Guest editorial: Reservations take away spontaneity
As Vail’s Park City Mountain resort opens for the 2022-23 ski season, numerous questions about the resort’s willingness to address issues and concerns that have been raised during the last several weeks remain unanswered. The senior leadership has heard many of them prior to and during this past Monday’s open house at Park City Hospital’s Education Center.
From my perspective, each of the concerns, especially those about the new parking policy and practice, have fallen on deaf ears. One came away with the impression that the new parking system may be open to changes during the season.
The new reservation and fee parking policy adversely affects commercial merchants and customers at the mountain’s base. No allowance has been made for a customer not going to ski to park for free without a reservation at an outdoor lot, who, for example, is getting boots fitted; picking up newly tuned skis; purchasing goods or a future ski pass; or even getting coffee prior to 1 p.m.. Nor has PCM allowed free parking for those individuals who are dropping off and walking a child (children) for a ski school lesson to insure they are with the correct instructor or group. A possible option would be to build into the parking system a free period of time for the shoppers/parents with merchant or ski school validation as is done in many shopping malls.
Those individuals who paid $750 for the privilege to park in the indoor garage did so without knowing any of the rules PCM has put into place just before the opening of the mountain. This policy includes being able to make a reservation for only five days at a time. I would bet that most of the skiers who purchased this privilege are local Epic pass holders who ski frequently, and the new reservation system may limit their ski days. Individuals will be penalized in both the outside lots and indoor garage, if one does not show up for their daily reservation or does not cancel 24 hours in advance. The consequence is being fined and/or possibly lose a parking privilege. Also, after paying the indoor garage season parking fee, one is not guaranteed the ability to park in the garage. And if there are not enough reservations 72 hours prior to the day, PCM can open the indoor garage to others to park for a daily fee to be set by the mountain. Basically, the reservation system takes the spontaneity out of going to ski, especially early in the day.
PCMR’s rationale for this new parking strategy is to better manage and reduce traffic. I beg to differ. The scramble for parking will be worse and begin earlier for the precious spots in all lots, especially during high season. And if people are not going to drive, there will be a back-up to enter the resort from buses, shuttles, vans, Uber, and other drivers dropping off skiers.
One can conclude from these changes that PCM is tailoring the system to tourists and not locals. Tourists come for a specified number of days, usually five or six, which fits nicely with the reservation system. Once again PCM is ignoring the interests of the local community, whose support has helped the resort survive year after year. When this and other issues and concerns have been raised prior to the opening of the season, the mountain’s senior leadership has ignored them. They have taken a wait-and-see approach, which leaves everyone — the merchants, customers, and skiers — in limbo. It’s no way to run a business when the customer is supposed to come first.
Vail and PCM’s local Epic Promise philanthropy does not buy public support for how they manage the mountain and being a good community member. It seems Vail and PCM are treading on the local skiing culture and the community’s good will. They should be aware the negative comments made last season about the resort can again occur by not being responsive to or ignoring local reasonable concerns and issues as they are raised. Many of the suggestions and observations are an effort to improve the skiing and resort experience, not detract from it. One is waiting to see if PCM gets the message, and becomes responsive and responsible.
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