If you want trademark protection this is unfortunately what you need to do or you'll lose any protection afforded by the trademark. They spent money to get the trademark - it makes sense they would try to maintain it.
Ultimately what they did is 100% advice from their lawyer. The advice is also completely valid from a legal perspective - it just doesn't take into account the PR backlash.
It's honestly a really hard line to straddle, and there are legitimate reasons why a business would want trademark protection.
Obviously in this case it was a bad business decision, but I think it's a step short of evil. That's just my opinion.
How come they haven't sued Vail Resorts over the Epic Pass and Epic everything under the sun?
Trademark protection relates to consumer confusion - would a consumer of your products be confused as to the source of a different product. For that reason it only applies to the goods/services you offer - e.g. bikes and bike components for Specialized. Specialized wouldn't have any protection for ski passes. FWIW - I gave it a quick search - Vail has a registered trademark for Epic Pass. (There's a lot of bad information out there on trademarks - just want to keep you guys informed).