If you weren’t paying attention, here’s something that may have slipped by you last week:
Vail Resorts announced that next season, 60% of Mount Snow’s parking capacity will be reserved for paid parking on weekends and holidays. (Mount Snow is one of the 12 resorts Vail owns in the northeast, including two others in Vermont: Okemo and Stowe. I’m sure paid parking is coming there, too).
For those of you in the west, this isn’t that earth shattering. Paid parking seems to be much more common at the larger resorts. But in the east, with a few exceptions and in very limited areas, it’s practically unheard of.
I can’t say I’m surprised. Drop the prices of your season passes by 20%, and you’re bound to look for other ways to make a few bucks. And if you already have people committed to skiing at your resorts, well, they have to park someplace, don’t they? So why not turn it into an income opportunity?
Still, this doesn’t mean I think this is a great idea, especially given the wording in Vail’s/Mount Snow’s announcement. I’ll reproduce it here:
As part of our ongoing effort to improve the guest experience at Mount Snow Resort, we are implementing a new parking plan for the 2021-22 winter season. Premium parking for a daily fee will be available each day in Lot A and Upper Carinthia. On weekends and holidays, Lot B, Lot C, Sundance, and Lower Carinthia will also be paid parking. Lot D, Lot E, and the Tiered Lots – which comprise nearly half of the resort’s total parking – will remain free daily, and all lots will be free after 1 p.m. throughout the season. Payment will be handled electronically through an application accessible via smartphone. These changes will help ensure faster, more efficient parking for all our valued guests, especially at our busiest times. More information coming soon.
Wait. A. Minute. Improve the guest experience?
Vail, you’ve got to be kidding.
As Stuart Winchester in The Storm Skiing Journal put it so beautifully, this sounds like something a 1950s trust-me-this-is-good-for-you TV dad would say before whooping his kid’s behind with a leather belt.
Somehow, I fail to see how this helps control crowds. What it really does is two things:
• Alienates customers. I’m not a romantic about this. You’ve got to make money to stay in business, and making money in the ski industry is hard — especially if you’re a public company beholden to shareholders and you’ve reduced your pass prices. On the other hand, you’re also selling a bazillion more passes, many of which will hardly be used. And you’re also charging a fortune for a dried out, overcooked cheeseburger in the lodge, as well as several hundred dollars for a half-day lesson. So aside from a few extra bucks, what’s to be gained here? Is it worth sacrificing the goodwill of your customers to make them schlep their gear from remote parking, steaming as they hike (or in some cases, ride the shuttle) past the premier parking spots? To make them feel like they’re being nickel and dimed, at every opportunity? Call me crazy, but I think not.
• Makes an already elite sport even more elite. Skiing has always been perceived as a sport for people with money. Sure, Vail, reduced season passes help. But factor in the cost for for equipment, lessons, lodging, and food, and skiing can cost a small fortune. Add a brand-new charge for parking into the mix, and it becomes out of reach for a lot more people . Or at least it’s perceived to be. The optics are not good.
It’s not like there’s an alternative.
Driving is really the only way we have to get to the mountains in the east. There’s no train or bus service to Mount Snow, nor is there any to Okemo or Stowe (which I’m sure will institute paid parking, as well). So Vail pretty much has us over a barrel. Sure, the resorts run shuttles from the remote parking lots. And yes, that definitely helps. But to me, it doesn’t mitigate what I’ve said above.
There’s one more, thing: Many of us have already bought our season passes for next year. So springing this on us now is well, a bit of dirty pool. It’s something a lot of people would want to know before they’ve made their purchase, because frankly, it could tip the scale a different way. So not great, Vail.
And the mic drop goes to Magic.
Magic Mountain, a small, independent resort here in Vermont, put up what I think is a mic dropping tweet about this topic. So I’ll leave you with this:
Bottom line: Vail’s slogan is the Experience of a Lifetime. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think paid parking is part of that.
And now, a word about the blog.
When I first began this blog way back in 2006, I made a vow to post something once a week, 52 weeks of the year. And since that time, I’ve pretty much managed to do just that. This is pretty easy during the winter, when there’s a lot to talk about. But during summer, it’s a bit more difficult. So this year I’ve decided to take some time off and post a bit less frequently over the off season. If I have something I’d like to write about, then yes, I’ll do it. But for the short term I’ll be making posts on a more intermittent basis. I’ll go back to my usual schedule at the end of August or the beginning of September. So stay tuned!