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March 2021

Mountain Spy :: March 2021

A question on boondocking.

Written by Dave Meeker | 0 comment


What the hell is boondocking, you ask? It’s a term you might want to get familiar with. Simply put, boondocking is dry camping—no hookups to water, sewer, or electricity—often in some sort of RV, such as a van camper or travel trailer. Purists consider boondocking to mean parking your camper someplace remote, sans creature comforts like running water and electricity. But some might be interested in parking their campers in one of your parking lots, nonetheless.

We conducted this Spy mission knowing many resorts haven’t allowed overnight parking in the past, and most staffers may not know what boondocking is.

But the goal wasn’t to stump staffers or ask a question we already knew the answer to. It was, in part, to see if resorts were accommodating trends spurred by the pandemic. Guests are being asked to use their vehicle as their base lodge, after all. And many folks still aren’t comfortable with staying in a hotel. Plus, sales of RVs have gone through the roof. More on all this in the editor’s note at the end of this report.

Raise your hand if you are reading this! If your hand is raised, send us a question to use for Mountain Spy ( If we use your question, your resort is immune for that issue.


First Contact: Female.

SAM: Stated question.

Staff: I’m not familiar with what that is, so I’ll need further explanation.

SAM: (laughs) Can I bring up my sprinter van and camp in the parking lot overnight?

Staff: We don’t allow any camping overnight in our parking lots. However, we do have campsites.

SAM: Oh, really? How can I reserve one of those?

Staff: That can be done here, by calling this number. They come with a small fire pit, bathroom, common-area grills, and outlet for your site.

SAM: How busy is the camping scene?

Staff: In July and holidays, very.

SAM: Are the campsites open right now?

Staff: Unfortunately, they are not!

SAM: Oh. Any other options?

Staff: Not during the winter months, unless you’re a homeowner.

SAM: OK, that I am not. Thanks.

Rating: 5

Comment: Such a tease! Thanks for the camping information, but it’s early February, so clearly I’m looking for a place to shack up so I can ski. Very polite gal, though.


Answering phone: Automated machine.

First Contact: Female.

SAM: Stated question.

Staff: What, what is it called?

SAM: Boondocking… So, can I bring my sprinter van up there and camp overnight?

Staff: Ummm, there’s no overnight parking here. We’ve told other folks in the past, and I’m not sure if it is still the case, but the Walmart in town should have overnight parking. I can look up their number and call them if you’d like?

SAM: Oh, that’s alright. I’ll look into it. Thanks, though!

Staff: Anything else I can help you with?

SAM: Nope, thank you for the help!

Rating: 8

Comment: Very nice lady. She was willing to call another location to help me figure out where I could boondock for the night. This is the type of front desk help a resort should have!


Answering phone: Automated machine.

First Contact: Male.

SAM: Stated question.

Staff: (pause...) Like, tailgating?

SAM: Yeah, like tailgating and bringing up my sprinter van to stay overnight in the parking lot.

Staff: Ohhhhh, let me put you on hold real quick and I’ll get back to you.

SAM: Sounds good, thanks. (holding)

Staff: Sir, there is no overnight parking. I’m sorry.

SAM: That’s OK. I thought the rules might have been a little more relaxed. Are there any places nearby you can recommend?

Staff: Off hand, I don’t know of any. Not even a rest area nearby.

SAM: Oh, OK. Thanks, have a good one.

Staff: Have a good day.

Rating: 7

Comment: Very nice guy. Glad he asked a co-worker to make sure he gave me the right info.


First Contact: Female.

SAM: Stated question.

Staff: What is boondocking?

SAM: Basically, I have a sprinter van and want to know if I can stay overnight in the parking lot.

Staff: Ummm, we have camping reservations, and you can park whatever vehicle you feel comfortable sleeping in. You will have to make a reservation online. We don’t just let people park there for free.

SAM: OK, so I can go online and make a parking reservation?

Staff: No, not a parking reservation, an RV reservation, non-power reservation.

SAM: OK, great. Thank you!

Staff: You’re welcome. Anything else I can help you with?

SAM: Nope, that will do it.

Rating: 8

Comment: Very polite and had all the right information. Not a perfect score because I would’ve liked a little more information than just go online and make a reservation.


Answering phone: Automated machine.

First Contact: Male.

SAM: Stated question.

Staff: Boondocking. What is boondocking? I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with it.

SAM: Oh, no worries. It is where I bring my sprinter van up and camp overnight in the parking lot.

Staff: Ohhh, gotcha. Yeah, we don’t allow any overnight camping in sprinter vans or pop-up tents or things like that.

SAM: OK. Are there any Walmarts or anywhere nearby that I can stay in?

Staff: In town there are a couple trailer parks that allow overnight parking.

SAM: OK, thanks.

Staff: Anything else I can answer for you?

SAM: Nope, that will do it.

Rating: 6

Comment: It’s good when staff know the policies. He could have been more empathetic, but overall, a serviceable job.


First Contact: Female.

SAM: Stated question.

Staff: Give me one second... (didn’t put me on hold, talks to co-worker) “Hey, this guy asked me if we allow boondocking.” “What?” “Boondocking.” (long pause…) “What is that?” “I don’t know.”

Staff: (talking to me now) No, we do not allow that.

SAM: Oh, OK. So, I can’t camp in my sprinter van overnight?

Staff: Nooo.

SAM: Thanks for letting me know.

Staff: No problem, have a good day.

thumbs downRating: 1

Comment: First, learn to hit the mute button. Or at least put your hand over the mic. And second, it’s OK to say no—but know what you’re saying no to.


Answering phone: Automated machine.

First Contact: Female.

SAM: Stated question.

Staff: (laughs) I have no idea what that means! What is that exactly?

SAM: (laughs) Oh, yeah. I’d like to camp out in my sprinter van at the resort overnight.

Staff: Oh, I see. So, yes, and no. I don’t know if this sounds silly or not, because I’m not sure what you do, but you cannot sleep in it. If you have the intentions of sleeping in it, then no. But if you just want to park it here overnight, no problem.

SAM: Oh, OK.

Staff: Are you staying here, or are you just wanting to park it here?

SAM: Well, I would be looking to stay in my van. But it sounds like I can’t do that?

Staff: If you get a lodging room you can park overnight. If you’re staying off site, you can still park it here, but in a back lot and out of the way. But the reason we don’t allow camping is because we don’t have proper set-up and with how cold it gets there is too large of a liability. So, if you’re planning on staying in it, we can’t do it.

SAM: OK, I’ll check out some hotels. Thank you.

Staff: Thank you so much, byee!

thumbs upRating: 9

Comment: Understandable, because Maine does get a tad cold. I caught her a little off guard, but she did a great job understanding my query and letting me know why I’m not allowed to boondock overnight.

Identity Revealed: Sunday River


Much of the content in this issue of SAM is about change—embracing it, capitalizing on it, realizing its benefits. Trends are oftentimes the harbinger of change. A couple of pandemic-induced, yet potentially sticky trends combined for this Spy mission: treat your car like your base lodge, and the huge uptick in RV sales, especially leading into winter.

Of course, RV sales aren’t typical fodder during team meetings at ski areas, but consider this when discussing future changes and opportunities: According to the RV Industry Association (RVIA), December 2020 wholesale RV shipments were up a record 47 percent year-over-year. This includes huge jumps in smaller rigs, such as travel trailers (50 percent), van campers (168 percent), and mini (Type C) RVs (39 percent)—like, the kind of rigs that are more likely to show up at a ski area to boondock. Overall RV shipments were up 6 percent for the year, despite a two-month manufacturing shutdown in spring.

The boom is expected to continue. RVIA is forecasting a YOY 17 percent increase in shipments for 2021. Plus, Americans 45 and younger comprise the fastest growing segment of RV owners.

Why should you care? Because this might be an opportunity you can capitalize on. Can you institute designated spaces, reservations, fees, and waivers? Or would this just mean more calls from people looking to boondock in your parking lot? If nothing else, this Spy mission is a microcosm of our changing world. How will you change with it?