We’ll, the 2020 season is all but done, another week for Cardrona, and mid November for Mt Ruapehu. As predicted it was a “different” season in many respects, but we had a season for which we are thankful! And it was a funny season for season pass holders. Ruapehu had capacity issues, due to social distancing, more so than many other areas. NZSki extended their early bird pricing to June, which we thought was amazing! And Cardrona/Treble Cone had a “no questions” refund policy. Then at smaller areas such as Cheeseman, they basically rolled over their passes in 2021, even if you had used it.
As you might have seen, the 2021 early bird season pass sales are now on, and this year they are a little bit different, so let’s take a look!
It’s been a challenging and controversial season for Mt Ruapehu, mostly around capacity and parking, so they're making a few changes next season. Here’s the key points as we see them:
Our take? Cheap season passes worked for Ruapehu years ago to stimulate demand, after events such as eruptions. It worked, but maybe too well (!) as now there are now capacity issues, yet they struggle to be profitable. So pass prices have to go up. We like the midweek day price passes as that may certainly help shift some demand, but we’re less keen on $149 for a weekend. We get it, they are trying to get people to ski other times, but that’s a substantial cost for a family, and a significant barrier to new people entering the sport. The big question is will it change demand and the busyness at peak periods? Time will tell. We’re also interested in the free youth pass with an adult, this is a great bonus for families and will surely be popular. With Ruapehu season passes similar to South Island prices now, this may be a strategy to help retain the family market.
For a few years now NZSki have been offering a “3 Peak Pass” valid for The Remarkables, Coronet Peak and Mt Hutt. This season it remains at $699, which when you think about it really is a hell deal for 3 great ski areas. Here’s the key points to note:
Our take? As we’ve said, this is a great value pass and has a number of benefits, such as free night skiing. We think with Ruapehu passes increasing in price, there might be real interest from North Islanders heading South. Made even easier with the “no questions” policy given the uncertainties of COVID.
For Cantabrians, Mt Hutt has been offering great value passes since 2016 when they dropped their price to $299 (from $749 in 2015). That’s had a huge impact on affordability and numbers, and has truly got people in Canterbury skiing again. This season they have pushed the price up a bit, from $379 last season, to $449 this season. That’s understandable, 2020 was a tough season, and ultimately they need increased profitability to improve infrastructure. Such as the new chair for 2021 which is awesome news! Key points:
Our take? For the quality of the skiing it’s inevitable that pass prices have to increase at Mt Hutt. It’s a big mountain, that moves people well even on busy days, and they are investing further to improve this. What is interesting this season is the change in the child age, last season 10 and under, this season, 7 and under. That’s far more significant for some families and maybe enough to push some families back to Porters, where the youth pass is $199 for kids aged 11-17. And it would have been nice if they could have aligned their refund policy with the 3 Peak product, no questions asked refund. Regardless, Mt Hutt is still terrific value and so accessible for Canterbrians. This might be where we ski primarily next season, midweek ...
Porters, like other small ski areas such as Dobson, has been the home of cheaper season passes for some time, but in recent years have struggled to compete with Mt Hutts often cheaper passes. It looks like that might be changing this season because not only are they cheaper, they have also retained 10 and under ski free. That’s great for families. Here’s the deal.
Our take? Great value passes and even better that kids 10 and under ski free.
Just released (19 October) is the Cardrona/Treble Cone 2021 season pass price freeze sale. If you’re a little confused, as I was, last year they also offered a price freeze, until October 31 2020, and that price was $950. Then they offered an early bird pass of $999, so it’s the early bird price that is frozen, not the price freeze frozen price. Whatever, it’s the same or close, and it’s still the most expensive pass in the country. But, it’s also the most desirable with two awesome mountains under one pass. We’ve had some great days there this season and you really have to say they run a world class operation, so the passes do represent good value.
And what’s great again is that they are offering a free COVID-19 guarantee. If you can't go skiing in 2021 due to COVID-19, they will offer you a credit to use your pass in Winter 2022 or a refund. If they need to shorten the season due to COVID-19, they'll refund you on a pro-rata basis, based on the number of days you've been able to use your pass. And if they need to scale operations because of COVID-19, and reduced facilities impact your decision to ski with them, then they will offer you a credit for Winter 2022 or a refund. All up, you’re buying two fabulous mountains with some of the most reliable skiing and riding in the country, and an awesome guarantee. Get in quick before the price goes up to $1050(?).
|Mt Ruapehu||Cardrona /Treble Cone||NZSki (3 Peak)||Mt Hutt||Porters|
|Youth||$299 (5-17)||$299 (6-17)||$279 (6-17)||$209||$199|
|Child||$0 (5 & under)||$0 (5 & under)||$0 (5 & under)||$0 (7 & under)||$0 (10 & under)|
|Senior||-||$599||$279 (65–74yrs)||$319 (65–74yrs)||$299 (65–74yrs)|
|Super Senior||Free (70+)||Free (75yrs +)||Free (75yrs +)||Free (75yrs +)||Free (75yrs +)|
|Day Rate (2020)||$149||$130||$129||$119||$99|
|Season Pass 2020||$449||$999||$699||$379||$499|
|Sale end date||Oct 31st 2020||Oct 31st 2020||Oct 31st 2020||Oct 31st 2020|
If you'd like to compare 2020 vs 2021 season pass pricing, check last years summary.
2021 will see a few changes to season pass pricing from previous seasons. Inevitable price increases (except for the NZSki 3 Peak prices) which we think are realistic. Ruapehu probably has the biggest price increase, fewer season passes being sold, parking passes and benefits for pre-booking, the removal of a child pass but free youth pass with an adult, and only one sale period (so get in quick!). Mt Hutt sports the next biggest changes. A close to 20% rise in the adult pass, which still represents great value (!), the (re)introduction of a value mid-week pass, and a change in the child threshold from 10 to 7.
All in all, after one of the most challenging season on record in 2020, you’d have to say these changes are not huge and are still great value, especially the 3 Peak Pass. Who knows what next year will bring? We’d suggest locking in now and committing, it’s well worth it!