Vail announced this week their plan for the upcoming winter. In case you haven’t seen it you can click here. The quick summary is that you will need a reservation for skiing at any Vail resort this winter. Are ski resort reservations and capacity limits really a bad thing?
There has been a lot of grumbling since that announcement. Most of it that I have read has been overwhelmingly negative. People wondering how they will ski just on powder days with advanced reservations needed. What if they have to ski on sub-par snow days to ski enough to make their pass worthwhile.
After thinking about this for a while, I think we might really like the experience this is going to bring if we give it a chance.
Overcrowding Makes The Ski Experience Suck
On a trip 2 years ago to Salt Lake City, we arrived on the evening of a huge snow storm. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 inches was predicted. We thought awesome. We’re going to get the goods finally. When we arrived in SLC it was pouring rain with snow in the mountains. We went to bed expecting excellence the next day.
We got up early with the plan to get to Park City a solid hour before first chair. We got in the 4WD Rental SUV and off we went. The first crack in the plans was getting off the highway. The offramp from I-80 was really backed up. It took forever to get to Park City and when we arrived the parking lots had filled. We got sent back to Canyons. We parked in Canyons way back in the lot. Took the parking lot gondola, got our tickets and got in what was the biggest gondola line I have ever seen.
There was a wind hold on the lifts trapping everyone at the base. We waited, and waited and the line started moving slowly. To make a long story short, we got on the gondola and started our first run after a 2.5 hour wait. It was 1:30 pm when we started our first run. The group of snowboarders in front of us in line had stashed their gear in the rack next to the gondola so they didn’t have to carry it in line. Guess what? Their gear was stolen too after sitting unattended for 2.5 hours.
After 30 inches of fresh now the night before, there wasn’t a hint of untracked snow anywhere on the mountain. It was entirely tracked out on every single run. We got a few runs before closing and called it a day.
Is this what we are paying $100 a day to ski? For those of us who have to travel to ski. We have to book hotels and flights in advance by a couple months to get the best deal. We are locked in to the days we are going to ski by the time we make it to the ski resort. Do we really want experiences like this for our hardearned vacation and ski days? No. This day sucked. Everyone decided to ski that day because there was fresh snow. As a result a lot of people just got a really lowsy experience.
The below video shows the chairlift lines at Vail last season on a new snow day. Is waiting in giant lift lines what we really wanted?
The rope drops and all the snow is gone
We have all seen videos of the rope drop on powder days and big resorts. Skiers swarm the run and ski it out almost instantly. Then it’s done. If you are lucky you might find a second run that isn’t too destroyed. On a really great day, you might find a 3rd run. The video below from Fernie Alpine Resort shows the madness of crowds on snow days. Was the experience really all that great? You had to rush down that run to stay ahead of the crowd to get the snow. Where was that zen, you verse the mountain feeling? It’s more like you trying to stay ahead of a cattle stampede.
Ski Resort Reservations And Capacity Limits
On the same trip to Salt Lake City we also skied Powder Mountain. For people who have never been there. Powder Mountain is run a bit different than most ski resorts. Powder Mountain limits daily ticket sails to 1500. They have a limit on season passes as well. This guarantees it will never be crowded there. I have been to Powder Mountain a few times now and it has been one of the best ski days I have had every time.
The day after our nightmare crowd day at Park City we went to Powder Mountain. This was the day after the major snow storm. We had no trouble finding untracked snow on runs visible from the chairlift. There was plenty of snow left in the easy access trees near the lifts. We never waited in lift lines. Everything was great.
Wait you say. It was the day after a storm. The day after a storm is never crowded like the powder day. This was not my first time at Powder Mountain. A few years ago I skied there on the morning after fresh snow on a weekend. It was the best powder day I’ve ever had. I skied run after run after run of untracked snow without even having to hunt for it. There was no lift lines. I could have gone back the next day and gotten my fill again.
As another example. I have been to Whistler in April during late season with no crowds. Powder days might be rare then but they happen. Nothing is better than skiing Flute bowl is no one but your group and looking up from the bottom to see just your tracks.
The powder day dilema?
Which would you rather have? One awesome day where you skied a ton of runs in fresh untracked snow or 10 powder days where you got 1 run each day. For that 1 run you had to fight the crowds to get there for first chair to beat the horde to that one run. I would rather have that one epic day with run after run after run of untracked snow and short lift lines and uncrowded lodges.
You reserve your 7 to 10 days now and hope for the best. In January during peak snow times, the odds are pretty good you will hit 1 or 2 powder days during those reserved days. Those 1 or 2 days are bound to be way better than an overcrowded and rushed single powder run days you would have gotten without the reservation and capacity limits at the ski resort.
Let’s give this a chance
I think were going to find out this winter that we really enjoy skiing a lot more with fewer people on the snow. The snow conditions will be better. The powder won’t get tracked out after one run. The corduroy will last more than the first hour before being turned to clumps. You won’t spend an hour trying to find a seat in the lodge for lunch. I really think there could be a lot we like about skiing this winter with ski resort reservations and capacity limits.
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About the author
My name is Ryan C. I am an adventure sports fan and an avid skier, sailor, mountain biker who also enjoys kayaking, and travel. I take any chance I can get to get out in the snow or water. I decided to start this website as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports and travel.