Big changes coming to Indy Pass, the alternative to Epic and Ikon passes
Pass which bands together independently owned ski areas gets new owner, sales strategy
The Indy Pass, independent ski areas’ answer to the Epic and Ikon mega passes, is undergoing some major changes, but current pass holders are unlikely to notice much of the shakeup.
On Monday, those current pass holders were offered first crack at renewing their Indy Passes for next season, and a mad rush ensued as Indy Pass announced that it will limit the total amount of passes sold for next season.
The Indy Pass was released in 2019 and has proven to be a success in the years that followed. It started by offering pass holders a few days of access to a few dozen ski hills across the United States, and by 2022-23 it had grown to offer access to more than 139 ski areas worldwide, including several in Colorado.
The Indy Pass works like a co-op, with the small businesses sharing the profits.
“We take 85 percent of all the pass revenue, and we pay it out based on redemptions,” says founder Doug Fish. “It’s really a marketing program, it’s designed to introduce people to new resorts that they probably haven’t been to, and it’s designed to give a collective voice of the oft-forgotten and overlooked little guys.”
Banding together independent ski area operators to form a collective pass of their own sounded like an obvious idea, but like so many great plans, the conception came much easier than the execution.
Managing the back end — which ski area gets paid for an Indy Pass redemption, how those ski areas verify the validity of an Indy Pass, preventing fraud from pass sharing — is a complicated business when you consider that all of those ski areas use different point of sale, bookkeeping, pass printing systems and even languages.
It’s something that, theoretically, could be solved through a dedicated software system, but no such system existed prior to the Indy Pass, and the development of such a system would take a massive amount of time and money.
Enter Colorado-based Entabeni Systems, a ski area software company founded by a lover of independent ski areas who just happened to have the bandwidth to develop such a system in 2019.
Entabeni Systems owner Erik Mogensen is young, 36 years old, with a deep background in skiing that includes a stint working as an instructor for Vail Resorts, an experience he said motivated him to focus on independent skiing operations. He started Entabeni Systems in 2016, met Indy Pass founder Doug Fish in 2019 on a cold call and both had the realization that some serious tech was needed to help Indy Pass push back against the mega passes.
Mogensen said Entabeni, which is based in Grand County, happened to be in the right place in 2019 to take on the Indy Pass project, which he described as being a “non-commercial” project.
“We had a huge passion for helping independent ski areas, and we were already down the road on building different systems that would align from a technical and personal purpose standpoint,” he said.
As proof of his passion for independent ski areas, Mogensen points to a 2004 letter to the editor published in the Buffalo News, which he penned at age 16 following the closing of Ski Tamarack in Western New York.
“Words cannot do justice to the feelings of so many in Western New York after the closing of Ski Tamarack,” Mogensen wrote. “I grew up at Tamarack, taking my first turns at the age of 3 … Anyone who has been there knows that it was not the skiing that made it special; it was the people — the ski patrol that had been there for three generations, the ski school that taught so many in Western New York how to make those first tough turns and, most of all, the family that ran it.”
Indy passing the torch
Indy Pass owner Doug Fish announced this month that he has sold the company. The purchaser? None other than Mogensen and Entabeni Systems.
It’s the completion of a full-circle effort for Mogensen, who describes the acquisition as a dream come true.
But within the purchase comes another set of “non-commercial” considerations for Entabeni Systems. Amid the cost of the purchase, and the enormous task of managing the new business, not raising the price of the Indy Pass was a tall order.
“That’s been the difficult part, to keep skiing affordable for families,” Mogensen said. “We worked really hard to keep the base pass under $300 and the Indy Plus under $400, and Doug Fish deserves a lot of credit for being part of the push.”
Another decision came in the form of a limitation on total pass sales.
“We want to grow responsibly,” Mogensen said. “First and foremost, we need to keep the Indy experience from getting epically out of control.”
In a personal letter to all pass holders, Mogensen furthered the point by saying: “The Indy Ski Pass has done a remarkable job promoting the independent and authentic snowsports experience, but we are also responsible for preserving those experiences. We will never put promotion ahead of preservation. Because of that, Indy Pass will limit pass sales for the coming season, offering our current passholders an opportunity to renew first.”
Several other small changes are taking place, as well. A 3% service fee, assessed in the final moments of purchase, has been eliminated.
A $10 physical RFID pass, something the Indy Pass had managed to avoid, will now be offered as a way to speed up the redemption process.
And an old-fashioned version of pass insurance, one ski areas have long offered to pre-purchasers who show up to the ticket window on crutches, will now come with the Indy Pass. Mogensen described it in a recent Facebook post that received over 20,000 views.
“We will not be trying to ‘upgrade’ or up-sell anyone into injury ‘pass insurance,'” he wrote. “If you have an accident that keeps you from being on snow, just let us know and we will do the right thing by supporting you with a refund.”
While 22-23 Indy pass holders received the first crack at renewal on Monday, a quickly growing waiting list has been formed for all newcomers. Pass sales will open to the waiting list on March 24.
And a payment plan is also being offered, another touch Mogensen said Entabeni Systems is proud to provide. It comes out to less than $35 per month when spread over eight payments.
“Lots of places charge more than that to park for a single day,” he said.
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