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Overcrowding at Epic and Ikon resorts

Just skimming through this thread...it all seems anecdotal. I would be interested in real data about number of skiers, pass holders, etc. as well as numbers related to holiday periods, weather, and conditions.
Not too likely to ever get hard numbers for the number of Epic and Ikon users. Although of course Vail Resorts and Alterra, as well as the independent partners know exactly what they are. Or at least those that make use of RFID should. For a given region, the trends are pretty obvious though.

Warning . . . data and history geek thinking below.

In terms of snow conditions, it's possible to get historical data for the last 10-20 years for specific resorts. However, another factor that is harder to quantify is the marketing reach that the multi-resort passes provide in the age of social media and smartphones. Who knew about the first Epic pass in 2008? How did people learn about it's existence? Did those who were season pass holders at the three midwest ski resorts bought by Vail have any idea about the Epic pass at the time of the purchases? Were there NY Times or Washington Post or Bloomberg articles about Epic in 2008?

It took a few years for the Mountain Collective Pass to get the word out after the first season (2012-13, 4 destinations). Same for the Intrawest Passport that evolved into the Max Pass, which went away after Alterra came onto the ski industry scene.

What's also unknown as hard numbers is the data for the ski resorts that compete directly with the destination resorts in a given region. Presumably the number of people on the slopes has been higher this season where it's been snowing steadily all winter. I heard someone knowledgeable about Waterville Valley (involved with set up for the major race events) say that there has been the longest period of good snow conditions in recent weeks than he can remember in a long time. On Wed, March 13, there were over 15 quad chairs that loaded right after opening at 9:00. Granted, some of those eager folks were part of the senior club but there were people of all ages throughout the day.
 

rhymeandreason

Certified Ski Diva
We talk about it here.
http://www.theskidiva.com/forums/in...crowded-if-skiing-is-losing-popularity.23250/

A lot of us live in western cities that have grown tremendously in recent years. For us, the slopes are just attracting way more people than ever. And a lot of us ski at places that are now on these passes. Skier numbers may be flat overall, but they aren't flat at ski areas near western cities.
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.
Table of skier visits per year broken out by region. Note that the visits to resorts in the Rockies have been stable since 2006/07. I would have expected more bumps due to how good the season was and the Winter Olympics effect.

http://www.nsaa.org/media/303945/visits.pdf
 
I think it's possible for regionwide/nationwide visitation to be stable and for some resorts--the ones where many of us ski--to be more crowded than ever. (One of my bellweathers is parking. Stevens Pass used to fill up once in a blue moon. It fills regularly now. Crystal never used to but they are starting to on a powder day. People need to keep an eye on Twitter now for parking updates because when the lots are full, they are full--there's nowhere else to go). With Stevens newly on Epic and Crystal newly on Ikon, it's hard to see how this won't get worse). That's another worry that people have about these passes--that they will hurt smaller ski areas as they funnel more people to others.
 

snowski/swimmouse

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I, for one, am loyal to my little mountains both New England and North Carolina....

I'm NOT impressed with Ikon only giving 5 days to resorts; If I'm going to pay to fly somewhere, I've got to ski SIX days (Sun-Fri).!
 
Table of skier visits per year broken out by region. Note that the visits to resorts in the Rockies have been stable since 2006/07. I would have expected more bumps due to how good the season was and the Winter Olympics effect.

http://www.nsaa.org/media/303945/visits.pdf
Do you happen to know how much data the consultant for NSAA gets from major players like Vail or Alterra?

Useful data in any case, but not sure it's a true census or just a very large "sample" of U.S. ski resorts/areas.
 
I'm NOT impressed with Ikon only giving 5 days to resorts; If I'm going to pay to fly somewhere, I've got to ski SIX days (Sun-Fri).!
Of course, the business answer from the Alterra perspective is that then you should consider the Full Ikon that includes 7 days. :smile:

For some intermediates or families planning a ski vacation, 5 days works because they need to travel on weekends plus have a day of rest in the middle of the ski week.

I've noticed that many ski club trips include a rest day in terms of lift tickets. Meaning travel Sat, ski Sun-Tue, rest Wed, ski Thu-Fri, and travel Sat.
 

snowski/swimmouse

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I could never pay lodging to make a full Ikon Pass worth it. I WILL get 6 days at Steamboat each December and ~maybe~ one or two weeks more AT MOST. Even though I buy an Okemo midweek pass each year, savings for me would be minimal at most and NOT worth it without that 6th day.
This whole plan is only costing me way more money and ruining my formerly family atmosphere at Okemo. : ( I'm now stuck with paying for "buddy" passes which I will ~never~ use.
 

rhymeandreason

Certified Ski Diva
Do you happen to know how much data the consultant for NSAA gets from major players like Vail or Alterra?

Useful data in any case, but not sure it's a true census or just a very large "sample" of U.S. ski resorts/areas.

Both Vail and Alterra are NSAA members. NSAA, according to their website, represents 90% of the ski areas in the US, including Boyne, Powdr, Jackson Hole, Aspen, Peak, etc. I’m sure it’s not perfect, but at least it’s data as opposed to a gut feeling or eyeballing the parking lot.

The only other hard data we have seen is from the letters from Aspen, Jackson and Alta. Those are private companies, so they have no obligation to release numbers, but I think that Vail should. I’ll take a look at their annual report to see if they do.

I agree that we should question the data! It can be misleading.
 
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Abbi

Angel Diva
I could never pay lodging to make a full Ikon Pass worth it. I WILL get 6 days at Steamboat each December and ~maybe~ one or two weeks more AT MOST. Even though I buy an Okemo midweek pass each year, savings for me would be minimal at most and NOT worth it without that 6th day.
This whole plan is only costing me way more money and ruining my formerly family atmosphere at Okemo. : ( I'm now stuck with paying for "buddy" passes which I will ~never~ use.
You can still buy a midweek pass for Okemo.
 

snowski/swimmouse

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I have, but it cost me $40 more and I was told it was for "buddy passes". I'm a single and anyone I ski with already has their own more used pass. Living 1,000 miles away, I just don't get that many days...
 
Maybe there are divas with buddy passes at other hills you would be interested in skiing you could trade with? Alternatively, there might be divas who would be willing to compensate you for a buddy pass, but be ok with not skiing together if you don’t want to.
 
This is Crystal's first full year on the pass. A Crystal season pass used to be $950. The base Ikon Pass was $649 (Crystal doesn't have blackout dates so there was no reason for most Crystal skiers to buy the unlimited pass). That's a big difference. I never got a Crystal pass but did get an Ikon to ski Crystal. As did, I think, a bazillion other folks in the Puget Sound area. There's also just plain old population growth, but I suspect the cheaper Ikon pass hooked a lot of people. Parking is limited, but has always been adequate save for a few powder days each year. They used to give you a free ticket for another visit if parking was full when you arrived, so you know it didn't happen that often or to that many people.

But this year they've been overwhelmed. People were stopped on the road and in traffic for hours today (and still got turned around due to parking at capacity) and last weekend. Facebook is full of comments from people that spent 5 hours in the car only to get turned around before the access road. I suspect what has happened is not that we have tourists coming now, but that we ALL bought Ikon passes due to the low price, and everyone wants to use them. People are furious. I don't know how they are going to figure this out. They have started bus shuttles from Enumclaw (~45 minutes away), which is good, but since the road is only one lane in each direction the buses also get stuck in traffic. And they are limited.

It will be interesting to see how Alterra handles this, or if they even feel like they need to. Does anyone else know of cases like this? Where it might be locals swarming an Alterra or Epic resort due to a cheaper pass?
 
This is Crystal's first full year on the pass. A Crystal season pass used to be $950. The base Ikon Pass was $649 (Crystal doesn't have blackout dates so there was no reason for most Crystal skiers to buy the unlimited pass). That's a big difference. I never got a Crystal pass but did get an Ikon to ski Crystal. As did, I think, a bazillion other folks in the Puget Sound area. There's also just plain old population growth, but I suspect the cheaper Ikon pass hooked a lot of people. Parking is limited, but has always been adequate save for a few powder days each year. They used to give you a free ticket for another visit if parking was full when you arrived, so you know it didn't happen that often or to that many people.

But this year they've been overwhelmed. People were stopped on the road and in traffic for hours today (and still got turned around due to parking at capacity) and last weekend. Facebook is full of comments from people that spent 5 hours in the car only to get turned around before the access road. I suspect what has happened is not that we have tourists coming now, but that we ALL bought Ikon passes due to the low price, and everyone wants to use them. People are furious. I don't know how they are going to figure this out. They have started bus shuttles from Enumclaw (~45 minutes away), which is good, but since the road is only one lane in each direction the buses also get stuck in traffic. And they are limited.

It will be interesting to see how Alterra handles this, or if they even feel like they need to. Does anyone else know of cases like this? Where it might be locals swarming an Alterra or Epic resort due to a cheaper pass?
Sounds similar to what happened at Solitude last season once the powder storms kicked in. What's new there for 2019-20 is that there is no free parking but an Ikon pass is also a UTA bus pass. Seems like the first season Stowe was on the Epic Pass there were plenty of parking snafus. For a local adult, the cost went from around $2000 to $600/$800. I would guess there were some locals who bought an Epic Pass who didn't have a Stowe season pass the previous season. Especially since there are so many other ski areas within early driving distance in Vermont.

A powder day on a Saturday . . . seems to be a zoo pretty much anywhere these days. After a few midweek powder days that working folks couldn't enjoy. Plus the overall snowpack was lower than average not that long ago. It's too easy for people to find out the snow forecast a day or two in advance.

OpenSnow snowfall history for Crystal, WA as of Jan. 11, 2020
Screen Shot 2020-01-11 at 7.34.48 PM.png
 
It's a little soon to say for sure, but a spokesperson for Solitude thinks the paid parking approach is helping. The new policy was announced back in the fall. But quite possible some people are only starting to ski more now that the holiday period is over.

Jan 2020, KPCW
Solitude Mountain Resort Institutes Paid Parking To Help Reduce Canyon Traffic
" . . .
The Utah Transit Authority ski bus has increased trips in Big Cottonwood canyon by 28 % this season. Ikon pass holders and Solitude employee pass holders can ride for free. Solitude has invested in four-15 passenger shuttles to facilitate moving employees up and down the canyon. Huey says weather conditions are variable and she can’t say if the paid parking will prevent traffic jams in the canyon.

“In the Little and Big Cottonwood canyons, traffic has been an issue for years. The resorts as well as other interested entities, Cottonwood Canyons Foundation and so forth have instituted different policies. You know this one was always on the table but after last season being such an amazing season, both with snow and I think a lot of pent up demand, after a poor snow season, we just knew we had to do something. And, Huey said, not just something, but [consider] every option that was possibly at our disposal. And so, we worked for a number of months to put together a comprehensive transportation package and from what I've seen so far it really is making a difference.”

Huey says UTA is seeing increased demand and she hopes they will build more park and ride lots to help move people to choose transit. While Solitude is the first ski resort in Utah to charge for parking, she says it’s very common in California and Colorado.
. . ."
 

ddskis

Certified Ski Diva
It was a total zoo at Stevens today too! Thankfully we went yesterday, but it was still more crowded than I’ve seen on a Friday in some time. It’s positively nuking snow in PNW right now. Crazy folks parking on the side of the highway and troopers ticketing and towing cars. Both major passes closed off/on throughout the day. Population explosion and limited options.
 
It was a total zoo at Stevens today too! Thankfully we went yesterday, but it was still more crowded than I’ve seen on a Friday in some time. It’s positively nuking snow in PNW right now. Crazy folks parking on the side of the highway and troopers ticketing and towing cars. Both major passes closed off/on throughout the day. Population explosion and limited options.
Do you think that there were people who didn't ski over the holidays due to lift lines driving to Stevens this weekend? I can imagine someone who stopped skiing around Dec. 20 who has been seeing all the new snow in recent days but had to go back to work or school on Jan. 6 would be totally jazzed to get back on the slopes ASAP, whether Friday or Saturday, Jan. 10-11. According to OpenSnow there was 18" on 1/6 and then 10" on 1/8.

Can't remember which month, but last season there were periods when the powder days were on weekends, not midweek. For places with a higher percentage of day trippers, that has to be a factor when it comes to parking issues.

How was visibility on Fri, 1/10? Driving conditions?
 
This is Crystal's first full year on the pass. A Crystal season pass used to be $950. The base Ikon Pass was $649 (Crystal doesn't have blackout dates so there was no reason for most Crystal skiers to buy the unlimited pass). That's a big difference. I never got a Crystal pass but did get an Ikon to ski Crystal. As did, I think, a bazillion other folks in the Puget Sound area. There's also just plain old population growth, but I suspect the cheaper Ikon pass hooked a lot of people. Parking is limited, but has always been adequate save for a few powder days each year. They used to give you a free ticket for another visit if parking was full when you arrived, so you know it didn't happen that often or to that many people.

But this year they've been overwhelmed. People were stopped on the road and in traffic for hours today (and still got turned around due to parking at capacity) and last weekend. Facebook is full of comments from people that spent 5 hours in the car only to get turned around before the access road. I suspect what has happened is not that we have tourists coming now, but that we ALL bought Ikon passes due to the low price, and everyone wants to use them. People are furious. I don't know how they are going to figure this out. They have started bus shuttles from Enumclaw (~45 minutes away), which is good, but since the road is only one lane in each direction the buses also get stuck in traffic. And they are limited.

It will be interesting to see how Alterra handles this, or if they even feel like they need to. Does anyone else know of cases like this? Where it might be locals swarming an Alterra or Epic resort due to a cheaper pass?
I saw some of these complaints on the Ikon pass holders group on Facebook, yikes! I’d be really upset if I spent 5 hrs trying to get to a ski area like that!
 
It was a total zoo at Stevens today too! Thankfully we went yesterday, but it was still more crowded than I’ve seen on a Friday in some time. It’s positively nuking snow in PNW right now. Crazy folks parking on the side of the highway and troopers ticketing and towing cars. Both major passes closed off/on throughout the day. Population explosion and limited options.

Omg parking on the highway? Uhh yeah you are going to get ticketed and towed! Honestly I think Stevens has been a zoo for years and I haven't skied there for a long time because of that, but I can't imagine how much worse its gotten with population growth. These kind of crowds are newer for Crystal though.

The comparisons with Solitude and Stowe are interesting. It sounds like this scenario has played out before. As much as I hate corporations nickeling and diming us to death on our public lands, maybe paid parking is the way to go. Along with more buses, that is. That is a great idea to add the cost of a bus or shuttle onto the icon pass.
 
Similar deal today. Crystal got state patrol out to wave people off the highway just past Enumclaw (After you go through Enumclaw, really the only place the highway goes is Crystal Mountain. It's closed for the winter at the Crystal Mountain turn off).

20200112_095205.jpg
 
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