Crowds relatively tame for snowy holiday weekend in Vail
Half the snow, half the amount of cars parked on the frontage road
VAIL — Crowds still gathered well in advance of the lifts opening on Saturday, but the line on Bridge Street didn’t extend quite as long as a week ago.
The Gondola One liftline profile on Vail Mountain has been updated this season to send the maze’s overflow traffic down Bridge Street rather than toward Golden Peak, as it has in years past.
Last year, as guests filled the ski road between Vail and Golden Peak, pictures of long liftlines at Gondola One went viral.
So far this year, the longest report of a backup on the new Bridge Street overflow line has been just outside of the Covered Bridge. On Saturday, the line didn’t make it to Meadow Drive.
Letter writers to the Vail Daily have had fun with the Bridge Street backups.
“I remember when you had to park in the village structure and take a long and strenuous walk up Bridge Street to the gondola line,” wrote Chris Mech on Feb. 9. “But last Saturday, guests needed only to walk down the stairs, and there was the line right there by the covered bridge! ’Epic’ convenience I say!”
On the Saturday referenced by Mech, Feb. 6, Vail had reported 13 inches of fresh snow. There was 529 cars parked on the Frontage Road that day, the town reported.
A week later, this President’s Day weekend, there was more fresh snow reported, but this time a little less than half of the total from the previous Saturday with 6 inches on the snow stake.
In a similar proportional juxtaposition, a little less than half the total of cars recorded Feb. 6 were recorded on the Frontage Road for Feb. 13. Parking Supervisor Kalli Norris said Vail recorded 248 cars on Saturday.
Norris pointed out that the Vail Resorts’ Epic Local Pass, as well as the Merchant Pass, were restricted on Saturday and Sunday, which could have contributed to the reduction in parked cars.
Other ski resorts reported crowds both last weekend and this weekend, as well.
Citing high prices at other places, Florida tourist Kim Viera said she chose to visit Sunlight Mountain in Glenwood because “there’s just nowhere else to go.”
“With the pack and the deals, we ski for, like, $45 a day, versus $180, $200 at Steamboat,” Viera told the Glenwood Post Independent on Saturday.
A one-day ticket for Vail, purchased on the same day of use, was $229 as of Sunday. But few people waiting in line on Saturday had purchased their pass that day.
Vail coined the idea of the megapass in the 2008-09 season when it released its Epic Pass for $579. The pass worked at six ski areas in North America, including Vail, and had little in the way of competition from similar passes.
Twelve years later, the Epic Pass now works at 34 ski areas in North America, and costs roughly $1,000. As of the last few years, it has a competing product in the Ikon Pass from Alterra Mountain Company.
In Steamboat, the long lines experienced on Feb. 6 prompted many to assume Steamboat’s participation in the Ikon Pass is to blame for the crowds.
“Steamboat has definitely gotten busier since it’s become an Ikon pass resort, and I don’t know how I feel about that,” part-time Steamboat resident Dan Snyder was quoted as saying in an article in the Steamboat Pilot & Today.
But non-megapass ski areas are seeing record crowds, as well. Last weekend, the backup parking lot at Sunlight Mountain filled and people had to park on the county road leading to the ski area.
Sunlight Sales Director Troy Hawks told the Post Independent that for the first time in the small ski area’s history, single-day lift tickets were sold out over the President’s Day weekend. (Sales are limited this season due to COVID-19 precautions.)
Holiday visitors started visiting Vail for the President’s Day holiday weekend on Friday; both parking structures were full by noon on Friday with 171 cars spilled out onto the South Frontage Road, Norris said.
For the Monday holiday, Blue Parking Pass holders will not be allowed in the Vail Village structure and will be directed to the Lionshead parking structure for one-day only, instead.
Value card holders will pay the peak rate on Monday in the Vail Village and Lionshead parking structures, as well.
“Value card pricing for levels 3 and 4 at the Red Sandstone parking garage will be $10 for Vail Value card holders and $15 for Eagle County Value card holders Friday through Monday during the holiday weekend,” according to a news release issued by the town of Vail. “The price is $5 and $10, respectively, Monday through Thursday for the remainder of the season.”