“…a two-tiered system of access to public lands based on financial ability is antithetical to equity in the outdoors, leaving those who cannot afford to pay for the pass being literally sent to the back of the line.”
Earlier this week, POWDR Corp, the entity that owns and operates ten ski resorts in North America, announced the implementation of a new Fast Tracks system that would allow customers to purchase daily, upgraded access to an express lift line, ostensibly allowing some folks to eke out more powder runs than the rest of us by paying more. The program will begin on November 1, 2021 at four resorts: Copper Mountain, CO; Killington, VT; Snowbird, UT; and Mt. Bachelor, OR. Prices will start at $49 per day in addition to a lift ticket or season pass and will rise or fall at the resort’s discretion, based on “high-demand periods” as explained in POWDR’s official press release on the matter. POWDR isn’t the first to do this; similar programs have been in the past and some still are utilized at various resorts, but predictably so, the news has not been met with excitement from the snow community. The social media airwaves have been rife with responses from both die-hards and weekend warriors, but today the ante was upped by a perturbed US Senator, and when the federal government gets upset at you, well, that’s embarrassing.
Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat from Oregon, wrote and released a letter to POWDR requesting that they abandon plans for Fast Track, citing the fact that Mt. Bachelor, as well as many other resorts, operate on public land in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service and furthering a hierarchy of usage only perpetuates unfair access during a time when the snowsports industry is already trying to grapple with existing barriers to entry. Of course, Senator Wyden must like to shred, because he clearly has an understanding of what it’s like to wait in a long lift line and how a fair, egalitarian approach to the line and the subsequent snowy spoils it can bring you to is ideal.
Read the full letter below.
October 13, 2021
John Cumming, Chairman and Founder
1794 Olympic Parkway, Suite 210
Park City, UT 84098
Dear Mr. Cumming,
I am writing to express concerns about the new Fast Tracks upgrade pass policy that POWDR announced it will implement at Mt. Bachelor and a number of its mountain resorts this year. Mt. Bachelor operates the ski resort on public lands via a U.S. Forest Service Special Use Permit, and as such, the public deserves fair and equitable access to those public lands. Given the serious concerns this policy raises about equitable access to the public lands on which Mt. Bachelor operates, I request that POWDR abandon its plans to adopt this new pass system. 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.
Mt. Bachelor’s website describes Fast Tracks as “an all-day upgrade to gain access to our new express lift lanes. It is the best way to maximize your time on the mountain any day you want. Less time waiting, more time skiing/riding.” My concerns with this policy, shared by many long-time Mt. Bachelor guests, are rooted in the understanding that a two-tiered system of access to public lands based on financial ability is antithetical to equity in the outdoors, leaving those who cannot afford to pay for the pass being literally sent to the back of the line. Ultimately, a Fast Tracks policy will ensure more time waiting in liftline bottlenecks and less time skiing or riding for those who cannot afford to pay for an elite, special upgrade.
Snow sports are already expensive enough that equity issues have been persistent, and financially disadvantaged families have long been unfairly priced out of access — something a Fast Tracks policy is sure to only make worse. I continue to advocate for improving access to the outdoors on America’s public lands such as supporting the Outdoors for All Act and championing Kids to Parks Day. While I understand that Mt. Bachelor needs the ability to charge guests for use of its infrastructure in order to create and maintain safe access to the mountain, I firmly believe these fees should not be set higher than necessary nor give preferential access to the wealthy, especially given that the resort operates on public land owned by every American.
I look forward to your response and to continuing to work with you to improve access to Mt. Bachelor so that all Oregonians, regardless of wealth, status, or privilege, can experience the remarkable natural landscape that Oregon’s public lands have to offer.
United States Senator