SAM Magazine—Broomfield, Colo., Nov. 16, 2021—Vail Resorts (VR) is implementing new operational plans and guest service procedures for winter 2021-22, including limited peak ticket sales, changes to lift loading and unloading, and forecasted lift line wait times. The changes aim to prioritize passholders and improve the guest experience.
“Based on years of data collected from EpicMix, we know that even on peak visitation days, more than 90 percent of lift line wait times across our resorts are under five minutes,” said Vail Resorts CEO Kirsten Lynch. “Even so, we remain dedicated to continuing to improve the guest experience, reduce wait times and communicate transparently with guests, especially given the excitement and demand for travel this coming season.” The operating decisions were made in collaboration between the operations, analytics, digital and technology teams to prioritize passholders, she said.
Limited ticket sales. To prioritize the passholder experience, VR will limit lift ticket sales during the three most popular holiday periods across its 34 North American resorts this season. Dates include: Dec. 25–Jan. 2, Jan. 14–17, and Feb. 18–27.
There will be no impact to guests who enroll in ski and ride school lessons that include lift access or to employee and dependent pass access. Lift ticket availability will be visible on resort websites. If tickets are sold out online, guests will not be able to purchase them at ticket windows unless purchased with a pass benefit ticket or as part of a ski and ride school lesson.
Lift loading, unloading procedures. The company is also deploying a new operating plan, which includes changes to how staff organizes guests loading onto chairlifts and gondolas with the goal of reducing wait times.
The plan includes updated lift maze layouts and new signage, and a new load and unload process that aims reduce operational slows and stops on lifts. The process will be supported by new staffing plans, including dedicated lift maze coordinators at the company’s busiest lifts, and elevated training focused on maze management and lift loading and unloading.
Rentals, parking, F&B, ski and ride school. The company is implementing a new online rental process across 18 of its Eastern locations to cut down on how long it takes to rent equipment. New parking best practices are being incorporated across resorts to increase parking efficiency. VR has also reimagined indoor and outdoor spaces at key food and beverage outlets to expand seating for guests. And it has new pre-arrival processes for ski and ride school to expedite the guest check-in process.
Improved communications, such as on-mountain signage, real-time alerts within the EpicMix app and customized email and SRS notifications, will also provide guests with information to guide their overall experience.
Wait-time forecasting. VR is introducing daily forecasting of lift line wait times for 12 of its most popular resorts: Whistler Blackcomb, B.C.; Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Crested Butte, Colo.; Park City Mountain, Utah; Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood, Calif.; and Stowe Mountain and Okemo Mountain, Vt.
The company’s EpicMix app will provide a full-day forecast of lift line wait times, in 15-minute increments. Historical and actual wait time data for a specific lift will be combined with both resort and lift guest counts, wait times at other lifts, current snowfall, day of the week, and period of the season to create a predictive lift line wait time model for all lifts, at all times of day. This new technology leverages machine learning, so, according to the company, its forecast will continue to improve in accuracy throughout the season.