Netflix Billionaire Wants to ‘Disrupt’ Ski Industry by Making It Much More Expensive

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Netflix Billionaire Wants to ‘Disrupt’ Ski Industry by Making It Much More Expensive

Many of us look back fondly on the early days of Netflix, when the red envelopes showed up in your mailbox with your next movie awaiting inside. We organized our queues, curating a pleasing, slow-but-unceasing wash of cinema, all for just a few bucks a month. If you think about it, this is exactly like buying a $2 million house atop a pristine Utah mountain and then paying tens of thousands of dollars per year to ski exclusively in a previously public area as ski seasons disappear around us.

This appears to be the calculus behind a Friday New York Times travel article that asks, apparently with no irony, whether Netflix co-founder and former CEO Reed Hastings can “disrupt skiing” in the same way “he disrupted entertainment.” The gambit in this case: Hastings, who per Forbes is worth more than $4 billion, bought a controlling stake in Utah ski area Powder Mountain, and now plans to sell lots at its top starting at $2 million; only owners of those homes will have the right to spend a further $30,000 to $100,000 every year in order to ski in 2,000 acres of the resort that the public will no longer have access to.


And there’s more! Hastings makes sure to point out that some of the mountain will remain open to the public, and that some of the new chair lifts he is installing will provide access to that public terrain. Indeed, the concept here is that a limited number of rich people will essentially subsidize the still-public parts of the resort. Only, those now limited public areas are getting more expensive: the price of a regular season pass will jump by more than 10 percent, and — honestly this is just top-tier Evil Guy shit — a senior pass for skiers 75 and older will now cost $1,049. They used to be free.

The Times goes on to note that Hastings is not the first to try a private membership scheme for ski resorts, with similar or even pricier versions in New York and Montana, among other places. So not only is his “disruption” plan equivalent to just buying a municipal golf course and turning most of the holes into an exclusive country club, he’s also not even the first to do it in this industry.

The backdrop to this, and to the apparently widening trend of an already expensive sport turning into something only the super-rich can even access, is that skiing everywhere is in trouble. As the climate warms, ski seasons are already a week or more shorter than they were a few decades ago; continuing on the current trajectory would lop as much as two months off the season, and would almost certainly end skiing entirely in certain areas.

The resorts counter reduced opportunities for revenue by raising prices, a trend exacerbated by the dominance of just two companies — Vail Resorts and Alterra — and their ownership of more than half of American ski areas. Many places will increasingly rely on artificial snow, an expensive prospect that again will be passed on to consumers. It’s a sport already off limits to most people just thanks to access and cost, and that will only get worse.

Which all makes the Times’ bit of free advertising somewhat infuriating. (Its author, Gordy Megroz, did get to carve some sick turns in a beautiful and tough-to-access part of the soon-to-be-private ski club; thanks for that review, very useful). I suppose closing off most of an aging and beloved ski resort to all but the richest of patrons counts as “disruption,” in the sense that most people won’t be able to do what they did before. But instead of sending the red envelopes to all our mailboxes, Hastings this time wants to keep a luxury Blockbuster open to people who pay him a million bucks to rent a movie while everyone else stands outside and watches the snow melt.

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