Should skiers be able to pay to skip lift lines? Snowbird owner POWDR’s new Fast Tracks hits backlash in Utah, Oregon

The Chickadee lift is pictured at Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021.

The Chickadee lift is pictured at Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

On Monday, ski resort conglomerate POWDR unveiled its Fast Tracks program, a daily upgrade that gives guests access to an expedited lift line.

Four of POWDR’s resorts — Colorado’s Copper Mountain, Vermont’s Killington, Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor and Utah’s Snowbird — will be implementing the system this upcoming winter. Snowbird says the upgrade will be available starting Nov. 1.

The idea is simple. For $69, guests can use Snowbird’s new “express lane” to skip the line at six of the mountain’s most popular lifts, excluding the tram. Fast Tracks is available to all guests, although the resort will limit inventory. Prices may go up during holidays.

Think of Disney’s FastPass, discontinued this summer but replaced with Genie+, a feature that still allows guests to skip lines for a fee.

“Using our knowledge of similar products and experiences, such as the use of our Mountain School lane, we know that the impact on regular lift lane wait times will be minimal. Only a limited amount of the Fast Tracks product will be sold daily, and it will be integrated into the existing flow of our lift lanes, one group from each lift lane moving forward at a time,” said Dave Fields, Snowbird’s general manager, in an email to the Deseret News.

The concept has not been received well in corners of the Salt Lake ski community. Some see it as yet another example of the ski industry only catering to its most wealthy clientele.

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Anything Snowbird posts on its Instagram page as of late gets hounded by angry social media users calling the move a “money grab,” “scam” and accusing the company of “limiting mountain access to the ultra wealthy.” Some claim to be getting refunds on their seasons pass.

“We know that Snowbird skiers and riders are incredibly passionate about their sports and value their time on the mountain,” Fields said of the criticism.

The system has drawn the ire of Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who on Wednesday penned a letter to POWDR Chairman and founder John Cumming asking the company to “abandon its plans to adopt this new pass system.”

The focus of Wyden’s letter is Mt. Bachelor, which operates under a U.S. Forest Service Special Use permit. Snowbird sits on a mix of private and Forest Service land.

“Snow sports are already expensive enough that equity issues have been persistent, and financially disadvantaged families have long been unfairly priced out of access — something a Fast Tracks policy is sure to only make worse,” writes Wyden.

“My concerns with this policy, shared by many longtime Mt. Bachelor guests, are rooted in the understanding that a two-tiered system of access to public lands based on financial ability is antithetical to equity in the outdoors, leaving those who cannot afford to pay for the pass being literally sent to the back of the line.”

A petition asking “that …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


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