Forest Service approves Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area fee increase
SILVERTHORNE — The White River National Forest’s Dillon Ranger District, in partnership with the Vail Pass Task Force, will implement a fee increase that was proposed earlier this year for the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area.
Fees will spike from $6 to $10 for a day pass and $40 to $65 for a season pass. In a news release announcing the changes, Dillon District ranger Bill Jackson said the fee was increased after the U.S. Forest Service received 258 comments on the proposal to increase the cost of day and season passes. Jackson said the wide majority of comments were either in support of or neutral on the proposal.
Jackson added that in approving the fee increase, regional and national offices of the Forest Service determined the new fee structure was reasonable based on increased operating costs, increasing visitation and the public outreach responses.
Fees had not increased at the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area since 2005. In that time, visitation has more than doubled, topping out with about 38,000 visitors last year.
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“As visitation and operating costs have increased, expenses have outpaced revenue, and the area has been operating at a deficit with funding being drawn away from other Forest Service programs,” the release reads. “The fee increase will allow the winter recreation area to be operated more sustainably. The increase will also allow the Ranger District and Vail Pass Task Force to provide improved visitor services such as more consistent parking lot plowing and trail grooming, and additional Forest Service ranger patrols.”
The 55,000-acre Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area offers backcountry opportunities for snowmobilers, skiers, hut users and other winter enthusiasts. The Forest Service says 95% of the fees generated are returned directly to the site to pay for ranger staffing, map production and distribution, plowing of five parking areas, and the grooming, signing and maintenance needs on 67 miles of motorized trails and 52 miles of nonmotorized trails.
Rangers within the recreation area are planning to start charging fees and begin plowing and grooming operations Saturday, Nov. 30. Season passes will go on sale Monday, Nov. 4, and can be purchased at the Dillon Ranger Station in Silverthorne and Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger Station in Minturn. Day passes can be purchased at any of the five access points once the area is open for winter.
In addition, an automated fee station that accepts credit card payments is now in place at Vail Pass.
For more details, contact the Dillon Ranger District at 970-468-5400 or visit the fee increase project page at fs.usda.gov/goto/whiteriver/feeproposals.
You can also download the Vail Pass Recreation Area map on Avenza at avenzamaps.com/maps/931975.
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