Copper’s Alpine Lot could charge for parking next season following a land use change by Summit County officials

Amid public support and opposition, Copper says paid parking will help it mitigate traffic issues as the resort continues to grow

A wide shot of Copper Mountain Resort as the resort's snow guns work to blanket its upper ski runs in snow. The resort could begin charging guests for parking in its Alpine Lot, which houses roughly 1,700 spots, following a land use amendment by the Summit County government.
Copper Mountain Resort/Courtesy photo

The days of free parking at Copper Mountain Resort’s Alpine Lot could be numbered after Summit County officials agreed to a land use amendment for the site. 

During a Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 28, Graeme Bilenduke, Copper’s director of development, and Elena Scott of Norris Design — which partnered with the resort to build an 80-unit workforce housing complex next to the lot — made the case that charging skiers and boarders at the resort’s largest parking site next season would help incentivize carpooling and alternate modes of transportation in a bid to reduce traffic congestion. 

“We’ve experienced quite a bit of growth these past two seasons at Copper, especially coming out of the pandemic,” Bilenduke said. “That’s caused us to take a look at how we manage our operation, how we receive our guests coming into the resort, and how we encourage and incentivize people to go from single-occupancy vehicles to having a higher-occupancy car per visit.”

At the heart of the request to commissioners was the removal of a prohibition on paid parking for the Alpine Lot, which can house roughly 1,700 vehicles, which was outlined in the site’s planned unit development that dictates land use. 

Scott said any implementation of paid parking wouldn’t come until at least next ski season. Scott said the goals would be to reduce the number of “single-occupancy vehicles” and promote the use of the Summit Stage, the county’s free bus system.

Dylan Graves, a county planner, added that Copper has reported issues with the Alpine Lot being used by overnight guests “which reduces day-skier parking.”

The proposal received both support and skepticism, with some Copper-area residents speaking during the meeting’s public comment about the potential effects of paid parking.

Area resident David Steele said while he wasn’t opposed to paid parking at the lot, he had concerns that it may push unwanted parking into other areas outside of designated lots. 

In written statements to the county, some residents decried paid parking as “elitism” and a “profit-maker for the resort.” 

“Isn’t the cost of skiing high enough for the average skier without making it higher with paid parking?” asked area resident Tom Golej in written remarks to Graves.

Other residents supported the plan, writing that it might limit the amount of skiers coming to the resort and ease congestion. 

Ultimately, the amendment was approved by commissioners Josh Blanchard and Elisabeth Lawrence while Tamara Pogue was absent from the vote. In doing so, commissioners stated that while the change allows Copper to implement paid parking, the county itself has no jurisdiction over how the resort decides to roll out that proposal. 

“We all know how difficult parking can be across Summit County,” Lawrence said. “This isn’t necessarily a perfect fix but something has got to change when it comes to parking, and I think this is a step in the right direction.”

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