To the head of the lift line
The U.S. Forest Service will permit Copper Mountain to continue a controversial preferred-access program, enabling skiers and boarders who pay for a premium pass to board certain lifts via a dedicated line. The pass also provides early access to some lifts."I’ve decided to make it available for one more year," says Steve Deitemeyer, acting White River National Forest Supervisor. "They’ve made the ticket more available to a broader range of outlets," he adds, explaining that the increased availability addressed some of the Forest Service concerns about the deal. "It really comes down to being able to offer another way to market the mountain."Copper has agreed to include questions about the Beeline Advantage Pass as part of its customer surveys to help gauge public reaction, Deitemeyer says. The Forest Service and the resort will evaluate the results of that survey at the end of the season.Previously, forest supervisor Martha Ketelle said the resort must show a public need for the proposed activity. The Forest Service must determine whether the activity is consistent with the purposes for which the national forest lands in question are managed, determine whether it is an appropriate use of Forest Service lands, and finally, determine whether the proposed activity is in the public interest, Ketelle wrote in a letter to the resort.Asked whether Copper had met those criteria, Deitemeyer says the Beeline Advantage Pass is "part of a range" of prices that allows Copper to offer a $239 season pass, thereby presumably benefiting the general public. "There would be a certain portion of the public that would take advantage of this based on the time they have available," Deitemeyer says. "There are people who would pay for those advantages.""We’ve worked really closely to the Forest Service to make sure it’s available to everybody," says Copper spokesman Ben Friedland. "If it’s something that our guests say they want, we’ll try and continue it next season," he adds.The premium pass drew ferocious fire from some critics, who charged that it establishes precedent for an elitist, multi-tiered system of access to public lands based on the ability to pay. But resort and Forest Service officials say the program is not much different from "first tracks" programs offered at other resorts, or from the preference given to ski school customers, who also are able to access lifts via a special line.In a letter to the Forest Service, Copper’s operations VP Jim Spenst, wrote that the public need for the program is demonstrated by its popularity. Last season, the special pass was used 43,000 times."Our resort guests want to make the most of their limited leisure and recreation time. The Beeline Advantage program improves the quality of experience for guests who value convenience, ease of access and shorter lift lines," Spenst wrote.The pass is included with lodging packages booked through Copper Mountain Reservations. Resort officials previously said the deal is aimed at rewarding destination visitors, sought after at all resorts because they spend substantially more money per person, per day than brown-bagging Front Rangers.Other resort guests can buy a Beeline upgrade for their tickets at the current window rate or at a walk-up rate of $124 per day. A season pass version is available to anyone for $999.
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