Eldora Receives Flurry of Complaints Over Pay-to-park Policy

December 12, 2018 GMT

Free bus passes

Eldora on Saturday and Sunday will be giving away free round-trip passes good to all riders on the 8:10 and 10:10 a.m. Regional Transportation District Route N buses from the Boulder Transit Center, 1800 14th St. The giveaway will continue on additional weekends still to be determined, according to Eldora.

For more information, visit eldora.com/plan-your-trip/getting-here/rtd-ski-n-ride .

Like an alpine skier slaloming down challenging terrain, the Eldora ski resort on Tuesday answered pushback from its customers by re-examining a new limited pay-to-park policy set to take effect this weekend.

Eldora, the county’s backyard ski area just 21 miles west of Boulder, has been weathering a flurry of public criticism since posting a new parking policy on its website last week, proposing to charge $20 for vehicles with fewer than three occupants on peak visitation days — weekends, holidays and to-be-determined weather-driven days — running from Saturday through April 14.

The resort anticipates that equating to about 49days on which the fee would be applicable, and 110 on which it would not.

Those exempt from the $20 fee on those days would include, in addition to cars carrying three or more skiers, those holding an Eldora full-season pass — but not owners of the multi-resort Ikon Pass, which covers Eldora and many others as well.

The plan comes in a season that has been boosted by early snow, enabling Eldora to open Nov. 7 , its earliest first day in more than 20 years.

Eldora General Manager Brent Tregaskis on Tuesday indicated that conversations were ongoing internally at the corporate level, and that the policy as posted at that time on the resort website might not be the last word on the subject.

“We have had a lot of feedback and Eldora is evaluating that feedback and looking at options, prior to us implementing the parking plan that was scheduled for Saturday,” Tregaskis said.

Longmont resident and frequent skier Ben Thuss was just one of many who had sounded off publicly on the new policy in recent days.

“My biggest gripe is just that this policy came out after I had already bought my Ikon pass. And a big reason I bought it was that Eldora is on it, and I planned to use it mostly at that resort,” Thuss said.

“As for just the Eldora pass (holders) being exempt, I’m not sure why they did not extend it to the Ikon as well. This changes the value of this real expensive (Ikon) ski pass I had already bought. I respect their option to make a business decision to do this, but more than anything else, I thought it was unfair to people who had already signed up for these season passes.”

‘Hornet’s nest’

Nederland Mayor Kristopher Larsen is tracking the controversy from Washington, D.C., where he is participating in the ongoing annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. He sent Tregaskis an email on Monday protesting the policy, which he said has “stirred up a hornet’s nest” in Eldora’s neighboring town.

“We’ve been hearing so much about this from residents of Nederland and any Ned-heads who live nearby,” Larsen said. “This changes so much. A lot of us moved up to Nederland to ski. We wanted to be a few minutes from a ski area so we didn’t have to get up and drive up so many miles and burn up the gas. This ends that whole thing for all of us.”

Thuss and Larsen both mentioned that the requirement of three or more occupants per vehicle for an exemption worked directly against the inclination of many Eldora fans to just grab a few turns in the powder on the spur of the moment and then get on with their day.

“For me, a big value I personally got out of Eldora was to go up really early on a Saturday, get a few runs in, and be home by noon or lunchtime,” said Thuss, who often skis with just one other person — his girlfriend. “And now, that doesn’t make a lot of sense for me if I have to pay $20 to park.”

Larsen was particularly disturbed that Tregaskis and the resort’s sustainability director met with Nederland town trustees in the first week of November, and did not mention the new parking policy. That, he said, makes him question whether the resort is engaging in “greenwashing,” or, as he put it, “using sustainability as a cover.”

“The only green they’re interested in, in my view, is dollars,” Larsen said. “If there’s more skiers in a car, it’s more dollars on the hill.

“Locals have always skied the hill for a few hours. We’re not welcome anymore, because we’re not sticking around to spend all that money. This isn’t going to change anything about the carbon usage of skiing. It’s just getting more people onto a crowded hill.”

Lot expansion on tap

When the new policy was mentioned to Nederland Town Marshal Larry Johns, he responded with one word: “Ouch.”

But he did have more to say.

“I would much rather see them shuttle people up from the Boulder area. Boulder does have a lot more parking down below,” Johns said. “They could probably work something out with the sheriff’s office and the DA’s office, to use that parking lot at the Justice Center on weekends and holidays, and run more buses.

“That would be the ideal thing, with less cars. That road is beat to snot, so it can’t really take a lot more,” he added. “I think we all want to see Eldora and businesses here in general do well. So to me, that’s the best option, trying to shuttle people up.”

Boulder County spokeswoman Barb Halpin said that Johns’ idea is not out of the question — from the county’s perspective.

“We could work with them, if they approached the county commissioners’ office to do that,” Halpin said. “We would issue a permit and there would be a set number of dates that would be allowed. ...To my knowledge, we have not been approached by anybody this year, to accommodate that. But certainly we would be open to the idea.”

Approval on such a permit would require input from the county courts system, county building services officials and perhaps others, Halpin said.

Meanwhile, Eldora is on record as planning to add additional parking spaces, with stated plans to significantly expand its lot next summer.

County Land Use Director Dale Case said Tuesday that Eldora officials have come in to speak with his staff “preliminarily” about those parking expansion plans, and that he expects the required studies and application paperwork will be submitted by the resort soon, making construction and completion of the lot in the summer of 2019 “doable.”

Jury still out

Should Eldora’s parking policy succeed in pushing more people to the Regional Transportation District’s N Route, RTD is not concerned about answering increased demand.

“For years, Route N has carried an extra bus on the weekends during the Eldora season, and that extra vehicle is removed from the route when demand falls away,” spokeswoman Laurie Huff stated in an email.

“During this period, demand on the weekends previously has been enough to warrant this additional vehicle, but it has never been more than three-quarters full — and is usually half-full.”

The Eldora parking policy — at least as it stood on Tuesday — was presented as being in aid of its ” Play Forever ” sustainability initiative, intended to address its carbon footprint. Eldora’s Play Forever program, in partnership with its Utah-based ownership group Powdr Corp., calls for a nearly 50 percent reduction in its carbon footprint over a 10-year period.

But for Nederland’s mayor, the jury is still out on what direction Eldora is headed.

“It seems like they rolled this out without thinking through all the implications,” Larsen said. “It would have helped if they talked to us about this. We could have given our view.

“I hope that this is a step toward where we can work with Eldora and work with Powdr Corp and come up with a solution that works for all of us. It feels like a corporate resort. And that’s not what we want.”

Charlie Brennan: 303-473-1327, brennanc@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/chasbrennan