Vail frontage road parking: Good or bad?
VAIL, Colorado ” The equation is unequivocal in Vail ” snow plus sun plus Saturday equals cars. Lots of cars. Enough to fill the thousands of spaces in Vail’s public garages and line four or five miles of roads.
Last Saturday was one of those days, when almost 1,000 cars lined Vail’s frontage road, stretching from West Vail to the end of Vail’s golf course in East Vail.
Many say those days are great for Vail, a testament to its popularity. But others are troubled by Vail’s frontage road turning into a veritable parking lot.
“I think our guests expect more than parking a mile, two miles away from town,” said Tom Higgins, owner of American Ski Exchange, a Vail Village ski shop. “That was horrible Saturday.”
People who are trying to shop at Vail Village businesses are deterred by the lack of parking, Higgins said. He suggested that Vail add on to its Vail Village parking structure.
“Why not raise it two or three more stories?” he said.
The official count was 989 cars on the frontage road Saturday. Vail must get permission from the Colorado Department of Transportation to park cars on the frontage road. It was the ninth day a “parking emergency” was declared this winter, forcing Vail to park cars on the road.
That number is more than twice as high as it was last year at this time, and officials attribute the increase to the great snow Vail has gotten so far this year.
“It’s a good problem to have,” said Town Manager Stan Zemler. “Would you rather have your parking structure half-empty and not have a parking problem or have the problem of having a lot of people here enjoying what we have to offer?”
Councilman Mark Gordon called it a “parking challenge” rather than a problem, saying the overflows are a function of the great snow.
“It’s July 4 at the beach every day,” he said.
There are plans in Vail for more public parking, and officials say that will cut down on the frontage-road-parking days. Officials estimate that Vail needs 1,000 more parking spaces now.
A parking garage at Vail Resorts’ Ever Vail, the village planned for West Lionshead, will have at least 400 skier parking spaces. If the proposed redevelopment of the Lionshead parking structure happens, another 400 spaces will be added there, too.
The possibility of putting a parking garage at Ford Park and replacing playing fields on top of it remains. That option might become more urgent if the parking at either Ever Vail or Lionshead doesn’t materialize, Zemler said.
Vail has about 1,200 spaces in the Vail Village garage and 1,150 spaces in the Lionshead garage. Various other lots around town up provide several hundreds additional spaces.
Buzz Schleper, owner of Buzz’s Ski Shop in Vail Village, said the frontage road parking doesn’t really bother him, and it does show Vail’s popularity. He suggested something that he sees at other ski areas ” finding a bigger, outlying parking lot and busing people to the mountain
“They definitely need more parking, for sure,” Schleper said.
But Robert Aikens, owner of Verbatim Booksellers in Vail Village, said Vail’s parking problem isn’t that bad, especially with the frontage road for backup.
“I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, personally,” he said.
Many of his customers park after 3 p.m., when it’s free, he said.
Kaye Ferry, executive director of the Vail Chamber and Business Association, said she views lots of frontage road parking as a negative. Local shoppers can’t find parking here, and often skip Vail altogether for more accessible retail destinations, she said.
Vail Resorts has committed to give the town of Vail $4.3 million for parking, an agreement that dates back to old plans for a conference center in West Lionshead. The town still hasn’t figured out how to use that money.
The town needs to pressure Vail Resorts to build more parking, Ferry said. Nonetheless, parking ” like housing ” will never be solved here, Ferry said.
“We’re always going to have parking and housing issues,” she said.