Resorts are at a crossroads, and must start to make difficult choices to mitigate crowds without scaring away their customers.
Agree with you almost completely. I'm 80 years old and ski'd Loveland, A Basin in1966. I think of the smaller places as "local" areas. They don't have to have a lot of amenities because we came to board of ski. I think the big areas are supporters of this model. I often think those areas that closed in the 70's ad 80's (Geneva, Pikes Peak, Hidden Valley, Berthoud, etc.) would survive today. I think it's fine this way.
The Epic Pass was an invention born of really shitty ski seasons in 2005-07 and then when the economy melted in ‘08/‘09. I think the first true Epic frontrange pass was 2008.
International travelers (and Texans) have perennially filled that perfect customer role you pointed out. Come once a year with the whole fam damily and spend a buttload. They’ve never made money on avid front range skiers, but it has sustained them during down years. I seem to remember the price of the first year at $350?
I had a full Vail merchant pass for 10 years back in the 90s and it was glorious. That was back when you could still say “skiing is cheaper than golf.” Not so much anymore.
I think that Subaru Forester was sitting in that same spot back in ‘87. 🙄
I agree with a lot of what you are seeing. Since Covid happened I have been buying a Loveland pass, which is where I go when I just want a days skiing, mostly because of the traffic issue. I'm over 70, so their senior pass is a no brainer. I started skiing at Winter Park in 1963, also the other front range areas. I instruct part-time, so I get an Epic employee pass, but unless I'm going for multiple days I don't fight the traffic. 10-15 years ago, I would ski as many as 80 days. The last 3 seasons, its been in the 30s, because of all the hassles. The same reason I don't do much hiking any more.
It will be interesting to see if the crowds continue during the next poor snow season we have. I would love to car pool, but I don't have many friends that can go when I do .
Great dystopian writing in your lede - I felt like I was reading a novel! I rarely ski, living in Georgia, but I can see similar situations for other outdoor areas. I grew up working at a rafting company and the crowded scene you describe could be August in most tourist-driven industries. We're already seeing parking passes and no-driving areas in many national parks. It's great that people want to be outdoors, and I personally think it's better than the alternative disinterest, but it means we're going to have to adjust our behavior by planning ahead and being willing to use shuttle buses, etc.