Changes likely for Vail’s ski season parking system

The idea is to take 300-400 cars per day out of Vail during peak times

John LaConte
Vail Daily
A skier is pictured in the Back Bowls at Vail Mountain.
Photo by David Neff / Vail Resorts

VAIL — Parking in Vail during the 2021-22 ski season is widely viewed as a mess. A revamped town committee aims to straighten out the situation, but it won’t be easy. And it will cost more.

The Vail Parking and Mobility Task Force used to mostly focus on parking. The volunteer group now focuses on getting people to, from and around in town. Included in that mission is finding ways to meet the town’s climate action goals.

Committee members represent the town’s retail, restaurant and lodging businesses. There are also members from the sustainability community, as well as Vail Resorts. Vail Town Council members Jonathan Staufer and Jen Mason round out the group.

That group this year concluded that Vail needs to reduce parking demand by 300 to 400 cars per day to reach a Town Council goal of no more than 15 days per winter of overflow on the town’s frontage roads. Parking numbers would have to decline a further 10% overall to meet the town’s 2025 greenhouse gas reduction goal.

A long list

The Vail Town Council at its Aug. 16 meeting heard a presentation about the recommendations from Greg Hall, the town’s public works director.

While there’s a long list of recommendations, it’s doubtful all of them will be in place before the coming winter. What is likely is a shift in parking rates and pass costs.

The biggest proposed change is a shift to a “dynamic” pricing model. That model creates 50 days of “peak” period pricing. Those days are the ones you’d expect: weekends, with a couple of three-day weekends and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The pricing charts show a host of changes, but the biggest is a shift to just 30 minutes of free parking for most users at the Vail Village and Lionshead parking structures. The recommendations also propose offering three hours of free evening parking, but only after 5 p.m. instead of the current 3 p.m.

Hitting the road

Hall said next steps will include taking the recommendations to the Vail Economic Advisory Council and similar groups for public input and feedback. Technical issues will also have to be fleshed out, and town officials will have to determine the feasibility and timing of the recommendations. A marketing and communications effort will begin Oct. 1, following an expected Sept. 20 Town Council vote on the package.

Hall said some adjustments are expected to the recommendations.

Council member Kevin Foley asked about the “arrive after 5” proposal, noting that many people who work in the evenings have to be on the job before 5 p.m.

Hall noted that some accommodation could be found for those people.

Council member Jen Mason said the recommendations were the result of “lots of good discussions.” But, she added, she’s concerned about the effects of raising the price of the old Silver pass for business owners. The price last season was $2,000, and the proposed new price is $2,750. Mason said that could be a significant hit for small business owners running on thin margins.

But, she added, changes are needed.

“There used to be a complete correlation (of frontage road parking) with inches of snow,” Mason said. “But the past two years, there’s been no rhyme or reason to it.”

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