Here’s What It Was Like In That Terribly Long Lift Line At Vail Last Weekend

February 14, 2020
The back bowls at Vail Ski Resort.The back bowls at Vail Ski Resort.Ashley Dean/Denverite
The back bowls at Vail Ski Resort.

Vail Ski Resort hopes better communication will help prevent long lines like the ones that caused lengthy delays at a chairlift and a gondola last weekend.

If you're a skier or a Coloradan, there's a good chance you've seen the videos and photos that went viral by now.

Now in fairness, Vail got 38 inches of snow over two days, which drew huge crowds. That amount ranks as a top-five snowfall recorded in its 58-year history.

It's the kind of conditions skiers and snowboarders dream about. But that turned into a bit of a nightmare for some in the high country, thanks to closures on I-70, delays at resorts like Arapahoe Basin, and even a shutdown of Loveland Ski Area. But when it came to long lines, Vail seemed to sit atop the podium.

LeeAnn Karpel of St. Louis waited for two hours at the bottom of the Sun Down and Sun Up bowls, she said. There's only one way out once you're there, and that's Chair 5.

"There was just a huge blob of people. It was just a horde. Nobody was sure they were in the right lines," Karpel, whose family planned the ski trip months in advance, said. "Since we are from out of town, we paid $200 for a lift ticket to stand in line. Everybody was pretty disgruntled."

After a while, the horde of people became increasingly uneasy. From there, things escalated. Skiers threw snowballs at anyone riding the lift solo, Karpel said.

"Also, people started booing ski school because ski school gets to cut in front of the line," Karpel said. "When I was near the front, I actually heard ski patrol tell one of the ski school instructors that they weren't allowed to come down into High Noon any more that day because of how upset everybody was."

In a statement, Vail Mountain's chief operating officer Beth Howard has apologized "for any experience that was less than ideal."

"We were fully staffed – it was truly an all-hands-on-deck scenario – and we spared no expense to get the mountain open as quickly as possible," Howard said.

Well, now we're heading into a holiday weekend. And that means most ski resorts expect to be super busy once again.

And after last weekend's extraordinarily long lines at Vail Resort, Howard said she's focused on improving communication channels. Skiers should see more updates and information on all of Vail's social accounts, and the EpicMix smartphone app has been updated to list more accurate wait times for lift lines. Plus, the resort (like most) does have employees who can direct skiers and riders where and where not to go, officials said.

According to Karpel, she did not see anyone warning people to avoid Chair 5 last weekend because of the wait.

"I would've never gone into that hole, with no way to get out," she said. "So that's the biggest disappointment. I wish that they had just managed their people better."

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