Vail merchants say gondola prices hurt business |

Vail merchants say gondola prices hurt business

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyPassengers ride up the gondola Thursday after 4 p.m. from Lionshead. This summer Vail Resorts started to continue charging to ride the gondola after 3 p.m. whereas previously, it was free to ride after that hour.

VAIL, Colo. – A few weeks after some Lionshead merchants predicted slower business because of Vail Resorts’ decision to charge for gondola rides after 3 p.m. – a time when rides have been free over the years – merchants say their predictions were right.

Foot traffic through Lionshead Village after 3 p.m. is significantly less than it was last year, merchants say.

“It’s been pretty dead in Lionshead at night,” said Bart and Yeti’s owner Dennis Foley. “If it was free after 3 (p.m.) we’d have more people coming around.”

Vail Mountain spokeswoman Liz Biebl said reactions to the new program of charging $15 after 4 p.m., including a $10 voucher good toward food, beverage and activity purchases on top of the mountain, have been generally positive.

“We are thrilled with the outcome and have had only a small amount of critical feedback from guests who were familiar with the free access in the past,” Biebl said in a statement earlier this week. “The majority of feedback has been positive and guests have been very happy with the evening $10 food, beverage and activities credit and kids ride free offer.”

Local businesses are noticing a negative impact on Fridays more than any other day, mainly because it’s easier to gauge Friday business compared to last year because of the popularity of the Friday Afternoon Club on top of the mountain.

Adam Hart, rental manager at the Double Diamond Ski and Sport Shop, said Friday business in the late afternoons and early evenings is definitely slower. He said people had to line up to ride the gondola in past summers, but not this year.

“We don’t see the crowds lining up on Friday afternoons,” Hart said. “The biggest thing we’re seeing is that people aren’t showing up like they have.”

Garfinkel’s General Manager Jesse Hamilton agrees that his Friday afternoon business has been affected by the gondola ticket prices.

“I think it has definitely affected us negatively,” Hamilton said. “There are less people around. Locals are just going to other places – we used to get slammed when (Friday Afternoon Club) was done.”

Weather might have something to do with some of the Fridays in late June and early July, when afternoon thunderstorms and cold air likely hurt some Friday Afternoon Club business, but Hart said Friday, July 9, was beautiful, and there still weren’t any lines.

“There’s definitely less foot traffic (around Lionshead in the evenings),” Hart said. “It’s hard to notice on other days because Friday is the big draw.”

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