Vail Mountain closing at 3:30 p.m. in a break from the norm, but resort says 4 p.m. closing still possible this spring
Daylight savings Sunday altered clocks across the country, but one adjustment that did not occur was a switch to a 4 p.m. closing time at Vail, which often happens on the mountain.
Guests at the resort have grown accustomed to Vail Mountain transitioning to a spring operating schedule in February or March, with the majority of front-side lifts closing at 4 p.m., the Back Bowls and Game Creek Bowl closing at 3:30 p.m. and Blue Sky Basin closing at 3 p.m.
But that transition did not happen this year, leaving some guests questioning the rationale behind the earlier closing time.
It’s worth noting that Vail Resorts underwent an increase in labor costs for the 2022-23 season, a $175 million investment that occurred after understaffed areas of the company took a toll on profits in Vail Resorts’ ancillary businesses like ski school, dining, rentals and retail during the 2021-22 season. The company responded with an across-the-board increase in its minimum wage, offering at least $20 per hour to all who work on the mountain this year.
The wage increase created some unexpected expenses for the company, something addressed by CEO Kirstin Lynch on Thursday during a call with investors.
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“We made a very deliberate investment in our employees — we invested $175 million in staffing and wages, and we have not changed that investment, we are fully committed to that investment,” Lynch said. “We do see other cost impacts, though, directly related to the severe weather disruptions in the East, as well as in Tahoe, because the impact of the severe weather, when it limits or constrains or impacts our business operations, can drive costs up in the form of more snowmaking, more grooming and the related labor associated with that.”
Those costs were not something the company was planning for, Lynch said.
“We always budget for normal, and I would say the East and Tahoe have been dramatically abnormal,” she said.
Vail skier Sean Delaney said the increased labor costs occurred to him as he noticed the earlier closing time, but said the end-of-season celebration atop Chair 4 also came to mind.
“Four at 3:30 just doesn’t have the same ring to it,” Delaney said. “But I don’t think that’s going to stop anybody from having a good time.”
From Vail Mountain’s public relations department, the increased labor costs and end-of-season reveling were not cited as reasons for the adjustment (or lack of) in the resort’s operating hours. And Vail Mountain spokesperson John Plack said a switch to the traditional 4 p.m. closing is still possible for this season.
“Every year our operations team looks at a variety of factors when assessing the late season operating plan, including snowpack, weather, skier patterns and more,” Plack said. “We’re currently operating from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. We’ll make sure to communicate any changes to this schedule so guests and the community can plan accordingly.”
The earlier closing time is particularly disappointing to nearby Red Sandstone Elementary students who make a beeline to the lifts after getting out at 2:55 p.m., hoping to get in some skiing after a day in school.
Beaver Creek is currently operating on an 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule and will remain that way for the rest of the season, Plack said.
Beaver Creek will operate through April 16; Vail Mountain plans to close following the ski day on April 23.