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Vermont’s Killington Ski Resort will let skiers and riders pay for priority access at ski lifts this season, a decision that has drawn a mixed response from skiers.
Killington is launching a Fast Tracks program, where skiers and riders pay a rate that begins at $49 per day — in addition to the $149 to $169 daily lift ticket cost — for priority access to 10 of the resort’s most popular lifts where “there are traditionally longer wait times,” according to the resort.
Fast Tracks is no stranger to skiers around the country. Powdr, Killington’s parent company, also offers the program at Mt. Bachelor in Oregon, Snowbird in Utah, and Copper Mountain in Colorado.
At Killington, Fast Tracks passes are available for purchase Nov. 1.
The program has faced plenty of criticism in recent weeks, with hundreds posting their concerns on a Facebook page for Killington locals.
“What I thought was, how incredibly tone deaf it was,” Tricia Tirella, a season pass holder at Killington who has been skiing the mountain for nine years, told Boston.com. “And how it didn’t honor the experiences that many skiers suffered through last year due to COVID. There were long lines that people had to suffer through.”
Tirella also called the program “inequitable.”
“In the beginning of the pandemic, there was a call to do something to make the resorts more equitable for BIPOC,” she said. “Killington put out a link with a survey asking people for their thoughts. It just seems that, if you are having these conversations in the sport industry, to come to this conclusion doesn’t make sense to me. You are moving your company into a less equitable direction for everyone.”
Chuck Graziano, from Ramsey, N.J., has a home in Killington, has been been skiing the mountain since 1969, and has worked as a ski instructor there for 37 years.
“My initial, emotional reaction was it’s nickel and diming,” Graziano told Boston.com. “It’s another fee on top of a very expensive sport that’s becoming less and less of a family sport and more and more of an elitist or very expensive sport.”
Graziano, a business owner for much of his career, said after digesting it for a bit, he decided: “I’m not thrilled with it, but I understand it. From a business standpoint, I understand it.”
“I still think it’s bad optics for a majority of people, but I understand the nature of it from a profit standpoint,” Graziano said. “It’s another revenue stream for the company. But, also, it’s another level they can offer people that want to come and express their way around the mountain and ski a lot of skiing in a very short period of time. So it’s kind of an option that they’re offering people that some people would be really attracted to.”
The Storm Skiing Journal and Podcast didn’t sugarcoat its feelings about the program, using profanity in a headline and calling it “sanctioned cutting for rich people.”
“My concerns with this policy, shared by many long-time Mt. Bachelor guests, are rooted in the understanding that a two-tired 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,” Wyden wrote.
Dan Cochrane, who skis at Mt. Bachelor, launched a Change.org petition asking Powdr to “cease and desist” the Fast Tracks pass. It has been signed by more than 12,500 people.
Powdr and Killington officials have recently responded to the blowback.
“I want to assure you that many of your fears about what Fast Tracks means for Killington aren’t reality,” Killington CEO and general manager Mike Solimano wrote in an open letter.
“This reminds me of when we announced parking reservations. There was a lot of concern from season pass holders about how they might not get access to use their pass,” Solimano continued. “I asked you then to trust that we had a solid plan for managing access in a way that didn’t have a significant impact on your ability to use your pass and we delivered. Last year we were able to manage our volume and never ended up having to restrict anyone from skiing (not all resorts can say that), so I ask that you give us the benefit of the doubt and judge us by our past actions. “
Solimano’s letter drew more than 150 comments. Killington’s publicity department said Solimano was unavailable to comment about the program.
Powdr’s letter reads, in part: “Fast Tracks access is no different than the access offered through ski school, private lessons, and guided mountain tours in that they all provide a finite number of fast-lane experiences. These experiences are made available to every member of the public, at the same price, with the same benefits.”
Solimano said the program will have “very little” impact on guests who don’t choose the upgrade because less than 2 percent of skiers will have access to the program daily.
“The reality is, if you’re standing in line at Killington for 15 minutes, that’s a very very busy day. That’s like a 20,000-skier day, a holiday weekend day,” Graziano said. “Lift lines are really not very long ever in Killington, so I’m not sure I really get the need for this in the first place.”
Solimano said in his letter that he will refund concerned season pass holders prior to the season.
Tirella said she doesn’t want a refund and is looking forward to the ski season at Killington, which she called “a very special community.”
But about the Fast Tracks pass, she said: “I’m hoping it goes really poorly and they lose the program.”
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