, but cruise operators can generate revenue off of it months in advance with payment plans and early-bird pricing.

The challenge for mountain resorts is convincing the consumer of the urgency. They do this in several ways. They appeal to their logical side by offering discounts for early renewals. Through expiring sales, and eventually, limiting the purchase of the pass around November or December, they make sure eager skiers buy early to not miss out on an early snowfall or the best price.

skiing fresh powder through the forest

This GIF from a promotional email from Breckenridge in mid-July is a good example.

Full report on ski passes? Full send


Only the most dedicated skiers can see the value in paying $1,000 upfront for next winter’s vacation. However when you check the single day lift ticket prices for many mountains, it’s not hard to see how even just three or four days on the mountain could start to add up.

By offering discounts for auto-renewing, and slowly ratcheting up the price as ski season approaches, mountain resorts appeal to those who know they’ll spend a lot during the winter, but want to get away with spending as little as possible. Bundling alcohol or dining packages into the price of a cruise ticket is a similarly applied tactic in a warmer industry.

IKON Pass pricing menu

The choice is between an Ikon Pass or Ikon Base Pass, but it could just as easily say “state-room” or “inner cabin”

By offering up cheaper options that are more restrictive, often by limiting riding during holidays or capping the number of visits to certain mountains, the IKON Pass marketing strategy relies on making customers feel that the most value lies in the most expensive option. The cheaper options offer a chance to pull in those price-sensitive customers who would blanch at the highest price. But real powderhounds will know the value of the full pass is far greater than the $300 difference between the price tiers.

Riders ask themselves, what if they can only get to the mountains during the holidays? They could end up saving $300 now, only to pay it back on Christmas Day because their pass doesn’t cover those days. Renewing early offers a further discount, but the window to purchase is small.


Appealing to consumers lifestyles, and the experiential aspect of skiing is one more strategy marketers can use to appeal to potential customers of big ticket purchases. Families in particular are apt to purchase passes together so they can all share in the mountain experience. Showing images of happy kids skiing, or sliding down a waterslide on deck is a sure-fire way to get parents to pay for that experience for their own children.

Besides camaraderie and nostalgia-forming experiences, ski marketers appeal to skiers by appealing to their shared understanding of winter, of why some people flock to the mountains, and some people think they’re crazy.

When you’re floating over that fresh pow, it’s easy to understand why someone would pay any price for that experience.

Other ski passes, and the IKON Pass marketing strategy try to harness that aura year round, and bring people to the mountains.

View this post on Instagram

Checking in from OR show in Denver.

A post shared by Indy Pass (@indyskipass) on

Converting into customers isn’t enough, ski mountains need to bring the wintry magic even in the hottest days of summer. Because of that closed system, getting passholders to the mountains as often as possible is key to padding the bottom line.

Social's more accurate than the snow report

Other ski pass strategies

One of the best features of the multi-mountain ski passes is the multi-mountain part. The freedom to try new slopes, return to old favorites, and master new lines down the mountains offers a flexibility that only a few other products, like amusement park passes and (RIP) Moviepass offer.

Towns and industries that rely on ski mountains to bring the tourist dollars all describe the creation of multi-mountain passes as a net benefit to skiers and operators alike. Passholders would be inclined to agree, as the freedom and flexibility these passes offer allows winter sports fans the option to ski when and where they want, regardless of lift ticket prices.

These new multi-mountain ski passes offer something that cruises also offer, and that luxury goods imply. A chance to see the world. And not only see the world, see the world through the lens of your passion. The IKON Pass marketing strategy makes sure to cater to those with wanderlust.

In the picture above we see someone skiing in Japan, mountains on both the IKON Pass and Epic Pass offer a chance to taste Japow, and marketing that angle to the intrepid international skier is an easy way to create envy and FOMO.

IKON pass giphys

One other arena these two rivals compete with each other in is GIPHY. Creating shareable stickers that are easily embedded into Instagram Stories and elsewhere across the web generates massive, user generated visibility for the brand.

Takeaways for big ticket marketing strategies

These strategic goals will help you make the most of your strategy for selling a big ticket item like an annual pass or a cruise.

Keep the brand top of mind

  • The ski season or sailing date may be far off, but building excitement now pays off.

Make it urgent

  • The experience is once-in-a-lifetime, so make sure your customers understand how to make the most of it before and during your activity.

Deliver value

  • Just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean there’s no value. Showcase the value, not a discount.

Let it sell itself

  • If you have an awesome product to deliver to passionate fans, let the product sell itself. The price may be high but consumers know what they’re in for. Let them come to you when they are ready.

Send it, Jerry!