Vail Resorts Inc. has announced new parking fees and reservations for California resorts Northstar, Heavenly Valley, and Kirkwood beginning mid-December. Following similar policies at Park City and other resorts, Vail hopes that these new policies will encourage carpooling and cut down on road congestion. However, with limited incentives for carpooling and a lack of public transportation options, it is unclear if these policies will deliver the expected results.
In a press release from last spring, Vail announced its focus on reservation-based parking for its Tahoe resorts. At Northstar and Heavenly, reservations will now be required in several lots all weekends and select weekdays until mid-April (see specific dates below). These reservations will be accompanied by a $20 fee if the vehicle contains less than four passengers. Vail has not announced any plan for a sliding-scale fee policy, where cars with two or three passengers could avoid paying the full fee. Four passengers with ski gear may well be too much cargo for some, which could result in more carpooling only among owners of large SUVs and pickup trucks. Both Northstar and Heavenly will still maintain free, first-come, first-served parking for at least one of their parking lots.
Kirkwood is adding a slightly higher parking fee of $35 to some of their parking lots, with no introduction of a reservation system. They state that over 80% of their parking lots will remain free, prompting questions about whether this policy change will address any parking issues.
Though public transportation options to most Tahoe area ski resorts remain low, TART runs a bus route between Truckee and Lake Tahoe with a stop at Northstar, and TTD Route 50 in South Lake Tahoe makes a stop at Heavenly. Kirkwood is not serviced by any public transportation, which may have contributed to Vail’s decision to keep most of their parking free.
Increased parking fees and reservations are not unique to Vail’s Tahoe resorts. Many other large ski areas, including Palisades Tahoe, CA, and Park City, UT, have recently expanded their parking fee and reservation systems. Palisades Tahoe has drawn wide criticism for its introduction of fees and reservations, including from legendary skier Scott Gaffney. Park City, which implemented many of its parking changes last season, claims it saw reductions in road congestion last season. The resort also estimated that 60% of guests using paid lots qualified for free parking because of carpooling. Park City’s parking policies remain largely unchanged this season.
Parking reservations and fees will be required at Northstar and Heavenly Valley on the following days in the 2023/24 ski season:
December: 16, 17, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
January: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 27, 28
February: 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25
March: 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 30, 31
April: 6, 7, 13, 14