PORTLAND (AP) – Having watched skiers being siphoned away by a three-resort pass in New Hampshire, Maine’s Sunday River and a sister resort have responded with their own discounted season pass.

Sunday River in Newry and Attitash/Bear Peak in New Hampshire are offering a season pass that slashes the cost of a full-price adult pass by up to 75 percent. It’s also good for both ski areas.

Word of the price war has spread quickly.

“It has definitely created a buzz,” said Ken Bialorucki, manager of Joe Jones in South Portland, which sells ski and snowboarding equipment.

The special rates were created to compete with New Hampshire’s “Threedom Pass,” which has been successful in the four to five years that it has been offered by Waterville Valley, Loon and Cranmore ski areas.

Sunday River decided to answer with its special two-resort rate through Oct. 27 because it needed to lure back Boston skiers who had diverted to New Hampshire, said resort spokeswoman Susan Duplessis.

Last season, Maine ski resorts came just shy of the record of 1.32 million skier visits, but Sunday River actually lost ground. The resort’s numbers dropped to 500,790 from 521,080 the previous season.

“We rely a lot on day traffic and we lost day traffic last year. A chunk of that was from the Boston market. When we did research, we realized we were losing skiers to New Hampshire resorts,” Duplessis said.

The Sunday River/Attitash pass costs $299 with 14 blackout dates and $599 without blackout dates. Sunday River’s regular adult season pass goes for $1,249.

In New Hampshire, the Threedom Pass costs $319 for one comparable to the Sunday River/Attitash pass with blackout dates or $439 without blackout dates. The lowest-cost Threedom Pass, at $259, excludes skiing on Saturdays in addition to having blackout dates.

The idea behind multiple-resort season passes started in Colorado. Then it expanded west to California and east to New England.

In New Hampshire, the Threedom Pass resorts are owned by Booth Creek, while Attitash and Sunday River are owned by American Skiing Co. The special rate doesn’t apply to other ASC resorts, including Maine’s Sugarloaf USA.

The pricing is competitive. An adult weekend lift ticket tops $50 at several resorts in northern New England, so it takes only a half-dozen or so visits to break even, said Karl Stone of Ski New Hampshire.

It’s good for empty nesters and young adults without children, he said. But the lowest-cost passes are not as good for families with young children since the blackout dates include school vacation weeks and holidays.

Nonetheless, any sort of discount is welcome in a sport that has a reputation for being expensive.

“When I saw this $299 deal, I’m like I can’t pass this up. It’s awesome. It fits perfectly into my schedule,” said Terry Biggs of Westbrook, who has been skiing for 15 years but never purchased a season pass for herself.

Biggs said the pass will make for more leisurely trips to the slopes. Because of the discounted price, she said she won’t feel like she has to ski from dawn until dusk to get her money’s worth.

On the Net:

Threedom Pass http://www.threedompass.com

Attitash/Bear Peak http://www.attitash.com

Sunday River http://www.sundayriver.com/

Cranmore Mountain Resort http://www.cranmore.com/winter/

Waterville Valley ski area http://www.waterville.com/

Loon Mountain ski area http://www.loonmtn.com/

AP-ES-09-26-03 1129EDT

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