Illegal roadside parking makes for expensive ski day at A-Basin
SUMMIT COUNTY – A late season powder day at A-Basin turned out to be an expensive proposition for some skiers and snowboarders whose cars were towed from roadside spots near the ski area during the weekend. With hook-up fees, no-key fees and a mileage charge, the total cost for the experience added up to $160 for some of the motorists.It may be small comfort, but for a few dollars more, you could score an A-Basin season pass valid for the rest of what’s shaping up to be a good spring season, as well as all of next year.And conditions were primo once again at The Legend on Sunday, with another 6 inches of snow reported officially, but more than that piled up on the top of the mountain.By 10 a.m., the liftlines were packed and a few grumbles were heard as a ski patroller announced that Norway Chair would likely not operate for the whole day because of mechanical problems.At least a few dozen cars were towed Saturday, but local tow companies said they weren’t quite as busy Sunday. Tow truck operators said that anger directed at them is misplaced.
“It’s not our favorite thing to do,” said Larry Lewark of Ski County Shell and Towing in Frisco. Lewark said he understands the frustration, but explains that the tow companies are obligated to respond when called by the Colorado State Patrol. “We’re just doing our job when they call us,” he said.Far from being a simple annoyance, illegal parking along Highway 6 around A-Basin poses a serious danger to truckers hauling wide loads and hazardous materials, especially when the road is icy and slick. With no flammable, explosive or toxic materials permitted to pass through the Eisenhower Tunnel on Interstate 70, all those containers wind down the steep sharp curves of Loveland Pass, and the drivers have their hands full just making sure they make it safely down the grade.In the last few months, several tanker trucks have wrecked on both sides of the pass. While not attributed to illegally parked cars, the accidents show the potential for dangerous consequences.Maneuvering a slalom of parked cars is an added challenge they don’t want or need, said Henry Gunnington, a fuel truck driver from Nebraska who said he’s been making the trip across the pass for about 10 years on a regular basis.
“You never know when a car door is going to pop open, or if someone’s going to pull out right in front of you, or if a dog is going to run out,” Gunnington said. “It can be pretty scary when the weather is bad. We need to have a little leeway on either side to avoid obstacles.”Colorado State Patrol officials said Saturday they try to use discretion when ordering tows, but that they respond to CDOT requests to keep the road open and safe.Lewark said the tow-jamboree is an ongoing phenomenon that takes place every year for the first few weekends after all the other ski resorts close and business jumps up at A-Basin.Lewark said he remembers his dad having similar discussions back in the 1970s.For its part, A-Basin tries to warn visitors about the potential for getting towed, posting messages on the dry-erase boards near lift-loading areas and sending parking lot crews to try and prevent illegal parking.Clear warning signs are posted up and down the road along with a recently installed makeshift barrier on the stretch of highway closest to the base lodge.
Lewark said he thinks some sort of preventive measures are needed to divert cars into the Keystone parking area, where they can catch a quick shuttle ride up to the Basin. He suggested the hiring of off-duty police officers to flag down cars at the bottom of the pass as the lots near A-Basin begin to fill up, the way Copper Mountain handles similar issues on busy winter weekends.A small dose of prevention could go a long way toward alleviating some of the frustration among the public and tow truck drivers, he said.And that frustration level can run pretty high, said Michael, with a Dillon towing company. Michael, who didn’t want his last name used, said some of his drivers have been close to getting into fistfights, and that on one recent occasion, a driver was intentionally bumped by an irate driver.”We get a lot of grief, we get threatened. It’s really a pain. People park wrong and they blame us,” he said, explaining that they can’t just not respond when called by the CSP.Bob Berwyn can reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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