Will lift ticket limits at Vail curb mountain crowding?

Vail Resorts says enhancing the guest experience is the goal

Vail Resorts Monday announced it will limit lift ticket sales on peak days for the 2022-2023 ski season.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily archive

Along with Monday’s announcement about the coming season’s opening dates at Vail and Beaver Creek was another notice: Vail Resorts is going to limit lift tickets sold during peak days.

Vail Mountain is slated to open Nov. 11, while Beaver Creek will open late in the month on Nov. 23, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

In an email, company spokesperson John Plack wrote guests can buy tickets online or at a ticket window, if they’re available. People without tickets are being encouraged to check back online to see if more tickets are available.

Mark your calendars

Vail Mountain is set to open Nov. 11.

Beaver Creek is set to open Nov. 23.

Plack wrote that limiting ticket sales, in conjunction with capital improvements across the company’s resorts, “is the right move… This is just one strategy to enhance the guest experience this season.”

Plack added that the company doesn’t expect lift tickets to sell out every day at every resort, and that the limits are intended to “help manage the experience during popular times.”

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Longtime Vail resident Merv Lapin said the resort company’s idea seems to be a good one. But, he added, that depends on how many skiers and snowboarders are being allowed on the mountain.

At Vail, the ski mountain has agreed with the U.S. Forest Service to “manage to” a maximum of 19,900 skiers per day.

Lapin said the town and resort company years ago agreed that about 14,000 skiers per day would be a comfortable number. The higher number is beyond the capacity of the town’s infrastructure, from water treatment to parking to housing, Lapin said.

Jackson Higgins is the general manager of the American Ski Exchange in Vail Village. Higgins, who grew up in Vail, said the mountain can get “crazy busy … I think it’s good they’re doing something.” 

Both Higgins and Lapin said they believe a pass to ski Vail should be more expensive than the base price of Vail Resorts’ various Epic Pass prices.

Higgins added he was hoping Vail Resorts would try to limit skiers from the Front Range. And, he noted, based on the experience with the reservation system two seasons ago, “there could be some very angry people.”

On the other hand, Higgins noted that not many people walk up to a ticket window these days. But, he added, those who do tend to be those who have come to Vail from far away. Many of those people are American Ski Exchange customers. Noting his experience with the reservation system, Higgins said those guests can make life difficult for him and his employees.

In a text message subsequent to a phone conversation, Lapin worried that limiting ticket sales, but not passes, will make the current situation worse, adding that Vail Mountain’s capacity per day should be closer to 14,000 than the current 19,900.

Over the phone, Lapin described the experience on peak days as “dangerous.”

Plack’s email noted that Vail Resorts is upgrading lifts across the company, as well as boosting employee pay. All those moves are aimed at “preserving the on-mountain experience,” he wrote.

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