Limiting lift tickets at ski areas could be the new normal as overcrowding becomes pervasive in the industry

A skier makes his way down the High Noon run at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area on opening day Oct. 17, 2021. A-Basin is the only ski area in Summit County that limits its season pass sales, though officials declined to disclose that number.
Jason Connolly/For the Summit Daily News

Back in November, Vail Resorts announced in a news release that due to the increased demand on winter travel this year, its resorts would be limiting the amount of lift ticket sales during certain holiday periods.

The hope was that by limiting sales during peak periods, ski areas would see improved efficiency and an enhanced mountain experience for guests.

In the release, Vail Resorts stated that it was targeting three major holiday periods, including Christmas and New Year’s Day from Dec. 25 to Jan. 2, Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend from Jan. 14-17 and Presidents Day weekend from Feb. 18-27.

Though Vail Resorts promised to limit lift ticket sales, the major resort operator also sold a record number of Epic Passes this year, totaling 2.1 million passes.

Vail Resorts spokespeople did not respond to questions about how limiting lift ticket sales went during the first holiday period of the season.

Other Summit ski areas have also worked to limit how many people are on the mountain in order to enhance their own mountain experience.

One such resort is Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, which is no stranger to limiting lift tickets and season passes, a principle it employs throughout the season rather than only during busy holiday periods.

“We limit season passes, and we limit daily tickets, so we often sell out of daily tickets available for sale on busy Saturdays,” A-Basin Director of Marketing Jesse True said.

No one wants to drive, wait in traffic on Interstate 70 and then wait in more massive lines at a ski area, True said.

A-Basin limits its daily lift ticket sales online, so once the allotted amount of lift tickets have been sold for a day, then that day is no longer available as an option for skiers or riders who want to purchase a ticket. True declined to say what that limit is.

There are ticket windows on-site at A-Basin, but they are used only for redeeming products that have already been purchased online.

“We realized that our culture and vibe is really more about skiing,” True said. “We really strive to limit the amount of people that are here on any given day or have access to be here on any given day so that the day is more about the experience out on the hill than in a big lift line.”

A-Basin also limits the amount of season passes its sells — something Vail Resorts does not do — in order to prevent overcrowding on the mountain.

Working in the ski industry, True said he is concerned about the direction many ski areas seem to be headed where overcrowding is the norm.

“I don’t want the narrative for this industry to only be sales that have exceeded capacity,” True said. “I want the narrative to be that skiing isn’t broke. The soul of this sport still exists at places like the Basin and others, too.”

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