Vail gondola cost stirs concerns
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Vail Resorts’ decision to charge people to ride the gondola after 4 p.m. this summer isn’t sitting well with Lionshead business owners who are worried the move will affect foot traffic through the area.
“It’s a (public relations) mistake,” said Adam Hart, the rental manager at the Double Diamond Ski and Sport Shop.
Vail Resorts, like any business, has to watch its costs and bottom line. Vail Mountain spokeswoman Liz Biebl said she couldn’t comment on the costs of the gondola operations because Vail Resorts is a publicly traded company, but said that Vail Resorts “wanted to continue to offer scenic gondola rides to guests in the evenings this summer and found the $5 ticket charge with $10 dining or activities credit after 4 p.m. to be a good compromise to generate the revenue needed to do so,” she said.
All 2009-10 and 2010-11 season ski passes are valid for free summer gondola rides, but non-season pass holders have to pay $15 in advance and will receive a $10 credit to Adventure Ridge or Talon’s Deck. The credit is valid for the purchase of food or alcohol.
Local business owners and managers say they understand that costs are a concern, but eliminating the free rides after 4 p.m. have consequences on everyone in Lionshead.
“Who’s going to pay $15 to go for a scenic ride at the end of the day?” said Jeff Wahouske, the bar manager at Garfinkel’s.
Wahouske said he thinks people will see there’s a charge and will end up leaving. He just hopes the people stay in Lionshead and head to Garfinkel’s or other local bars.
Dennis Foley, who owns Bart and Yeti’s, said foot traffic is very important for the businesses in Lionshead. He thinks eliminating the free rides after 4 p.m. could eliminate a lot of that traffic.
“Everyone is trying to make a living here,” Foley said. “We’d love to see Vail Resorts working with the local businesses here.”
Local resident Andrew Teichman wrote a letter to the Vail Daily this week saying he often brings out-of-town guests to Lionshead to ride the gondola after 4 p.m. The visit would result in the group eating dinner at one of the local restaurants or buying souveniers, he said.
“Value-conscious summer visitors don’t want to spend $30-$60 to see the view,” Teichman wrote. “Even if they’ll get a small voucher toward an overpriced on-mountain meal or drink. Same goes for the cost of bike hauls.”
Foley said Teichman’s letter was the talk of his restaurant Monday. He said locals throughout the day commented on how they agreed.
“(Teichman) hit it right on the head,” Foley said.
Foley said he can see Vail Resorts’ points on the costs, but there should be some kind of compromise.
Employees at Charlie’s T-shirts said the gondola rides after 4 p.m. should be free, but if they have to cost something it should be less than $15.
Matt Toth, manager at Vail Bike Tech, thinks the move could hurt Vail Resorts. He thinks the mountain-top Friday Afternoon Club event is going to suffer because of the gondola fee.
Matt Carroll, the general manager at Double Diamond Ski and Sport Shop, said he’s already seen upset people who have been surprised at the new fees.
“People are so used to (free rides after 4 p.m.),” Carroll said. “It’s kind of a tradition.”
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.