Vail parking: ‘We’ve got a problem’ |

Vail parking: ‘We’ve got a problem’

Dominique Taylor/Daily file photoSkier parking overflowed onto the frontage road 48 times this year, the most since Vail started counting in the early '90s.

VAIL, Colorado ” More times than ever this year ” 48 days ” skiers’ cars overflowed to Vail’s frontage roads.

That overflow parking, which happens when the town’s garages fill, is inconvenient and dangerous for skiers, officials say.

And with a new parking garage at Ever Vail still several years away, the town and the resort are scrambling to find extra parking spaces in the interim.

“We’ve got a problem, and it’s the weakest part of our guest experience,” said Chris Jarnot, chief operating officer of Vail Mountain, at Vail’s Parking Task Force meeting.

The town aims to limit frontage-road parking days to 15.

The allure of great snow probably had a lot to do with all the cars on the frontage roads this season ” Vail saw the second or third snowiest season in its history.

Cars can park from the clubhouse of the golf course near East Vail all the way to Donovan Park in West Vail ” a span of some four miles. With cars whizzing by, some fear that skiers will be injured.

It’s not uncommon for a moving bus to take off the door of a car that’s parked on the frontage road, said Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger.

“We’ve just been lucky,” said Vail Councilman Farrow Hitt. “It’s absolute luck that no one’s been hurt.”

The introduction of discounted Vail Resorts’ Epic Season Pass has some worried that the problem will get worse next year. Jarnot assuaged those fears, saying the pass won’t bring many more Front Range skiers to Vail.

“We are confident that we aren’t making a decision that will blow up the parking issue,” Jarnot said, calling the Epic Pass the most-researched decision in Vail Resorts’ history.

Each year, the company already sells 130,000 to 140,000 Colorado and Summit passes, which are targeted to Front Range skiers. When Vail Resorts introduced the Colorado Pass in 2000, frontage road parking days jumped from 10 to 45.

The Ever Vail garage, which would have approximately 400 public spaces, is slated to begin in 2010 and be completed by 2011 and is seen as a big help for the parking problems. But that completion date could be pushed back, Jarnot said.

“It’s all dependent on the real estate market,” Jarnot said.

The 200-space garage for the Vail Mountain Club, which will be done next year, will help with the parking crunch, too, Jarnot said.

The “task force” tried to piece together ways to get 350-400 spaces by next year.

Some suggested that the town use its Chamonix lot as a place to put parked cars. Brian McCartney of Vail Mountain said a couple of hundred of cars could fit there.

Others suggested using skier shuttles from Denver or increased incentives for carpoolers. Hitt said raising parking rates in Vail could help encourage carpooling. It cost $18 to park in the garage all day this winter.

Some said construction trucks were a big source of this year’s parking shortage. With several projects slated to be completed by next winter, there should be fewer construction trucks in town, said Greg Hall, director of public works.

“It should be better,” Hall said.

The Vail Village and Lionshead parking garages each hold about 1,150 cars. More than 19,000 skiers can be on Vail Mountain on a busy day.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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