‘It’s a huge safety concern’: Illegal parking a problem near Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Cars parked illegally on Highway 6 near Arapahoe Basin Ski Area being towed on Jan. 19, 2019.
Mark Cafiero

Skiers and snowboarders heading to the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area this season, pay attention: Law enforcement agencies are cracking down on illegal parking along Highway 6.

Facing excited crowds of skiers and riders coming up to make the most of the fresh powder on the holiday weekend, Arapahoe Basin pushed out warnings on its Twitter account informing motorists that cars parked illegally on the highway near the resort were being towed. While parking issues around resorts are not a recent development, officials say that visitors to Arapahoe Basin are the area’s worst offenders.

“The parking up there is a constant issue on the weekends,” said Colin Remillard, a spokesperson with Colorado State Patrol, who noted CSP rarely has to take action in regard to illegal parking at other ski areas in the county such as Keystone Resort, Breckenridge Ski Resort and Copper Mountain Resort. “Not only does it cause an issue for big vehicles coming through the pass, but it can also be a safety issue.”

Cars parked along Highway 6 are nothing new for the resort, and are typically only an issue during busier days such as holidays and on weekends, said Leigh Hierholzer, director of marketing at Arapahoe Basin.

“We don’t encourage people to park on the highway,” said Hierholzer. “Usually it’s not a problem, but there are high-volume weekends, or weekends like this when we got quite a bit of snow, that can be a problem.”

Hierholzer noted that the resort currently has a total of 1,950 parking spots, and that steps have recently been taken to help address parking concerns among visitors and public safety officials. Earlier this season, Arapahoe Basin rolled out a new parking plan to help ease some stress and take cars off the highway, including reserving 200 parking spaces in the Early Riser lot for individuals participating in carpools of four or more people (or those willing to pay an extra $20 to park).

Additionally, the resort requires its employees to park in auxiliary lots along the highway on weekends, and transports them via shuttles to the resort to free up space for visitors, said Hierholzer. But during extremely high volume periods, highway parking can still be a major concern, especially semitrailers heading through Loveland Pass and maintenance crews with the Colorado Department of Transportation working on Highway 6.

Remillard said illegal parking also creates unnecessary risks to public safety.

“You have people walking in the roadway, usually in snowboarding or ski boots that aren’t the best to be walking in on the highway,” said Remillard. “They could fall, or just not have the same foot dexterity. And when you have cars going by at 35-40 miles-per-hour on icy roads there’s not a lot of room for error. It’s a huge safety concern.”

Remillard said that parking on the side of the highway is legal, aside from assigned no parking areas, but that people tend to get towed when they’re blocking or impeding the roadway in any capacity, a violation of state statute. For CSP, deciding who gets towed and who doesn’t often comes down to a combination of trooper judgment and the logistics of trying to monitor hundreds of vehicles on any given weekend.

“As far as the towing goes, it’s a delicate balance,” said Remillard. “We know there’s limited parking, and you want to be fair. If you’re over the line you get towed, but if you start towing people on the shoulder you have to tow everyone. And we’re not in the business of ruining people’s days. It’s kind of a judgment call of whether or not the road is passable and maintainable for CDOT.”

A representative with Dillon Towing & Recovery declined to provide information on the frequency of towing activity near the resort citing privacy concerns, but said this weekend was the first instance of towing skier cars this year.

Hierholzer said that the resort heavily encourages visitors to carpool on their way to the mountain, and that individuals worried about parking should consider either arriving early in the morning, or later in the day after morning skiers and riders have left. Hierholzer also recommended coming mid-week when the resort is less busy.

“The main message is really asking people to carpool as much as they can,” said Hierholzer. “If we had those people driving alone take one more person we’d save twice as many parking spots.”

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