The parking fees at Eldora are no more.
Over the weekend, Eldora Mountain Resort announced that to address overflowing parking lots on peak-visitation days (all weekends, holidays, and big powder days) select skiers and riders would be charged a $20 parking fee unless they had three or more people in their car. However, outrage over the announcement was swift—with local skiers saying pass-holders were “screwed” by the mountain’s “questionable ethics”—and on Tuesday, Sam Bass, Eldora’s marketing director, confirmed to 5280 that the parking fees are being rescinded before they even begin.
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“We heard our guests’ impassioned feedback loudly and we’re changing course,” Brent Tregaskis, Eldora’s president and general manager, said in a statement Tuesday evening. “As a community partner, Eldora is committed to embracing input and adapting accordingly. We will not introduce paid parking at this time because we did not give our guest sufficient notice.”
Since the 1960s, Eldora has been something of a local’s mountain. Just five miles from Nederland and 21 miles from Boulder, it’s a preferred destination for Front Range skiers who don’t want to sit in I-70 traffic or who are just looking for a mellow half day.
For years, the mountain flew under the radar a bit. But recently, things have changed. In 2016, Eldora was bought by corporate owners. In 2017, Eldora unveiled a state-of-the-art six-person chairlift that brings skiers and riders up the mountain at high speed. And now in 2018, Eldora is part of Alterra Mountain Company’s brand-new and much-acclaimed Ikon Pass. The big changes have ostensibly been good for Eldora, but it’s also seriously boosted the mountain’s profile—so much so that overcrowding became a serious issue early in the ski season.
The parking lots are consistently full on weekends and the resort has very little room to expand. Due to increased visitation, the mountain has already had to turn cars away this season because all the lots were full. The proposed fee was not an initiative to punish skiers, Bass told 9News over the weekend, but instead an effort to reduce the amount of single-occupancy vehicles and to cut down on the amount of traffic in Nederland and on Boulder County roads en route to the mountain.
The pay-to-park fees will not be put into place this year, and instead the mountain will be offering other incentives to address overcrowding, like offering first-come, first-served premier parking for vehicles with three or more passengers. The mountain will also offer free RTD passes to the mountain on select high-traffic days.
Part of the reason folks were so angry about the fee structure was because it was announced more than a month into the season, and long after people had purchased season passes. Many people said they would have bought an Eldora season pass (to which the fees wouldn’t apply) instead of the Ikon pass or made other arrangements had they known in advance.
Before Eldora announced that it was reversing course, 5280 reached out to its audience on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram asking how people felt about the fees. While several people noted that the overcrowding made parking fees necessary and were supportive of the move, the vast majority of comments were from skiers and boarders who felt duped by the decision.
Benjamin Everson, for instance, has young children who are learning to ski at Eldora. He noted that he already enrolled his son in lessons, which costs more than $700 for six consecutive Saturdays and Sundays of instruction. “By springing this parking charge mid season,” Everson wrote over email, “Eldora is effectively increasing the price of my son’s lesson by $120.”
Dee Peters, who lives in Superior with her husband and skis an average of 40 days a year, mostly at Eldora, was equally upset. “How do we feel about the new parking fee? We are skiing at Winter Park this coming weekend and spending our breakfast and lunch dollars there versus Eldora.” She wrote in an email to 5280 prior to the new announcement. “We are hurt, confused, and downright disappointed in this parking fee decision.”
Whether or not the resort will experience lasting effects from the decision remains to be seen. “I am still frustrated by how it was handled and I am worried that they’ll do something like this again,” Everson says. “I won’t rule out skiing there in future seasons, but I will be very wary of committing to more lessons for my kids or a pass for any of us in the short term.”
Still, while the fees are gone, the major issue remains: Eldora has a parking shortage and more visitors than ever. “We expect we will have to continue to turn guests away due to overcrowding again this season,” Tregaskis says. “We are working closely with the county to increase our parking capacity, reduce traffic, and lower emissions, but we aren’t there yet. Given that we are rescinding our paid-parking at this time, we need our guests to speak as loudly with their actions as they have with their words.”