Roger Marolt: A dirty trick on our visitors

With parking this bad, only the greatest skiing would make anyone come back

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic

Snowmass is an incredible ski area. Why am I so sure of this? It’s because our parking lot is so terrible. After experiencing that, only the greatest of skiing could make anyone come back.

I’m not talking about the one at Two Creeks. I’m not talking about the pinball parking pavilion at Base Village. I’m not talking about the tiered lots along Snowmelt Road. I’m talking about the big free one down by Town Park that we encourage the bulk of our guests to use. Incredibly, they actually do it!

A sign marks the entrance to Town Park off of Brush Creek Road in Snowmass Village. On busy days, the adjacent Rodeo lot becomes an (often muddy) overflow parking lot.
Kaya Williams/The Snowmass Sun

You think I want to write a column about a parking lot? No, it’s filthy work. But it’s at the entrance to our town, the first and the last thing visitors experience here. If they’re not cussing about how filthy their ski boots are by the time they walk from the shuttle to their vehicle at the end of the day, they must be besides themselves — apoplectic, even — when they get home to discover the floor mats in their beloved SUV are crusted with dry mud and their ski clothes look like they dug a ditch instead of skiing powder over the weekend.

This is a thing locals don’t notice. When we are in that part of town, we park on the pavement in front of the Rec Center or next to the playground and picnic pavilion. The smooth, clean part of the lot is all we see when we make the annual trip to the rodeo in the summer. Why would we ever have to park in the overflow section of the lot where the cowboys unload their horses and warm up for calf roping?

I don’t remember why, but about 15 years ago I had the miserable experience of parking in the overflow lot. The thought leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and the feel of sandy grit grinding down my teeth. Our kids were small. As my wife and I tiptoed through the filthy mess in our ski boots, the kids dragged their feet through it and dropped all kinds of their gear in it. At some point we had to pick up the kids and carry them through the deeper puddles. In the end, our car would never be the same, our favorite ski clothes were stained, and my mouth needed washing out with soap. I wrote about this then and soon forgot about it, knowing I would never have to go through that again.

Last Saturday was sunny. There was lots of fresh, dazzlingly white snow dominating the landscape. It felt like the breeze carried the first hints of spring. On my way back from Aspen that afternoon, I had a flashback as I came through the roundabout. The overflow parking lot east of the rodeo grounds looked like a shimmering bowl of Malt-O-Meal. But I knew better. I knew it was only a swamp.

In the brief moment I circled the solid pavement in the roundabout, I sympathized with the dad loading his family and all their stuff into a minivan sunk to its whitewalls in the muck. Out of the corner of my eye I spied a frowning man scraping his ski boots across a snowbank on the side trying to get the gooey brown ooze off.

Why do we put our visitors through this? Since we haven’t done anything about this ever, it appears our answer is “because we can.” The numbers seem to prove this is true, but that doesn’t mean that we should. It’s certainly not the most inhumane thing one group of human beings subjects another group to, but it is kind of shocking that we aren’t a little more hospitable to the people we invite to come here.

We don’t have to fix this mess that pops up every second half of the ski season when the days grow longer, but we should. To think we spent one of our community benefits from the construction of Base Village paving a quarter-mile passing lane on Brush Creek Road that doesn’t appear to serve any purpose at all instead of using that asphalt to pave the overflow parking lot, and we burned up another $6 million windfall to become commercial landlords in Base Village instead of creating a first-class transit center where visitors actually park when they come here.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” reflects wisdom. “If it’s broke, don’t fix it because we don’t have to” is a recipe for slow and steady decay.

Roger Marolt would rather ski Vail than use the overflow mudflow lot in Snowmass again. Email him at


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