After Powdr Corp. launched its new Fast Tracks pay-for-faster-lift-access program, reaction from skiers and snowboarders was swift—and largely negative.
We posted the article “Thanks for the Thousand Dollars, Now Go Fuck Yourself” written by Stuart Winchester, author of the newish “Storm Skiing Journal”. Stuart nailed public opinion with his refreshing style of call-it-what-it-is journalism and consumer perspective as opposed to the prdominate culture of promotional spin.
In response to the feedback, Powdr posted A letter to the community regarding Fast Tracks from co-presidents Wade Martin and Justin Sibley. The letter acknowledges that the Fast Tracks announcement “has generated some questions and confusion, especially among the Mt. Bachelor community,” and aims to clarify how the product works and what it means for guests.
Fast Tracks is a daily ticket or season pass upgrade option (starting at $49 a day) for express lift access via dedicated lanes at four Powdr resorts: Copper Mountain, Colo., Killington, Vt., Mt. Bachelor, Ore., and Snowbird, Utah. The product, the letter states, is based on the concept that has been offered at Copper Mountain for nearly 20 years, which “has gone through a number of variations and optimizations informed through guest feedback,” and is now being expanded to the other resorts and reintroduced as Fast Tracks. The idea behind the product is to provide a way for Powdr guests to maximize their time on the mountain through access to a fast lane at key lifts.
Many local passholders have pointed out on social media that maximizing time for a select few could reduce on-snow time for others—like them. Some resent the fact that this new program was announced after they had bought their own season passes for the season. At Mt. Bachelor, Ore., anger over the program has prompted 10,000 opponents to sign a petition requesting that the program be abandoned.
A separate negative response came from Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, who decried the program for diminishing equity at Mt. Bachelor, which sits on National Forest land that, as Wyden pointed out, is owned by all Americans. Wyden requested that Powdr eliminate the program or, “at a minimum, POWDR must delay implementation until it adequately explains to the public how the Fast Tracks policy will not exacerbate equity issues that already exist in outdoor recreation.”
In the letter, Wade and Sibley said, “What we have learned through our recent experience with the product at Copper Mountain is that it is utilized by less than 2% of total daily skiers due in large part to our careful calibration and limiting access to ensure a quality experience for all guests. The product is additionally managed with lift loading protocols, which provide for rotation between traditional, Ski School and Fast Track lines. As a result, the impact on lift line wait times across our mountains is negligible.”
In addition, they said Fast Tracks will not affect general access to the resorts where it’s offered. “Fast Tracks access is no different than the access offered through ski school, private lessons and guided mountain tours in that they all provide a finite number of fast lane experiences,” which are available for anyone to buy at the same price with the same benefits.
“We remain highly confident based on our experience with similar products that Fast Tracks will be a valuable product for those that wish to participate and it will not compromise the experience of other guests. Nevertheless, if any guest would like a season pass refund before the season starts as a result of our Fast Tracks product, we will honor that request,” the letter concluded.
A PR representative for Powdr resorts, Alana Watkins, acknowledged to OutsideOnline that season-pass holders are less likely to utilize it. “There are plenty of skiers/riders who ski/ride often, and this might not be valuable [to] them. But for a family that is coming for a week’s vacation or a long weekend this could be the ultimate upgrade to help them get more out of their experience,” she wrote in an email.
As Jason Blevins of The Colorado Sun pointed out, Forest Service rules don’t prohibit products like Fast Tracks. One precedent is Copper Mountain’s Beeline Advantage program—the concept behind the Fast Tracks product—which the White River National Forest looked into in the early 2000s after skiers complained. The agency found the program did not violate anti-discrimination rules for ski areas operating on public land. Offering discounts to locals but not visitors, for example, would violate those rules, said Blevins.
“Products like Powdr’s Fast Tracks are business decisions that are not prohibited as long as they remain equally available to anyone without requirements,” Don Dressler, mountain resort program manager for the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region, told Blevins.
While reaction on social media has been overwhelmingly negative, not everyone has been opposed to the plan. “I am glad they are trying it and maybe it will work,” Boyne Resorts CEO Stephen Kircher told Stuart Winchester of The Storm Skiing Journal. However, Kircher also said he doesn’t see it being successful based on Boyne’s experience with programs of similar ilk that didn’t work out, including an express-lane offering at Sunday River, Maine, that was scrapped shortly after it launched due to guest feedback.
Fast-access lanes aren’t entirely new, of course. In addition to Copper’s Beeline Advantage, Bretton Woods, N.H., and Sierra-at-Tahoe, Calif., have had fast-access programs for years, too. And ski schools across the country have offered thinly-veiled programs that allow guests to ski/ride with an instructor mainly to cut the liftlines since at least the 1980s.
Slopefillers’ Gregg Blanchard, while acknowledging that much of the social media criticism has been fair, noted that this new program is in some ways not all that different from other aspects of the resort experience. Skiers have long tolerated special express access lines for ski school, he wrote, and accepted that they must pay more for things that improve their individual experience—from ski-in, ski-out lodging and upgraded rental gear to close-in parking. He suggested that this new program could be seen in a similar light—and that only time will tell if it is.
Powdr Corp. co-Presidents Wade Martin and Justin Sibley in an open letter said the company intends to keep the fast pass available at Mt. Bachelor, but will offer season ticket holders refunds before the season starts. The U.S. Forest Service said the pass does not appear to be outside the terms and conditions of the ski area operator’s permit.
A Letter to the Community Regarding Fast Tracks
We understand how passionate you are about the mountains. Doing the things you love with the people you love is definitely a shared mission.
We also understand that change can be concerning. Our intent as stewards of the mountains is to be thoughtful and considerate. We believe there is nothing better for our communities than providing a balanced life full of adventure. To make this happen, POWDR is committed to doing all we can to protect our environment and enable participation for all.
Our recently announced Fast Tracks product, which enables upgradeable express lift access at four of our mountain resorts, has generated some questions and confusion, especially among the Mt. Bachelor community. As a result, we would like to clarify how this product works and what it means for our community and reiterate our commitment to mountain access for all.
The Fast Tracks concept has been in operation at our Copper Mountain, Colorado, resort for almost 20 years. First introduced in January of 2002 for lodging guests only, the offer was made widely available to anyone skiing the following season, in February 2003. Since that time, it has gone through a number of variations and optimizations informed through guest feedback. Product and experiential enhancements were successfully implemented at Copper Mountain and the concept was expanded to other resorts and reintroduced as Fast Tracks.
What we have learned through our recent experience with the product at Copper Mountain is that it is utilized by less than 2% of total daily skiers due in large part to our careful calibration and limiting access to ensure a quality experience for all guests. The product is additionally managed with lift loading protocols, which provide for rotation between traditional, Ski School and Fast Track lines. As a result, the impact on lift line wait times across our mountains is negligible.
Fast Tracks does not affect general access to our resorts, as it is an add-on product to a day lift ticket or season pass. Fast Tracks access is no different than the access offered through ski school, private lessons and guided mountain tours in that they all provide a finite number of fast lane experiences. These experiences are made available to every member of the public, at the same price, with the same benefits.
To this last point, as stewards of amazing mountain resort experiences on some of our nation’s most beautiful public lands, we believe we have a responsibility to create opportunities for everyone to access and enjoy the adventure lifestyle. As part of our Play Forever commitment, we are working to build a more inclusive community through our partnerships with the Burton Chill Foundation, SOS Outreach, Special Olympics, Boys and Girls Clubs and local parks & rec and school learn to ski programs. We also enable access by providing resources through the High Fives Foundation and local organizations such as Wasatch Adaptive Sports, Vermont Adaptive, Adaptive Action Sports and Oregon Adaptive Sports.
Furthermore, we provide free public access to resort amenities located on private and public land. For example, Snowbird provides access to adjacent U.S. Forest Service lands through permanently open gates at the bottom of Mineral Basin as well as Baby Thunder and has a controlled gate to access public lands via the White Pine and American Fork Twin Peaks when avalanche conditions permit. In addition, Mt. Bachelor’s Woodward Start Park and Early Riser Lift are free and available for the public to enjoy all season long as is alpine touring in specific controlled areas and access to adjacent forest and wilderness areas for Alpine Touring and Snowshoeing.
We do not believe that providing access to the public lands on which our resorts operate and offering customizable experiences for our guests are mutually exclusive. We remain highly confident based on our experience with similar products that Fast Tracks will be a valuable product for those that wish to participate and it will not compromise the experience of other guests. Nevertheless, if any guest would like a season pass refund before the season starts as a result of our Fast Tracks product, we will honor that request.
We remain committed to fostering lasting relationships with our communities and enabling the adventure lifestyle for generations to come.
Wade Martin & Justin Sibley