Ski Canada Magazine



Skiers at resorts owned by the Utah-based company Powdr will soon be offered a solution to crowding. But it comes at a cost. To all of us.

With the ski industry talking a lot about its affordabil­ity and inclusivit­y problem, Powdr executives announced in October (months after the majority of season passes had been sold) a pay-to-skip-the-line VIP upgrade at four of its 11 ski resorts.

“With the launch of Fast Tracks, we are providing our guests a way to maximize their time on the mountain—and memories with family and friends,” Wade Martin, co-president at Powdr, said in a press release. “Unlike our counterpar­ts in other areas of the hospitalit­y and event industry, the ski industry has yet to embrace the concept of providing options for guests to upgrade their experience. We are exploring the opportunit­y to solve our guests’ greatest pain points by becoming one of the first adventure lifestyle companies to provide upgrades that maximize the on-mountain experience.”

Buying the daily upgrade option grants access to a dedicated line for the busiest lifts at Copper Mountain, Colorado; Mt. Bachelor, Oregon; Snowbird, Utah; and Killington, Vermont.

Resorts will use variable pricing for the queue-cutting privilege, starting at US$49 per day ($69 at Snowbird); the number of Fast Tracks sold each day will be limited. Powdr says it won’t institute the program at its lone Canadian resort, SilverStar, or at its other five U.S. hills this winter.

The goal with the program, says Powdr, is to tackle the crowding and long lift lines experience­d in the last couple of seasons, and exacerbate­d by the pandemic’s socialdist­ancing guidelines. But with packed events and business seemingly as usual south of the border, it may be a bit difficult for Canadians to swallow this rationaliz­ation.

“We know our guests’ number one priority is to spend more time skiing or riding,” says Martin. And they can help…for a price.

Technicall­y, privileged lift access already exists in Canada. For example, Panorama Mountain Resort sells 13 Founders Passes every winter to skiers who donate to the Panorama Foundation, a charity. It’s modelled on a program started at Whistler Blackcomb.

California’s Sierra-at-Tahoe sells a US$219 season-long fast lane pass that allows skiers to blow past others ahead of you on three lifts. Sunday River, in Maine, experiment­ed with the idea in the past, but the backlash from its Vertical Plus program from the skiing masses quickly shut down the program. Powdr is facing similar bad press.

Fast Tracks, of course, does nothing to control the number of skiers or encourage skiers to use less-busy lifts. Simple math tells us that adding a fast lane simply lengthens the wait time for everyone else. With day tickets already costing US$150 and up, and season passes more than $1,000, it’s hard to see how the move will do anything but incite insurrecti­on in lift lines.


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