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?”
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.
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.
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.
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?”