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Opinion: Don’t you care about the disorganized, Vail Resorts?

'Perhaps I’ll get lucky, the stars and weather will align, and you’ll see me on the mountain this winter.'
piquenanvailfail
Get your turns in, whichever days you can manage.

Do you want to know what I did on Wednesday, Nov. 2?

Working from home in Squamish at approximately 1:30 p.m., I discovered I had a 3 p.m. dental appointment in Whistler. I thought the appointment was the next day.

I raced up the Sea to Sky Highway and Tasmanian Devil’d my way into Creekside Dental—dust flying, hair askew, tongue flapping. 

When they asked me my husband’s birthday for my insurance I stared blankly at them and said, “Uhhh, April?” (It’s mid-March.)

Now, I ask you, Vail Resorts: do you think the person who found themselves in this scenario is capable of looking at their entire winter calendar and, months ahead of time, selecting several days in which they would like to ski? 

NO. The answer is a hearty, laughable, reverberating no.

Frankly, I’m a moderately responsible, if somewhat disorganized individual who has held down the same job for a decade, kept a dog in one piece for eight years, and has a child.

I would say on the spectrum of people skiing at Whistler Blackcomb, I skew much closer to PAC mom than ski bum. (I mean, that’s kind of a bad argument, because the ski bums definitely have managed to prioritize a pass, but you get the idea.) 

The point is, if Vail Resorts’ new policy of limiting lift tickets each day—rewarding those who somehow knew when they’d feel like skiing—is a deterrent for me, that must be true for a whole heap of people too. (Yes, this policy was in place as a temporary COVID safety measure during the 2020-21 season, but those years don’t seem like a great baseline with which to compare anything.) 

Now, if I put my thinking cap on, I can deduce that Vail likely wants to push more people towards pricey passes with this policy. Those passholders will probably enjoy bluebird weekends a little more with fewer people on the hill.

I’m happy for them, really. They’re much more into skiing than me and I get that. 

But the prospect of, say, my parents deciding to visit in March and not being able to get day tickets to ski with my dad is a bummer.

It’s true that fair-weather skiers who only plan to head up the mountain between one and 10 days this season can procure a Whistler Blackcomb Day Pass, rather than a lift ticket, to use whenever they like throughout the season. Access for Day Pass holders won’t be limited whenever they do choose to use them (especially if they spring for the unrestricted passes; the cheaper, restricted version comes with the caveat of a few holiday blackout dates) but they do still need to commit to purchasing those non-refundable, non-transferable Day Passes in advance, prior to Vail’s usual early-season cutoff date. Last season, the last day to buy a pass was Dec. 5.

This, of course, assumes that many days will reach their lift-ticket limit before people can buy tickets. According to the Colorado Sun (this policy is in place at all of Vail Resorts’ North American properties), this happened at resorts with the policy on 23 days during three holiday periods last year. 

“This is a lever that will let us manage the experience on the most popular days without having to change the experience for our passholders,” said spokesperson Lindsay Hogan in that article. 

She added that they don’t anticipate capping many days, but that remains to be seen.

If you’re having flashbacks to the last couple of summers, that could be because this policy is similar to one rolled out recently by BC Parks, capping visitors to some of its busiest hiking trails. 

I’ve only used that system twice. The first time, I hiked Panorama Ridge on a weekday in late September, so it was pretty quiet anyway. The second, I picked a Friday with thunderstorms in the forecast to run up to Elfin Lakes rather than the sunny Saturday I really wanted because it was already booked. 

If I’m looking at this pass system from a purely personal standpoint, I would say I’m neutral, if leaning towards disliking it. But one advantage it has over Vail’s is you book your pass two days in advance—no sooner, but maybe later, if they’re still available. 

That is a reasonable timeframe to look at a forecast, understand your week, and sort out any complications. 

But, in the end, the new day ticket system isn’t meant to make people like me happy. It’s meant to make passholders happy and sell more passes. 

Perhaps I’ll get lucky, the stars and weather will align, and you’ll see me on the mountain this winter. But, more likely than not, you’ll catch me puttering around the pressed tracks at Whistler Olympic Park, where I can roll up whenever I please.

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