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Vail Executive Explains Last Weekend's Long Lift Lines

(CBS4) -- Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Beth Howard released a statement Wednesday in an effort to assuage concerns about two-hour waits at the resort's ski lifts last weekend.

"I am well aware that a picture is worth a thousand words," Howard wrote, "but I truly hope my words here help provide context for what happened."

Vail Lift Lines 1 (credit Mariano Long)
A crowd gathers at the bottom of a Vail chairlift Sunday. (credit: Mariano Long)


Vail Lift Lines 2 (credit Mariano Long)
(credit: Mariano Long)

Howard's statement was released on the ski area's Twitter account, ironically the same social media that immediately spread word and imagery of the mass of skiers and snowboarders who gathered in anticipation of dreamy slope conditions.

CBS4's Jamie Leary was among them.

Vail's Howard described the wait as "undeniably long," but said customers began lining up at Gondola One at 6 a.m. -- more than two hours prior to the resort's opening.

"I want to assure you," Howard continued, "that those lines were gone by 10 a.m. on Friday and by 9:15 a.m. on Saturday. That gondola can manage a lot of guests – and once the initial group dissipated, the line was around 5 minutes long the rest of those days."

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Howard went on to say that lengthy measures taken toward skier safety in the back bowls also created uncommonly little area open for use in the mornings. Consequently, lines began forming there.

Vail Lift Lines 1 (from COO's letter)
Members of the Vail Ski Patrol perform avalanche mitigation on Lovers Leap above Blue Sky Basin on Sunday. (credit: Vail Resorts)

"We considered whether to limit or meter guest access to that terrain," Howard added, "but candidly it was not something we had done before. We also tried to warn guests about the line, but fell way short in our effectiveness – and even when we did, guests tended to ski right past our staff because they wanted to enjoy the untouched powder. To help make up for any guest impacts, we decided to keep the lifts running an additional half-hour."

vail leary pic
(credit: CBS)


Vail Lift Lines 2 (from COO's letter)
Vail Mountain lift operators dig snow out of Chair #39's terminal Saturday. (credit: Vail Resorts)

Howard stated the resort received 38 inches of new snow in a 48-hour period, a top-5 snowfall event in the ski area's 58-year history.

A weather system capable of bring additional snow to the mountains is expected to roll into Colorado on Monday.



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