Vail summer parking still free in the daytime hours
Overnight charges imposed in Vail Village, Lionshead structures
Vail this year is continuing free summer parking, with the exceptions of overnight stays in the Vail Village and Lionshead structures.
In order to keep the structures from becoming summer-season vehicle storage areas, the town a few years ago imposed the overnight charge.
Vail acting division head for parking Stephanie Kashiwa noted that the overnight charge was waived in 2020 as part of the town’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The charge is back, and more expensive, this year.
Kashiwa said the overnight charge, as well as work wrapping up on the Vail Health Hospital expansion, has freed up “quite a few hundred” spaces in the structures.
There are a couple of exceptions to the overnight charge.
Guests of lodges without much parking are allowed to park in the structures. Lodges can validate parking for those guests.
Sitzmark Lodge general manager Jeanne Fritch said the system has worked well for that property, calling it a “crucial draw,” especially in the summer, since more guests drive to Vail in that season.
‘A work in progress’
Kashiwa said adding the Red Sandstone parking structure to the town’s inventory remains something of a work in progress. That structure’s parking levels are taller, and better able to accommodate tall vehicles including passenger or camper vans. The structure is also where people can park free for up to three days without charge.
People who are leaving town for a weekend, staying with friends in town or planning backpacking trips have that free option, Kashiwa said.
Other free parking is available at Ford Park, except for events. Event parking is $10.
Kashiwa noted that all the town’s structures are adjacent to bus stops. While town buses still require riders to wear face coverings — that’s a federal rule, and agencies that receive federal funds have to comply — it’s still an easy ride from a structure to anywhere else in town.
Vail Mayor Dave Chapin is also a member of the Vail Parking Task Force, an advisory board to the Vail Town Council. The council always has the final say in parking policy decisions.
Chapin said the task force this year, as in previous years, had conversations about charging for all summer parking.
But, as in years past, “the appetite wasn’t there” for the move, Chapin said.
Chapin, long a proponent of free summer parking, noted that some task force members would like to see at least nominal charges for summer parking, arguing that if the town’s structures are full, guests won’t come to town.
“There’s starting to be a little bit of an understanding that charging (for parking) in the summer may be inevitable,” Chapin said.
But this isn’t the year.
And, Chapin added, any future summer parking system will have to accommodate employees in town. It’s something resort village employers continually lobby for.
“We hear about it from merchants and locals — no local wants to pay to park,” Chapin said.
In addition, many see free summer parking as an incentive for guests to come.
But, Chapin added, the profile of Vail’s guests and residents is changing.
“There’s a new group of people moving to Colorado, and a lot of them have a lot of money,” Chapin said. Those moving to Colorado and Vail are long accustomed to paying for parking.
“If you’re from Miami, New York, Denver (and other cities), you pay to park,” he said.
The task force generally meets a couple of times per year. Chapin said he expects that group to “heavily discuss” this summer’s activity when it meets again.
Any car parked overnight in the Vail Village or Lionshead parking structures is charged $35.
People can park up to 72 hours for free in the Red Sandstone parking structure.
Those who enter the Vail Village or Lionshead structures after 3 p.m. and leave before 11 a.m. the next day can have the overnight fee waived at the town’s welcome centers if they left a vehicle in order not to drive drunk.
Oversize vehicles can park for free along North Frontage Road across from the West Vail Mall.
For more information, go to vailgov.com.