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Overcrowding at Epic and Ikon resorts

@Skisailor I skied Big Sky 3 years in a row and I loved how empty the slopes were. It really hurt when I had to return to the real world of crowded skiing at Mammoth.

It's disappointing that the flavor of Big Sky has changed due to the Ikon Pass. I know that BS management has a long range plan to add lifts and other facilities. I wonder if these measures will lessen the overcrowding or will just attract even more people to Big Sky. Thoughts? I guess only time will tell.
 
But the IKON explosion has brought in many more people rushing around (perhaps more used to crowded ski areas), crashing through lift lines, skiing recklessly in difficult terrain or in slow skier areas, more injuries, on mountain drunkenness, trash under lifts, etc. etc. - things that we generally weren't used to seeing alot of at Big Sky. And it has certainly not engendered good will among the locals to the newcomers. I'm not sure how this situation can be improved . . . .
I think the situation could be improved if management just decided to enforce good behavior. It seems like it's in their best interest to do that because it's in most guests' best interest. I don't know where these people are from that they think line cutting and throwing trash is okay, but it's not, and apparently they need to be told that. In another thread I mentioned how the Mariners staff at Safeco Field do not tolerate bad behavior. The stuff the bleacher creatures at Yankee Stadium can get away with wouldn't be tolerated here. You'll get talked to and then thrown out If it continues because the organization is trying to create a family atmosphere where everyone feels safe and comfortable. The stakes are higher at a ski resort because we're talking about safety and a very big outlay of money. They can put the resources into protecting people's safety and investment in their vacation.
 

Tvan

Angel Diva
I’ve been reading this thread, plus researching the pass details for both Epic and Ikon and getting more discouraged by the day. They are both so expensive, and while I have the privilege of being able to afford to ski, the chances of me skiing at enough of the places on these passes to make either pay off is slim.

Most of our skiing is at local hills that are within a 2 hour drive, with a couple longer trips per season.

I’m mourning the MAX pass, which was the perfect combination of small, local mountains with a few larger places included.

And I’m disheartened that the larger places are experiencing over-crowding and other issues. Lyndsey Dyer’s instagram has been reporting the impact of increased vehicle traffic on local wildlife, for example. Heartbreaking.

Skiing is supposed to be fun. You know what’s not fun? Figuring out how and where to ski a year in the future, in a fiscally and environmentally responsible way.
 
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Abbi

Angel Diva
I’ve been reading this thread, plus researching the pass details for both Epic and Ikon and getting more discouraged by the day. They are both so expensive, and while I have the privilege if being able to afford to ski, the chances of me skiing at enough of the places on these passes to make either pay off is slim.

Most of our skiing is at local hills that are within a 2 hour drive, with a couple longer trips per season.

I’m mourning the MAX pass, which was the perfect combination of small, local mountains with a few larger places included.

And I’m disheartened that the larger places are experiencing over-crowding and other issues. Lyndsey Dyer’s instagram has been reporting the impact of increased vehicle traffic on local wildlife, for example. Heartbreaking.

Skiing is supposed to be fun. You know what’s not fun? Figuring out how and where to ski a year in the future, in a fiscally and environmentally responsible way.
I'm with you, especially on the end of the MAX pass as an add-on to my Okemo weekday pass. Right now I'm trying to decide between the Okemo/Sunapee weekday pass or the Epic Local Pass. Might I ski a weekend? Might I travel again next year? (I liked the IKON locations better). Auuuuugh!!! :cry::cry:
 

MissySki

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I’m sad about the Max pass as well!

On a side note, don’t be so disheartened by this thread. I am a mainly weekend skier, and have not really had any crowds at all this season at Ikon resorts in New England. Perhaps I’ve had good timing, or I ski in the cold when others don’t. Not sure what the reason, but I haven’t had any issues. Just saying, I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom.
 
@Skisailor I skied Big Sky 3 years in a row and I loved how empty the slopes were. It really hurt when I had to return to the real world of crowded skiing at Mammoth.

It's disappointing that the flavor of Big Sky has changed due to the Ikon Pass. I know that BS management has a long range plan to add lifts and other facilities. I wonder if these measures will lessen the overcrowding or will just attract even more people to Big Sky. Thoughts? I guess only time will tell.
Yes. I think things are changing at Big Sky and will continue to do so. We can’t turn back time unfortunately. However I still have hope that we can grow smarter than we have been so far. I think the IKON really did catch us by surprise. I also think that the new amenities planned as part of Big Sky‘s 2025 plan will alleviate some of the problems. That said, the culture issue is the big thing. And @Christy is right, management needs to do a better job of policing all of the new problems. That will be part of the growth strategy I hope.

But most of all, Big Sky still has this amazing mountain. And even with the new crowds, it is pretty darn easy to find yourself all alone on a run. And skiing onto a lift with no line. There is also a lot of terrain that many people never ski. I would say there are plenty of wide open and uncrowded ski runs still available. What has changed is that areas that tended to already have more traffic seem to be more crowded than they were in recent years.
 

Tvan

Angel Diva
I’m sad about the Max pass as well!

On a side note, don’t be so disheartened by this thread. I am a mainly weekend skier, and have not really had any crowds at all this season at Ikon resorts in New England. Perhaps I’ve had good timing, or I ski in the cold when others don’t. Not sure what the reason, but I haven’t had any issues. Just saying, I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom.
I suppose it’s also possible that the New England resorts are inherently more crowded than western resorts, given how close we are to Major metropolitan areas. Maybe we aren't noticing as much of a relative increase in skiier traffic.
 
I also think our management was taken completely by surprise at the big increase in numbers. They need to do aLOT better at handling this next year. More staff, more parking lot trams, more restaurant options, etc. etc. etc. We were not ready for this!
Taos was also not ready for larger numbers for 2018-19, especially for MLK Week in January. Given that quite a few people were part of ski club groups, hard to tell how much impact Ikon had on the number of travelers. I heard that the singles line for Lift 1 was not managed well for MLK Weekend. That's a new detachable lift that has quite a different traffic flow than the old fixed-grip quad. However, things ran smoother by early Feb.

Transitions are not easy. But the flip side of too many newcomers is a stagnant business model that tends to go in the wrong direction for the bottom line, which is bad in the long run.

Sending in comments via email or filling out a comment card will help. Management at all levels needs to hear first hand from paying guests about issues. When I mentioned parking at Big Sky was messy during on a Friday to a staff member, the reaction was not particularly helpful. Since that person takes a local bus and is a relatively new hire, they had no idea about any problems and wasn't particularly sympathetic either. There were far more shuttles on the weekend.
 

NewEnglandSkier

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Only 50% of my skis days are in New England, but of the few days I've skied here so far this year, I haven't noticed any real increase in people.
So far I've skied at Sunapee (Epic) and Pico (Ikon partner). New England on the weekends has always seemed crowded anyway due to population density and ski areas with fewer acres than western areas.
The Ikon/Epic effect is probably stronger out west since I doubt most people who buy Epic or Ikon are buying it will the goal of traveling to New England to ski. Anyone who lives here that buys it will use some of the days at their favorite New England resorts, which they would use anyway probably. I think a lot of it has to do with the economy too. Once the next recession comes, this "problem" will self mitigate. Then we will have the opposite problem.
 

contesstant

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
The IKON has definitely changed the experience at Big Sky. But I think the ability of our vast terrain to absorb additional skiers has helped to mitigate some of the problems. There has been grumbling and ill will amongst the local and long-time Big Sky skiers and some problems with Big Sky staff - enough that it prompted an employee-wide email letter from our general manager (essentially - be nice to IKON skiers).

As someone who is on that mountain almost every day, I must say the biggest concern is not really the additional skier traffic. But there HAS been an effect on our overall "skier culture". And I think that this change has prompted more of the ill-will than just the increase in numbers. We have had a pretty laid back skier culture at BS. But the IKON explosion has brought in many more people rushing around (perhaps more used to crowded ski areas), crashing through lift lines, skiing recklessly in difficult terrain or in slow skier areas, more injuries, on mountain drunkenness, trash under lifts, etc. etc. - things that we generally weren't used to seeing alot of at Big Sky. And it has certainly not engendered good will among the locals to the newcomers. I'm not sure how this situation can be improved . . . . Of course, I hate to paint with such a broad brush. I'm sure there are many wonderful new IKON pass holders who are perfectly blending in. But my observations are undeniably real.

I also think our management was taken completely by surprise at the big increase in numbers. They need to do aLOT better at handling this next year. More staff, more parking lot trams, more restaurant options, etc. etc. etc. We were not ready for this!
I've seen this at Snowbasin thanks partly due to MCP, too. People cutting the gondola queue (which requires walking the snake of people inside the metal barriers) to catch up with their party, people over-terrained and out of control, trash on the gondolas, etc. BUT the young adult passes don't help, either. I used to love to chat on the gondola, now, I just want to be left alone and am giddy when I get on in the afternoon and have it to myself (on a weekday.)
 

Skier31

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
There has been lots of buzz in Aspen about the Ikon pass. MIke Kaplan, CEO, recently sent out a press release indicating that the Ikon Pass is only 9% of our business.

This is a record snow year and he indicated local pass use is up 40%. While I do believe the Ikon pass is responsible for more people, a fantastic snow year is also a factor in increased use.
 

rhymeandreason

Certified Ski Diva
Taos was also not ready for larger numbers for 2018-19, especially for MLK Week in January. Given that quite a few people were part of ski club groups, hard to tell how much impact Ikon had on the number of travelers. I heard that the singles line for Lift 1 was not managed well for MLK Weekend. That's a new detachable lift that has quite a different traffic flow than the old fixed-grip quad. However, things ran smoother by early Feb.

Transitions are not easy. But the flip side of too many newcomers is a stagnant business model that tends to go in the wrong direction for the bottom line, which is bad in the long run.

Sending in comments via email or filling out a comment card will help. Management at all levels needs to hear first hand from paying guests about issues. When I mentioned parking at Big Sky was messy during on a Friday to a staff member, the reaction was not particularly helpful. Since that person takes a local bus and is a relatively new hire, they had no idea about any problems and wasn't particularly sympathetic either. There were far more shuttles on the weekend.
Taos used to get a whopping 350,000 skier visits in the 90’s! Then they plummeted so low to 140,000- 150,000 that they decided to allow snowboarders in 2008. And last year they received less than 80” of snowfall. Transitions might be tough on skiers, but they are absolutely essential for ski resorts to survive. Our perceptions of “how things used to be” can be pretty short sighted and inaccurate compared to those of resort owners and operators. Skiers in the 90’s at Taos likely hated the long lift lines, skiers in the early 2000’s likely loved the empty slopes, and skiers in 2008 likely resented the arrival of snowboarders. Change is the only thing we can count on!
 

mustski

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
^^^ This is QFT. When Mammoth originally bought out BBMR, they stopped limiting the number of skiers on the mountain on the weekend; instead they instituted a $20 parking fee for any cars in the parking lot. Since anyone who had purchased a Mammoth season pass inherited BBMR gratis, it was a complete cluster of a year. It felt as if the entire LA Basin said, "well it's free so we might as well go." There was not enough parking to accommodate the number of cars arriving so folks just started to park wherever they felt like it - private driveways, side streets which blocked snow plows and traffic, small business parking lots ... The city now has to pay the Sherrif's department to direct traffic otherwise we could not get from one side of the town to the other. It has settled back down since then. It's still more crowded on the slopes because the changes Mammoth made have remained under Alterra ownership so there is no limit on the number of skiers and there is still a shortage of parking, but it is managed better. Overall though, this town welcomes tourists because it is what drives the economy. Last year's abysmal snow year reminded everyone of that fact.
 
Big Sky Resort General Manager Taylor Middleton also penned an open letter about Ikon on 3/6.

http://www.explorebigsky.com/guest-editorial-be-kind-to-ikon-pass-holders/28802
". . .
Recently, local social media channels are revealing a rash of really negative postings, shunning new visitors and treating new arrivals differently than we were treated ourselves. Sadly, I just read this message from a recent guest:

“… We’re from the UK and have been skiing in North America every year for the past 15 years. We’ve had epic passes, mountain collective, and this year we bought the Ikon base pass. We usually make 2 three week ski trips each season and love the freedom to travel and explore that the multi-centre passes give us. We’ve never encountered any negative reaction to us as holders of these sort of passes- until this year! At Big Sky they were selling bumper stickers saying ‘IKON [not] wait for you to leave’ …”

That note made me really sad because this guest did not experience the warm welcoming culture that our broad community has historically offered. A few people have been targeting these new guests with mean messages phrased around a concept that Big Sky is becoming too busy and newcomers are to blame.
. . ."


Can understand the Big Sky's GM's concern.

One day while waiting to load Ram8 (base lift, new 8-seater) there was a guy behind me who yelled "THIS LIFT IS CLOSED TO IKON PASSHOLDERS" just see if he could get a reaction. It was afternoon and the people within earshot ignored him. Afterwards I heard him tell his friend next to him that he'd done the same waiting in line for Swifty (other base lift) when it was pretty crowded. Got the impression that in that case, there were people who took him seriously, much to his delight.
 

rhymeandreason

Certified Ski Diva
^^^ This is QFT. When Mammoth originally bought out BBMR, they stopped limiting the number of skiers on the mountain on the weekend; instead they instituted a $20 parking fee for any cars in the parking lot. Since anyone who had purchased a Mammoth season pass inherited BBMR gratis, it was a complete cluster of a year. It felt as if the entire LA Basin said, "well it's free so we might as well go." There was not enough parking to accommodate the number of cars arriving so folks just started to park wherever they felt like it - private driveways, side streets which blocked snow plows and traffic, small business parking lots ... The city now has to pay the Sherrif's department to direct traffic otherwise we could not get from one side of the town to the other. It has settled back down since then. It's still more crowded on the slopes because the changes Mammoth made have remained under Alterra ownership so there is no limit on the number of skiers and there is still a shortage of parking, but it is managed better. Overall though, this town welcomes tourists because it is what drives the economy. Last year's abysmal snow year reminded everyone of that fact.
This is similar to why Arapahoe is leaving Epic, right? This might be the next wave of change - partner resorts leaving Alterra or Vail due to infrastructure overloads.

I saw an interview of Bill Jensen, CEO of Telluride. He said that Telluride received payment from Vail each day skied on an Epic pass. No surprise there. But what did surprise me is that he said they received the equivalent of the daily rate of a Telluride 5-6 day pass, which is basically only 15% off the window rate, as far as I can tell. I am surprised that they receive such a big percentage of the window rate. Maybe Telluride has a preferential rate compared to other independents, but it totally makes sense why they would partner with Vail. Perhaps they pay Vail a fee for marketing, scan technology, etc. I wonder what the other resorts partnered with Vail and Alterra get?
 

mustski

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
This is similar to why Arapahoe is leaving Epic, right? This might be the next wave of change - partner resorts leaving Alterra or Vail due to infrastructure overloads.
Unfortunately, we are not a partner but an owned property. They won't release us I am sure. Nobody really wants to own us, but they can't risk the "other mega pass" buying us out!
 

CarverJill

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
MIke Kaplan, CEO, recently sent out a press release indicating that the Ikon Pass is only 9% of our business.

This is a record snow year and he indicated local pass use is up 40%. While I do believe the Ikon pass is responsible for more people, a fantastic snow year is also a factor in increased use.
I was talking with a long time ski patrol on the gondola at Jackson about the IKON impact and he also cited a similar number that could be attributed to increased crowds due to IKON. He also mentioned the epic snow as another reason for the higher numbers Jackson is seeing. There is a lot of IKON hate at Jackson so much that there were locals in the lift line that didn't want to ride wth IKON pass holders.
 

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