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If you thought reservations were a thing of the past as we head into our fourth (!!) pandemic winter, think again. Last season, a few Ikon Pass resorts—Snoqualmie, Wash., Taos Ski Valley, N.M., and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyo.—implemented reservations and will do so again this coming winter. And skiers were pleased. So much so that another four Ikon resorts are following suit: Aspen Snowmass, Colo., Big Sky Resort, Mont., Loon Mountain, N.H., and Brighton Resort, Utah.
Reservations will open on August 1st, so plan accordingly.
While the reservation system is a carry-over from the pandemic season initially designed to help resorts promote social distancing by reducing daily skier traffic, certain resorts are relying on reservations to abate overcrowding.
Skiers have mixed feelings about the re-implementation of reservations. One skier commented on Lift Blog tweet announcing the addition of new Ikon Pass reservation resorts that “I wish they [resorts] all would, and that they’d add competent maze masters on busy days.” Other responses to the tweet were less enthusiastic, “I don’t think it is right to announce this AFTER passes have already gone on sale.”
Crystal Mountain, Wash., one resort bogged down by the influx of Ikon Pass holders to the point that the resort changed its access from unlimited to five or seven days on the Ikon Pass, faced blowback when they unveiled the reinstitution of reservations via a Facebook post in December 2021.
Updated list of @IkonPass partner resorts managing capacity through reservations next season:@jhski @TaosSkiValley @SummitSnow411 @AspenSnowmass (New)@bigskyresort (New)@loonmtn (New)@BrightonResort (New)
— Lift Blog (@liftblog) March 29, 2022
“Many people bought passes based off of spontaneity of mountain riding and the word ‘unlimited.’ Please revoke this, immediately,” said one commenter. Another frustrated skier posted a link in the comments section of the post to a petition aimed at removing the newly announced reservation system. The petition encouraged signers to file a consumer complaint with the Washington State Office of the Attorney General.
Amidst a deluge of vitriol, Crystal quickly reversed course, slashing the lift reservation system and supplementing it with a parking reservation plan for the rest of the 2021-’22 season. It’s unclear if they will use a lift reservation system for this upcoming winter.
Vail Resorts, home of the Epic Pass, also tangled with an unruly combination of staffing troubles and crowded slopes last season. The company swam in public backlash as a petition titled “Hold Vail Resorts Accountable” made the rounds in January 2022. “Lift lines are out of control to the point where the majority of a day of ‘skiing’ is spent standing in line at one of the few lifts open,” wrote Jeremey Rubingh, who initiated the petition. Despite these criticisms, Vail has yet to announce if they’ll institute reservations at their resorts next season. Snow Brains, a skiing blog, speculates that such a measure could prove popular with locals tired of their haunts getting overrun.
It’s unlikely that the challenges associated with overcrowded resorts will disappear without intervention. According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), the 2021-’22 season saw more skiers than ever before. Resorts across the U.S. tallied up 61 million total visits this past winter, a visitation record, and a 3.5 percent increase over the 2020-’21 season. More than half of these skiers were pass holders, which suggests that growing Epic Pass and Ikon Pass sales are contributing heavily to resort congestion. Lift reservations, while controversial, could present a solution.