Fewer free rides for parents of ski club kids | AspenTimes.com

Fewer free rides for parents of ski club kids

Many parents face either higher fees or a higher hassle factor schlepping their kids to Aspen Valley Ski Club programs in Snowmass this winter.The Aspen Skiing Co. is losing 265 parking spaces at lots A and B, two of its main day skier lots at Snowmass. Construction of the Base Village development eliminated those lots.With parking at a premium, the Skico is cutting many parking freebies for ski club parents. For years the Skico has provided free parking for ski club participants at the Two Creeks parking lot regardless of how many passengers were in a vehicle. Hundreds of parents took advantage of the opportunity. Now parents will be charged $10 unless there are four or more passengers.For some parents, that will add $80 onto the price of the program. The SnoWarriors program, for example, runs for eight weeks in Snowmass. The ski club broke the news of the parking changes to parents in a flier it mailed last week.Skico Chief Operating Officer Mike Kaplan said the changes at Two Creeks parking lot would have been made this winter regardless of the construction of Base Village and loss of Lot A. The utilization of the Two Creeks lot has been growing, so changes were necessary.He acknowledged that some parents will be upset something that was free will be taken away.”It’s the take-away issue, and that’s what we hate to do,” he said.Susan Blakney, who helps coordinate programs for the Aspen Valley Ski Club, said she didn’t feel the changes would upset parents because other options exist to transport kids to club programs for free.”We worked hard on this and came up with some good solutions,” she said.Those include carpooling. Vehicles with four or more passengers can still park for free at Two Creeks. Kids in ski club programs can also take a free bus between Snowmass and four downvalley locations.Parents who like to accompany their kids and ski with them after lessons can park for free at the Rodeo Lot and take a free shuttle to Two Creeks before and after skiing. The town is running the shuttles every 15 minutes.Kaplan said he understands that fewer transitions are better when it comes to getting kids to the slopes. Skico officials say they are always looking for ways to reduce what they call “the hassle factor” of ski trips.”In a perfect world there would be no hassle because you’d drive right up to the door,” he said.But it isn’t perfect, and ski club parents will be forced to adjust.Bruce Benjamin, the parent of a daughter who takes lessons at Snowmass, said the move is in line with programs at other top resorts – charging to park at the base is certainly nothing new. Nevertheless, he called the change “disappointing” for the way it appeared to come about. Benjamin noted that Snowmass Village voters approved a Base Village project that will reap “huge amounts of money” for the Skico. Ironically, he said, construction of that village wiped out parking and the company responded, in part, by eliminating free parking for ski club parents. In other words, from his perspective the community gave something to the Skico and the Skico took something from the community.Benjamin said he already made a conscious effort to car pool to ski lessons. He usually took another child in addition to his daughter. But having only three people in the car wouldn’t make him eligible to park for free at Two Creeks.Benjamin said he didn’t know yet what option he would pursue.”I hate to pay the 10 bucks, but I may,” he said.For some households, paying $10 to park each week will be part of the creeping cost of ski lessons. The cost of the SnoWarriors program is $360 this year, up from $345 last season. Lunch for ski program participants exceeds $10 per week, and parking could now add to the cost.But another parent, whose kids have already gone through the ski club program, said it remains a good deal, even if there are higher transportation costs.Ski lessons comparable to what kids receive in SnoWarriors would cost $566, without lift tickets, or about 36 percent more, according to Kaplan’s calculations. Local kids also get a much better deal on lift tickets.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com