Will Vail ski pass deal mean big crowds? | AspenTimes.com

Will Vail ski pass deal mean big crowds?

Edward Stoner
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colo. ” Locals cheered after Vail Resorts said Tuesday it would cut about $300 off the price of a season pass for next season.

But then some worried. Could the price be too low, and the pass too widely available?

Anyone can buy the $579 Epic Season Pass, including the Front Rangers who come here in hordes each weekend.

Some said the pass might make the lift lines too long. Others said the pass would make Interstate 70 traffic worse.

Others said the pass might worsen Vail’s parking problems. On many Fridays and Saturdays during the winter, hundreds of cars are parked along the frontage roads, with ski-toting pedestrians sometimes dodging traffic to get to the ski mountain.

“My concern is we can’t even afford a 1 percent increase (in cars) on Saturdays and Sundays,” said Bill Suarez, owner of Billy’s Island Grill. ” If you’ve ever driven from East Vail when Denver’s starting to come up ” someone’s going to die.”

Still, Suarez said, he thinks the Epic pass is a good idea, and his employees and customers are planning to buy them.

Vail Resorts says parking won’t get worse because the pass is aimed at out-of-state customers. Denverites ” many of whom now buy “Colorado Passes” that offer 10 days at Vail and Beaver Creek ” won’t buy Epic passes in large numbers, the company said.

“We believe most of our Colorado Passes will not be upgrading to this pass, so, therefore, we think that parking really doesn’t change that much from where it is today,” said John Garnsey, executive vice president of Vail Resorts’ Mountain Division.

Still, Vail Resorts projects it will sell an additional 12,000 passes for next year to in-state skiers with the introduction of the Epic pass, Garnsey said. Merchant pass sales, which totaled about 5,000 this year, won’t drop off significantly, he said.

Denverites won’t want to shell out another $150 for unlimited days at Vail ” instead of just 10 ” and no blackout days, Garnsey said.

Some Vailites weren’t quite buying that, though.

“What I don’t understand is how anybody wouldn’t pay $100 to go from being able to ski in Vail for 10 days to being able to ski in Vail for 80 days,” said Margaret Rogers, a Vail councilwoman. “Even if, rather than skiing 10, they ski 20, it’s going to be a parking problem for us.”

Andy Daly, a councilman and former Vail Resorts president, said another 12,000 Front Range pass holders could increase Front Range passholders by 10 percent.

A 10 percent increase to cars on the frontage road would be “intolerable,” Daly said.

“I think the parking situation is one that we can’t leave to, ‘Well, let’s see how it works, and if we sell more passes, then we can address it,'” Daly said.

Flo Raitano, director of the I-70 Coalition ” a group working on ways to ease congestion ” said she isn’t sure how the pass will impact interstate traffic, which can be bad on winter weekends.

“It could be beneficial,” she said. “It could contribute to more congestion on weekends. At this point, we just don’t know.”

Vail Resorts says skier numbers on the mountains won’t increase significantly during the busiest times ” such as Christmas and spring break ” because the amount of beds in town limit the number of vacationers who can stay here. However, more skiers will come to Vail during slower times between peak periods, the company said.

“We have big peaks and we have deep valleys, and we’ve been trying to blend that for a long time,” Garnsey said.

A lot of visitors take a trip each winter to a Vail Resorts ski mountain and then a second trip to a competitor ski resort, Garnsey said. The company hopes, with the Epic pass, to induce both of those yearly ski trips to be at a Vail Resorts mountain, Garnsey said.

And the Epic pass will make out-of-state skiers commit to a ski vacation before the season starts, Garnsey said.



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