Vail changes parking rate structure, pass prices ahead of ski season
Changes aimed at managing peak days, reducing frontage road overflow, meeting climate goals and more
With packed parking lots, cars lining the frontage roads as well as safety concerns and sustainability goals to consider, the Vail Town Council this week approved changes to its parking rates and passes ahead of the 2022-23 ski season.
“Parking is not easy,” said Greg Hall, the town’s director of public works and transportation, at the Sept. 20 Town Council meeting, adding that it touches on the town’s four focus areas of community, economics, experience and environmental sustainability.
“It’s always a balancing act and there’s no winners and losers, it’s really compromise all the way through,” he added.
This winter, the town hopes to meet several objectives with changes to its parking program. This includes managing peak days through the increased rates and offers of additional modes of transportation and parking locations; reducing the number of overflow days on the frontage roads; filling outlying lots in town and improving overall safety in the town.
Over the past four ski seasons, the town has seen an increase in the number of overflow days on the South Frontage Road. In the 2021-22 season, this overflow parking was used 53 days — up from 35 days in the 2020-21 and 2018-19 seasons. However, in order to align with the agreements it has with the Colorado Department of Transportation as well as its climate action goals, the town is aiming to only utilize this parking for 15 days in the upcoming season.
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Additionally, Hall reported to council that during last year’s ski season, which spanned 174 days, the Vail Village structure filled 67 times.
“When you do fill your structures that much, you start to close access to our businesses, our towns and things like that,” he said.
The Vail Town Council approved its new parking program at its Tuesday, Oct. 4 meeting. The program was based on recommendations from a parking and mobility task force created earlier in the year, which was comprised of representatives from the retail, restaurant and lodging communities as well as the town’s community-at-large, Vail Resorts, Town Council and the sustainability community.
Starting this upcoming ski season — which for Vail Mountain is scheduled to start on Nov. 11 — this program includes changes to the town’s rate structure as well as to the parking passes it offers for locals, employees and employers.
In order to address some of the parking overflow and congestion, the plan establishes two-tier rates for its non-peak and peak days. For the upcoming winter — of the projected 164-days in the ski season, 51 will be considered “peak” days.
Primarily, these peak days include all Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays starting in mid-December through March as well as a number of holidays such as Martin Luther King Day and Presidents Day that are also “blackout dates” on certain ski passes.
The plan also establishes a number of rate increases, with rates determined based on whether you hold a pass, what pass you hold, where you park and whether it’s a peak or non-peak day.
The retail rate for the Lionshead and Vail Village structures — that is for non-pass holders — for the first hour will remain free during all peak and non-peak days. On peak days, the next hour will start at $10 an hour, increasing to a maximum price of $40. This is an increase of around $10 an hour from last year’s rate. On non-peak days, the second hour will be $5, increasing to a maximum of $30 after four hours.
Regardless of if it’s a peak or non-peak day, retail parking rates for overnight parking in the structures will be set at $60 and will be free after 3 p.m.
The town is also adding retail rates at the Red Sandstone, Ford Park and soccer parking lots for this winter. On both non-peak and peak days, the first two hours will be free. However, parking there for an additional two to 16 hours will cost $10 on non-peak days and $20 on peak days.
As with previous years, the town will offer passes for locals, employees and employers. However, there will be an increase in the rate for some of these passes as well as a rebranding and renaming of the passes.
In order to ease possible confusion with the changes, the town is planning to reach out to businesses in the village core that have traditionally purchased passes as well as plans to host two in-person pass sign-up assistance days in mid-October for locals and employees.
Pass sales will open up to the public on Oct. 31 through a new online portal.
There will be six different types of passes offered this winter:
- Premier pass (formerly the gold pass) for $5,500;
- Business premier (formerly the silver pass) for $2,200;
- Employee Plus (formerly the blue pass) for $1,850 with a maximum of 300 sold for employees only;
- Employee (formerly the pink pass) for $425;
- Vail Local Pass (formerly the value card) for $25; and
- Eagle County Local Pass (also formerly the value card) for $50.
For all pass holders, parking in the Lionshead and Vail Village structures will be free from 5 to 9 a.m. — regardless of the day — as long as the pass holder is out of the structure by 9 a.m.
Rates vary based on the pass and day, but the benefits of the locals passes — both for Eagle County and Vail locals — will include $5 off the peak daily maximum rate, 50% off non-peak rates, 50% off outlying daily rates on both peak and non-peak rates and more.
While this year’s changes are meant to achieve certain town objectives and goals, the hope is also that pass sales will give the town more parking data to drive parking plans and improvements in the future.
“The bigger thing is really getting data; the value is really getting a lot of people on the pass program so that we can ideally be talking about this every two months or every three months and kind of start to understand what’s working, what’s not working,” said Mayor Pro Tem Travis Coggin on Oct. 4. “I want to make sure that we’re making some really data-driven decisions, and helping change that consumer behavior based on something, whereas right now, I feel like a little bit of it is anecdotal — we do have some info, but I think this is really a step in the right direction.”