Epic Pass skiers under travel restrictions in the Northeast are upset after being denied refunds by Vail Resorts. Most of the controversy stems from the travel restrictions that Vermont put in place last fall, requiring visitors to the state to quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative test after 7 days.
While the quarantine and testing can be done in one’s home state, passholders argue that those of them who have jobs requiring them to work in-person, such as doctors and teachers, can’t quarantine for two weeks before a ski trip, nor can they add seven or 14 days to a ski trip and quarantine while in Vermont.
David Rion, who lives in Windsor, Conn., purchased Epic Passes over the summer for himself, his wife, and their seven- and nine-year-old sons, and says pulling the kids out of school for a week in order to get in a day of skiing at Mount Snow, two hours away and their closest resort, is not an option. “We know there are people ignoring the rules and saying ‘yeah, we quarantined,’” Rion says. “We could do that, but we don’t think that’s right. We wear masks, we think the pandemic is a big deal, and if Vermont is going to have strict rules, we want to respect that. But it leaves us in sort of an impossible place.”
Because Vail Resorts included its Epic Coverage pass insurance complimentary with all Epic Passes this season, Rion thought he’d be in the clear for anything pandemic-related. “In talking to them, looking at Epic Coverage, we got the impression that we could get our money back for anything COVID-related.” Yet Vail Resorts has denied refunds in these cases, saying that general travel restrictions, like those in place in Vermont and affecting access to the company’s three resorts there, don’t explicitly prohibit the use of a ski pass and are not cause for a refund.
This could be taken as a contradiction to information shared in a letter to guests from Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz, who wrote in August 2020: “Our operations will remain subject to the local regulations in each of our resort locations.”
Vail Resort’s Epic Coverage pass insurance program promises a refund to passholders “for resort closures due to COVID-19 and certain personal events like illness, job loss, injury and mandatory stay-at-home orders,” says the company’s manager of corporate communications Marjory Elwell. Yet passholders are still being denied refunds, so state restrictions—however difficult they make travel—aren’t covered right now.
Neither Vermont nor its neighboring states have issued direct stay-at-home orders, though the effect to many passholders is the same if they can’t lawfully ski at their resort of choice.
Vail Resorts says they are willing to reconsider refund requests later this spring.
Jeanine Clark, a skier from Voorhees, N.J., offers a different perspective. She bought her Epic Pass with the hope of taking trips to N.H. and Vt., but also knowing that she might have to cancel and ski exclusively at VR’s resorts in Pennsylvania, where out-of-staters can show a negative test taken within 72 hours prior to entering. “If worse came to worst, even if I didn’t get to ski at all this year, I want there to be a ski industry next year,” Clark explain. “If it means I lose the money for the pass, then so be it.”
There may be some light at the end of the tunnel. Vail Resorts says they are willing to reconsider refund requests later this spring after seeing the full picture of how the travel restrictions will have affected various resorts.
“We know some of our passholders are experiencing additional challenges this season,” Elwell says.
“We sincerely understand their frustrations and will take all guest concerns into consideration at the end of the season as we seek to retain the loyalty of our passholders. In the meantime, our passes are valid at numerous resorts across five states in the East and for three more months of the season.”
“If there was an Epic resort in Connecticut, we’d be going every weekend,” states Rion, who says that he would be happy with a credit rolling the family’s passes over to next season. “They get to keep the money, and we get to go skiing when we’re allowed again.”