“The uphill travel pass is an essential part of our prevention and safety program at Snow King,” said Director of Snow Safety and Ski Patrol at Snow King Mountain Jack McConnell. “In addition to enabling Ski Patrol to educate users right out of the gate with best practices for safety and route recommendations, we are able to generate a stable revenue stream to fund operations and equipment.”
Snow King Ski Patrol is comprised of 25 paid staff members, backed up by National Ski Patrol volunteers, who promote safe and enjoyable skiing and provide immediate aid and care to injured individuals on Snow King Mountain. An average of six paid patrollers are on duty during operating hours. Revenues generated from the purchase of the uphill passes are used to fund Ski Patrol operations, facilitates and equipment.
In addition to numerous responses this year to downhill users, Snow King Ski Patrol has already performed two rescues and retrieved multiple arrant skies for uphill users.
“As patrollers, we are there for anyone on the mountain who needs our assistance,” McConnell said. “However, it does come at a cost. A cost of paid staff, extensive patrolling and hazard marking and expensive equipment. And that’s on top of the costs we incur before anyone gets on snow – water, electricity, staffing, snow making. There is a large supporting cast that allows the uphill user to have a safe surface to do what they enjoy.”
McConnell, who has been working for Snow King Ski Patrol for more than 20 years, noted that the while ski patrol does not generate any revenue for the mountain, annual costs for medical supplies, equipment and paid staff continues to rise. Funds generated by uphill user passes will be used to help Ski Patrol purchase new medical equipment and mid-mountain radio repeaters for more effective emergency communications; update their fleet of avalanche transceivers; acquire a vacuum mattress for spinal immobilization and other industry standard gear; as well as maintain and update the new beacon training park. Additional funding can also be used to hire more paid patrollers.
“A sustainable source of funding for ski patrol is critical to ensuring we have the resources and most up-to-date equipment we need to be effective,” said McConnell.
McConnell said he has seen a sharp increase in uphill travel over the last several years. He said this season the overwhelming majority of uphill travelers, nearly 98 percent, have expressed understanding and appreciation of Snow King’s updated uphill policy.
“They really appreciate what is being done to preserve the uphill travel opportunity while ensuring the safety and accessibility of the mountain,” said McConnell. “They understand and acknowledge the risk we incur and what we pay for the safety, convenience, good surface and open slopes.”
Snow King Mountain enacted an updated uphill user policy in the Fall of 2017 to reflect increased use and ensure future access. Snow King is among only a handful of major commercial resorts in the Rocky Mountain West who continue to allow generally unrestricted uphill access. Most ski resorts in the region do not permit uphill travel during operating hours. Resorts with similar uphill policies include Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado ($100 for a season pass), Eldora Mountain in Colorado ($169 for a season pass) and Sugar Bowl Resort in California ($159).
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