Vail Resorts reservations system eases some anxieties, creates others
When Keystone Resort opened its new reservations system in anticipation of Friday’s opening day, Summit County snowboarders Nate Dogggg Nadler and Trailer Tom were already camped out in line, as tradition would have it.
Trailer Tom said when the reservations system went live, an employee at the ticket window helped him reserve in person, as part of a test of the system.
Commenting on the possibility a new era dawning with regard to ski areas requiring reservations, Trailer Tom said he felt his rightful place in the moment was there in line, camped out with Nadler, a tradition they have been carrying on for more than two decades.
“I was able to be part of the test,” he said.
The test proved to be a success, by most accounts, so far. Physical distance appeared to be mostly maintained, mask use had high compliance, crowd numbers were limited (and will be on Saturday and Sunday, as well), and an impressive surface of man-made snow offered more than 3 miles of skiing from the top of the mountain to the very bottom. Several options of lifts back to the top greeted skiers and snowboarders.
“Honestly, for a typical opening day, this feels very calm and untraditional,” said Nicole Stull, a spokesperson with Keystone.
Snowboarding at Keystone Opening DayPosted by Vail Daily on Friday, November 6, 2020
Some of the anxiety around securing a place in line for Keystone’s Opening Day had been dissipated by the reservations system, Stull said, which kept lines short throughout the day. That meant, for guests who did receive access to Keystone on Friday, a lot of skiing or snowboarding could be completed with minimal time spent in line.
Stull said Keystone will not reveal the number of guests currently allowed on the mountain, as parent company Vail Resorts considers that number to be proprietary information.
Some frustration was offered by those who object to the resort’s witholding of the number of guests that will be allowed; other complaints were lodged by those who weren’t able to take part in the Opening Day festivities due to the full reservation cue.
The new reservation system made a partial debut with Keystone accepting week-of reservations on Thursday, but while skiers who were accepted for Friday were out enjoying turns, other Vail Resorts customers were grappling with another part of the reservations system — priority reservations — which went live on Friday.
Vail Resorts season pass customers reported lines of more than 120,000 people in front of them in the waiting room to book reservations, resulting in a process that took hours.
In an interview on Wednesday, Senior Communications Manager John Plack said the company was fully expecting to be bombarded with pass holders looking to plan their vacations as soon as the system went live.
With that prediction proven correct on Friday, Plack said the system was processing 100,000 to 150,000 people per hour.
Core season Dec. 8 to April 4
The priority booking window — where guests can reserve seven days between Dec. 8 and April 4 at any of Vail Resorts ski areas — will remain exclusive to Vail Resorts pass holders until Dec. 8. Plack said that window was created to relieve anxiety around getting reservations processed.
“We don’t want anyone to feel like they have to rush,” he said.
In addition to seven priority days, guests will also have nine week-of reservations.
Additional week-of reservations will open up to pass holders on Wednesday, Nov. 11 for reservations through Nov. 20.
Week-of reservations will need to be used to book days at Vail Resorts ski areas prior to Dec. 8.
As of Friday, no days from the Dec. 8 to April 4 priority booking window had been filled, but Vail Resorts reserves the right to call a priority reservation cancellation event — where the company can cancel one or more of your priority reservation days as a result of capacity constraints or a resort closure event. In this case, pass holders will be eligible for a refund under Vail Resorts Epic Coverage plan.
“For the vast majority of days during the season, we believe everyone who wants to get on our mountains will be able to,” Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said in September.
However, “If we have very poor (snow) conditions, then we may see the capacity restrictions be more frequent,” Katz added.
This story was corrected to reflect that the priority passholder window runs through Dec. 7, not Dec. 8; and nine week-of reservations will issued to passholders on Wednesdays, not seven.