Dori: Are some local ski resorts giving snow enthusiasts a bait-and-switch?

Jan 5, 2022, 5:03 PM | Updated: Jan 6, 2022, 8:01 am
ski season...
Night skiing at Stevens Pass in 2021. (MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

Snowboarders and downhill and cross-country ski enthusiasts almost unanimously agree: Recent winter snowfall across Washington’s most popular ski resorts in the Cascades has been nothing shy of heavenly.

But an avalanche of Dori Monson Show listeners lit up the KIRO Radio text line Wednesday after Dori described getting the cold shoulder from Vail Resorts, despite his repeated attempts to interview an official with the Colorado-based company that owns Stevens Pass, located about 45 miles east of Everett off Highway 2.

Dori’s questions echo those of listeners: Why are waits at Stevens Pass so long? Why are only half of Stevens’ 10 chairlifts open? Where is the staffing for parking shuttles, lot snow-clearing, and traffic direction? And why do these problems exist in the first place when most Stevens Pass season ticket holders have already shelled out $500 to $1,000 for these services?

“Skiers are salt-of-the-earth people who chose a healthy sport,” Dori said. “Even the egg guy who advertises on KIRO with his granddaughter Harley goes skiing 80 times a year.”

Selling packages that promise access to the entire mountain but really offer only a few chairs that force people to stand in ridiculously long lines is a bait-and-switch, Dori says.

In general postings and email responses, a Vail Resorts spokesperson cites staff shortages and COVID-related consequences for the problems.

For season pass holders at Stevens Pass, that’s not enough. Some season pass holders have signed an online petition to get action. The petition seeks to hold Vail Resorts accountable for mismanagement.

Stevens Pass is one of 37 mountain resort and ski areas Vail Resorts owns in North America and Australia, including its Colorado flagship slopes, and those at Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia. The company reported more than $1.9 billion in net revenue in 2020.

With one of the snowiest seasons in recent memory waiting on Cascade slopes, what is the real problem? And how much has the price of skiing increased in Western Washington? Dori’s listeners chimed in on the text line.

Some listeners pointed to staff shortages due to COVID, and reductions in perks and housing. Others attribute it to overselling the number of season passes without the infrastructure of parking, overnight housing, and other resources to support it. And some target the increased prices that aren’t reflected in better service.

Other listeners say management problems can also be found with sledding permits at Snoqualmie Pass and skiing at Crystal Mountain near Mount Rainier.

From the 206: “Dori, my stepson is a boarder at Stevens. My understanding is that Vail got rid of employee housing or the ability to live in RVs in the parking lot. You remove these options and it is obvious why they can’t find employees. That’s what made it fun for young people.”

From the 360: “If you can get anyone at Snoqualmie Pass to actually answer the phone, please let me know. I’ve been trying to get a refund for sledding passes. Couldn’t go because the (I-90) pass was closed. I’m struggling. This was a special treat. Emailed them four times; no response. I think my $89 is gone. Really need that money, like everyone else.”

From the 206: “My daughter works at a ski shop part time and heard that workers used to be able to stay at the cabins up there (Stevens Pass) at a discount, but they have been priced out. Also, yes, they only had two lifts (1 was Daisy) out of five open for night skiing last week.”

From the 206: “Thanks for covering the Stevens Pass issue. They do need to pay more, but there is another reason they lost employees, … they are enforcing a vaccine mandate.”

From the 360: “When I was a senior in high school, 1970-71, I hit the slopes that winter 68 times. Went every weekend and a day or two during the week. I had very forgiving teachers and a slack senior schedule.”

“I don’t like seeing people get ripped off,” Dori added.

The Dori Monson Show will continue working to stay on top of this.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Dori Monson on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
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Dori: Are some local ski resorts giving snow enthusiasts a bait-and-switch?