Vail Mountain has yet to limit lift ticket sales this holiday season

Despite cars spilling onto frontage road Wednesday, skiers disperse quickly on the mountain

John LaConte
Vail Daily
Guests approach the walk-up ticket window in the Lionshead area of Vail Mountain on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. The price of a same day lift ticket was $275.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

VAIL — In August, Vail Resorts issued a widely publicized warning, telling skiers and snowboarders that daily walk-up lift tickets might not be available if the company’s resorts get too busy this season.

At Vail Mountain, that has not yet been the case, but lift ticket limitations are still “a lever that the resort has to preserve the guest experience,” spokesperson John Plack said on Wednesday.

The warnings of lift ticket limitations received national press, with the New York Times mentioning the policy earlier this month.

“To address overcrowding, Vail Resorts is limiting sales and raising prices of lift tickets,” the Times wrote.

Crowds cue up to board the Eagle Bahn Gondola on Wednesday morning, Dec. 28, in Vail. Nearby, the Born Free Express did not have a line.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

While limitations have not yet been employed, lift ticket prices have definitely risen this season. During last season’s holiday break, Vail Mountain was charging $239 per day for those who purchased day-of lift tickets. On Wednesday, the cost of a same-day lift ticket was $275.

If there was a day that would appear to fit the hallmarks of a limited ski day from the valley floor, it might have been Wednesday in Vail. The resort reported 6 inches of fresh snow to start the morning, a day that fell right in the middle of the holiday break for kids in school. Cars had spilled out of the parking structures onto the town’s South Frontage Road, despite new measures aimed at reducing the number of overflow days, and the usual morning crowds were cued up at the gondolas in Vail and Lionshead.

But on the mountain it was a different story. The crowds dispersed quickly in the morning hours, and the queues moved fast. Less than 30 minutes after the resort opened, there was no line whatsoever at the Born Free Express loading portal in Lionshead.

Nearby, at the walk-up ticket window, the sign read: “Lift Ticket, Adult (13+) $275; Child (5-12) $190.” By 9 a.m., that lift ticket window had a longer line than the Born Free Express.

High Noon Express (No. 5) opened at 9 a.m. for its first full day of operation for the season (it opened during the afternoon on Tuesday), and the Mongolia Platter (No. 22) opened for the first time since the 2020-21 season.

Earlier this week, Vail Mountain started operating Earl’s Express (No. 38) in Blue Sky Basin, along with the Dawg Haus restaurant, which had been closed for years.

The mountain is also planning on opening the Black Forest Poma, a dedicated surface lift for the new Avanti Skills Zone, along with the Orient Express-Two Elk surface lift, in the coming weeks.

Currently celebrating its 60th anniversary, Vail Mountain plans to unveil a new level of full service in 2023 with the completion of the new Sun Down Express line. Crews are now targeting January for the opening of that lift.

A view from High Noon Express Wednesday, Dec. 28, on its first full day of operation for the 2022-23 ski season.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

The new openings bring Vail Mountain to 4,500 acres of in-bounds terrain, served by 29 lifts.

Plack on Wednesday said he skied “from One to 3 to 7 to 4 to 5” in the afternoon and found no waits whatsoever.

“Seeing that type of circulation and overall lack of waits for our lifts is amazing to see this time of year, and we still have the lift ticket limitations in place should the experience change,” he said.

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