Are Parking Passes The Next Season Pass At A Ski Resort?

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Remember the old adage of placing a frog in a frying pan and gradually increasing the heat but it still won’t jump out to save its life? This especially holds true in the ski industry. For example, the Epic Pass in 2014 only cost $749, yet over the past five years it has ratcheted up to over $969 for the 2019/20 ski season but people keep buying them. Besides the increase in season pass price, the newest foray ski resorts are going after is parking. Here’s just a few examples across the United States that have quietly started introducing parking fees. The question is, “Are parking passes the next season pass?”


Paid Parking Northstar
Northstar parking lot map

For those that have skied Northstar, the Village View Lot is where the majority of skiers & snowboarders park when visiting the ski resort. Even there, you still need to take a shuttle to get to the base lift. Well, as of October 1st, they’ll start to charge visitors to park in this lot at Northstar. Just northwest of the village, you’ll have to ante up $10 Monday through Friday, and $20 on weekends and holidays. This is in addition to where you already need to pay to access the lower village lot which is $20 cash Monday through Friday, and $40 cash on weekends and holidays.


Solitude Ski Resort Paid Parking
Solitude Ski Resort in 2006 – Photo by: Adam Shaw – Wikipedia

In a bold move to alleviate gridlock in Utah’s Big Cottonwood Canyon, the first ski area in the Wasatch is planning to charge visitors if they plan on driving up the canyon themselves. Vehicles carrying one or two passengers should plan to pay $20 to park at Solitude. If you show up with three passengers, it’s ten bucks and then five dollars for four or more passengers. Per the ski resort, the goal is to persuade people to carpool or take public transit as part of a larger, carrot-laden plan to reduce congestion and emissions.

Jackson Hole

Jackson Hole Tram Winter
Photo by: Sam Klein

When it comes to paid parking, anyone that’s visited Jackson Hole knows its old hat to them charging you. ANY of the lots that are close to the resort you need to pay between $10 – $20 per day unless you park at the Village Road Transit Center over seven miles away. They’ve been doing it for so long that they even have a season parking pass starting at $575. This paid parking was introduced not to make money but reduce the amount of traffic between Jackson and the resort. And guess what? It’s working! They’ve actually decreased average peak hour traffic volumes since 2000, while the average daily skier numbers have increased.

Mt. Hood Meadows

Another interesting aspect of paid parking happens at Mt. Hood Meadows. Due to its location within the Mount Hood National Forest, as a skier or snowboarder you MUST have an Oregon SNO-PARK permit displayed in your windshield or you’ll get ticketed. In truth, pretty much any snow spot worth visiting in the Mount Hood National Forest requires one. It’s either $5 for the day or $30 for the season. When I visited the first time, I didn’t know about this and actually gotten ticketed. For Tahoe & Idaho backcountry enthusiasts, SNO-PARK permits issued by California and Idaho are honored in Oregon & Oregon permits are honored in those states as well.


Heavenly Paid Parking
This isn’t parking but rather the road congestion to get to / from the Heavenly Parking lot

Last winter was record-setting snowfall across the US but brutal when it came to finding parking at resorts. Personally, we saw this at our neighborhood resort, Heavenly. The small, one-mile long road up to the California Lodge was so congested at times that Caltrans had to shut it down to clear the roads. Although not ski resort-owned parking, you used to park for free at the casinos to access Heavenly Mountain. As of 2017, Harrah’s & Harveys now charge $25 for self-parking and $30 for valet. It sounds like this is VERY similar to what’s happening at Spruce Peak in Stowe, Vermont.

As ski resort parking lots become increasingly overcrowded, the question that begs to be answered, “Is paid parking the future of ski resorts? And if so, will parking season passes become the next thing Ikon and Epic pass holders need to buy?”

3 thoughts on “Are Parking Passes The Next Season Pass At A Ski Resort?

  1. I, like many people, grew up skiing and snowboarding my entire life. It has definitely become increasingly expensive and a hassle to make it up to the mountains. It breaks my heart to say it but it’s not worth it anymore and I think I am done with the sport.

    1. Hey John,

      We feel ya, that’s why we’ve been heading to smaller ski-towns and ski resorts when we go on trips and vacation. Personally, the larger ones just seem to get more crowded, more expensive, and feel less authentic.

  2. I always thought that parking was included with a lift ticket which cost close to $100. or more and that charging for parking is over kill. Why not have the parking pass as part of the season pass with an option to upgrade. The other option would be to bring the hill closer to a designated parking area for day passes with a well established shuttle system that runs on it’s own road system up to the base avoiding the congested access road. Parking should also be included for those who stay overnight for longer ski holidays. The resorts should be able to figure this out the faster you get people to the base the more cash they take in rather than having them stuck on the road in where no one wins. Skiers get discouraged and go else where so lets get going on a decent infrastructure to support the growing crowds.

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