Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Why are the liftlines so damn long?

By Brooke Geery
We are fortunate to even be able to snowboard at resorts during these Covid times. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve sat around the office in Killington patting ourselves on the back for living in Vermont. Things here are basically normal, with one notable exception. The skiing is way better than usual. Not only has snowfall been exceptional, but the crowds have been very tolerable. Granted I don’t ski weekends or midday, but Covid restrictions have actually worked in our favor. No busses full of tourists coming up has made a significant difference. In fact, on March 4, Killington discontinued its requirement for parking reservations every day but Saturday. At Pico, you don’t need a reservation, hopefully ever again.
That cannot be said for other areas, though. At Mt. Seymour in British Columbia, Kai Ujejski reported he can only ride during the week because of the limited weekend tickets. “They sell out faster than a Supreme drop,” he said.
And it seems, that even with resorts restricting the number of tickets sales, the lift lines are out of control.
In Colorado powder days mean lines almost to the top of the lift, such as this one at Steamboat after a storm in February.

Steamboat Springs lift lines on Feb. 6, 2021. Photo Nick Green/The Denver Post

So why, you ask are these lines like this? There are a few reasons.

Limited staff

Simply put, there is not enough help to run all the chairlifts. Not only are the poor skiing mega corps not getting to make as much money, due to Covid travel restrictions, they could not hire the foreign labor they usually rely on.

Reduced capacity

You remember when you had to squeeze into a gondola with seven other disgusting strangers? No more! In fact; they’ll let you ride the gondola all by yourself. I’m not good at math but that’s something like eight times slower than usual to get everyone who wants up to the top.

Increased interest

Who would have guessed a deadly pandemic would give ailing snow sports the boost they so desperately needed and deserve? People are bored and want to get outside and guess what, snowboarding is a great way to do it. Shops in resort areas are busy and people come to buy, not to lurk. It’s actually been a huge boon for the snow industry.

Great conditions

Again, I can’t speak for everywhere, but Vermont has been as good as it gets this season. There’s so much snow that even with warm temps in the forecast, we’re feeling confident for a long season. The West is also buried; there’s almost too much snow in Oregon, but it’s hard to complain about bottomless powder, as long as you stay inbounds.

Mayday Lift, Sun Valley, Idaho, January 30, 2021. Photo credit: Dan Giesen/Curtis Fong, Courtesy of The Ski Diva

Pass deals

The Ski Diva covers this at length in her take on this topic (which, for the record, came out after I wrote this one but before the site was live, not that anyone else cares.) The basic concept is that affordable options such the Ikon and Epic pass have opened the areas up to people who used to be kept out due to the skyrocketing price of lift tickets. I have a hard time being that mad about cheap lift access, but it is definitely a factor. Wendy also offers some great suggestions for avoiding the lines in her article. 

Vail Corp (MTN)

it’s not just about throwing shade at the evil corporation here, Vail’s outlandish ticket prices have driven many people to other nearby resorts. And at the Vail Resorts themselves, things aren’t that great either. Justin Williams, a Stevens Pass, WA local posted this warning in the Dig my Quiver facebook group.

“I just wanted to inform people thinking of traveling to Washington to possibly reconsider. With the acquisition of Stevens Pass Vail is having a very difficult time with operations. It’s not a standard Vail type mountain. Covid has been tough enough but for several different reasons Vail has been unable to retain local talent across the board to keep our mountain operating efficiently. They only have enough staff to run half of our lifts any given day resulting in never before seen lines at Stevens along with late openings. People are really upset with Vail’s management of the mountain and treatment towards employees. There are a lot of moving parts to this situation. You can see the sadness in peoples eyes when the lifts don’t open,” Williams wrote.

Photo: Fred Gaudette/Dig My Quiver

So yes, you may have to wait a little longer to get to the top of the mountain this year. My advice? Quit your bitching! In many European countries, the lifts aren’t even open. In Ontario, they just opened this past weekend. We are very lucky just to be able to ride the lifts at all.

Italians protest the closed lifts at Bardonecchia, Italy. Photo: Martin Loco

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