Reservation systems are becoming the norm in Utah, but is this trend the result of smart resource management or greed?
Paid parking is not for Cottonwood Canyons anymore.
Park City Mountain Resort plans to require paid reservations for skiers and snowboarders to park at the Mountain Village’s main base area starting in the 2022-23 season. Lindsey Hogan, a spokesperson for the Rocky Mountain region for Vail Resorts, confirmed the plan Friday with The Salt Lake Tribune. In an email to Tribune, she said the goal of the plan was to “reduce traffic congestion in the Mountain Village base area.”
Drivers can still park free daily – without reservations – at Canyons Village Base and High Valley Transit Park-n-Ride and at Park City Mountain parking after 1 p.m. Weekends.
The reservation system will be the first for a Utah resort outside of the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon. Solitude launched the way in the state when it announced in 2019 that it would charge parking, and Alta adopted a paid reservation system for its parts this season. Brighton and Snowbird, the other two Cottonwood resorts, tinkered with reservations or paid parking forms, though most of many remained free.
But crowding has become a concern even for accessible resorts over the past couple of years, as the pandemic has prompted more people to recreate outdoors.
All season, and especially on weekends and powder days, “PCMR Parking Full” signs are lit before 10 a.m. along the highway just outside Kimball Junction. Late 1 p.m., dozens of cars can be seen cruising through the main parking lots and, for the first time, the Silver King – all of which will be affected by the change – looking for parking.
The problem is likely to get worse in the coming years as Park City Mountain and the neighboring Deer Valley Resort embark on plans to develop their car parks into inns, condominiums and hotels.
Park Record reported in February that Deer Valley is enjoying the idea of charging parking once its upgrades to the Snow Park Lodge are complete, likely by 2026. Meanwhile, Provo-based PEG companies entered into an agreement with Vail Resorts in 2019. In order to buy lots in Park City Mountain. It is now wrestling with the town over a proposal to develop it. Both developments include parking plans to replace lost parking spaces.
A memo issued Monday by Vail Resorts to Park City planner Lillian Lederer outlines some details about the upcoming parking reservation scheme and the argument for it. She says studies of other resorts anecdotally show that paid parking reservations result in more varied arrival times for guests and less stress on lots during peak times.
The memo reads: “Reservations required will alleviate traffic congestion caused by guests arriving at the base and navigating through the network of narrow streets without finding a parking space.”
Park City Mountain plans to install two new lifts for the 2022-23 season: Utah’s first eight-person high-speed chair in Silverlode, in the middle of the mountain, and a set of six high-speed beams that will replace the Eagle and Eaglet lifts in the Mountain Village base area. According to an analysis by planning and design firm SE Group, however, the upgrades won’t affect parking demand.
Parking rates are not announced.
An analysis by Fehr & Peers, a third-party transportation and parking consultant who also examined parking options in Deer Valley for the upcoming Snow Park Lodge, looked at the impact of charging a $25 per day fee, with “price sensitivities for different groups of users”. According to the note, this should lead to an 11% decrease in demand. Beaver Creek in Colorado, which also owned Vail Resorts and began charging for parking in 2016-2017, got the same result for $10 a day.
Hogan, a spokesperson for Vail Resorts, said car-sharing incentives will be built in. Among them will be free parking for cars with four or more passengers.
“All net proceeds will go to transportation and infrastructure improvements,” she added.
However, some skiers and snowboarders say the primary motivation for the plan is to earn more money. Vail Resorts hasn’t publicly announced the reservation system even though the seasonal Epic Pass went on sale last month.
“A lot of us like to go spontaneously. You don’t have the same schedules or simply go more than others or in the middle of the week. So let’s punish those who make it so uncomfortable that they lose all interest together,” Salt Lake City’s Diana Kretzschmar posted on Ski and Snowboarders Utah Facebook page. “Nothing but greed!!!”
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