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Varsity Trip sold out at high speed, and resold at high prices

Meg Lintern reports on the Varsity Ski Trip's record speed ticket sale, and the high resale prices.

At 8am on Thursday, thousands of students across Oxford and Cambridge were waiting in an online queue to buy tickets for the Varsity Trip 2021. The tickets sold out in 30 minutes, a record time, sparking celebration among the Varsity team but disappointment among those left empty-handed. 

The trip usually takes over 3000 Oxbridge students to the Alps, and 400 extra places were added this year to accommodate increased demand. However, with over 5000 people logging on to buy a ticket, many missed the chance to secure a spot on the trip. 

After two consecutive trip postponements due to COVID, the buying frenzy has been attributed to a backlog of demand. The trip’s 99th instalment, which will be heading to Val Thorens in December, offers a week including  activities ranging from mountain yoga to silent discos at a base price of £399. 

While many hopefuls were still waiting in the queue, the Varsity Trip Instagram page released a panic-inducing post: 

Screenshot of Varsity Trip Instagram. In capital letters is written: TICKETS. SOLD. OUT. The background picture is of a person skiing in a jumpsuit.

Those who couldn’t secure an official ticket quickly turned to unofficial alternatives. Ticketbridge (Cambridge University’s ticket page) was soon crowded with posts, with tickets being resold at eye-watering sums of £1000 and desperate appeals by third years looking to get on the trip before graduating. Some Facebook users pleaded to trade tickets for “eternal love and success”, and others used Squid Game memes to convey their devastation. 

The Varsity Trip team does not condone the resale of tickets at a markup for personal gain: for those who want to pull out of the trip, there is an option to claim a full refund on the ticket price until October 28th. These tickets will be allocated to those on the waiting list.  

Some students have pointed to the randomised queueing system for contributing to the confusion. Whether a student had logged onto the system an hour before booking opened or in the preceding 30 seconds, there was no bearing on where they would place in the queue. One disenchanted booker said, “as soon as I saw I was 5,139th in the queue, I knew it was all over”. Others have reported feeling “shafted” by the system. 

In a flurry of post-sale angst, a series of comments appeared on Facebook criticising the booking system. Some users advocated limiting Oxbridge students to a single trip over the course of their degree, whilst others were in favour of prioritising 3rd years for early ticket purchases. Although the tickets have always been allocated at random to give everyone an equal chance of securing a place, for those who were suffering from the aftereffects of the previous night’s launch parties, losing out on a ticket added insult to injury. 

With the reputation of the trip still on the rise, and with the group generally filling up entire resorts, it seems that the Varsity Trip will continue to face problems with demand in years to come. However, the trip’s organisers hope to increase the number of spaces available on the trip in 2022 to give students a better chance of experiencing the event.

Image credit: Alain Wong

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