Letters to the editor

March 25, 2005

Checkered flag

The access to the Gold Peak ski school and valet parking is so completely overwhelmed that it is no longer just inconvenient for our guests, it is downright dangerous. I work in a hotel in the village core, and drive children to the Gold Peak ski school on a regular basis. I see the congestion and general mayhem that occur in this area way too often.

The problems begin on the South Frontage Road, between the main roundabout and the top of Vail Valley Drive. The speed limit on this stretch of road is 25 mph, which I obey. You should see the cars fly by me as if I'm standing still. Most of these cars are full of children. When they get to the east end of the parking structure, they all try to jockey into the right lane for the turn down Vail Valley Drive.

I rarely see police presence on this stretch of road. What I do often see is a guy in a white patrol car bearing an Eagle Security logo on the door. Who is this guy? What authority does he have? Who pays for his services? Sometimes I'll see the radar speed indicator set up in the middle of the road, perhaps accompanied by a town of Vail police car inhabited by a plastic dummy. That will slow a car down for a second or two, until they realize what's up.

Upon reaching the intersection with Vail Valley drive, you are confronted with traffic that is bumper to bumper all the way up to the ski school entrance. Frustrated drivers will try to pass anyone they can on the left, never minding that there is oncoming traffic in this lane. You eventually make your way up to the entrance of the valet parking lot on the north side of the main Gold Peak building.

Here you have two lanes of traffic trying to enter the lot. More people start passing the cars stopped here, ignoring oncoming traffic.

Finally you approach the children's lot. This lot is woefully inadequate for the number of cars that it is asked to handle. The guys that man this lot work their butts off, and do a great job in attempting to control the flow of cars. But the lot is simply not big enough. So cars back up in front of Manor Vail.

By now the guests are agitated and have lost their patience. Many of the cars that are stopped in line begin unloading right in the middle of the street. Doors and rear hatches open, ski boots slide on the icy pavement, and skis, snowboards, poles and CHILDREN are ejected onto the street in a hurried attempt to beat the rush. It's all I can do to keep my guests in the van.

The line starts to move again, but the cars that are unloading on the street are in the way, so people again try to pass in the lane for oncoming traffic, coming within inches of children in ski boots on icy streets.

I finally make it to the Gold Peak lot, which is jam-packed with cars and people. Once again, the attendants here are very helpful in trying to control the mayhem, but it's a losing battle.

After dropping off, I now have to run the gantlet of oncoming cars in my lane as I return up Vail Valley Drive to South Frontage Road. I was T-boned by a car four years ago at the intersection of Vail Valley Drive and South Frontage Road. An out-of-town guest heading east ignored both the speed limit and stop sign and took out the front end of the hotel's van, totalling the vehicle. Luckily there were no children in the van at that time, and I was OK.

Is it going to take an injury or death for this issue to be addressed? I admit that the town does staff some traffic control in the area around the valet entrance and the entrance to the children's lot, but it is inconsistent. Some days they're there, some days they're not. And even when they are there, they are often not able to control the situation. People still jump out of their cars in the middle of traffic, and the amount of traffic is still too much for the infrastructure to handle.

The sad part is that this area was renovated just a few years back. I'm sure that there are no plans to increase its capacity in the near future. Also, the addition of the valet parking has made a bad situation worse. The only attempt at resolving the situation that I have seen from our hotel's standpoint is that we were originally asked to drop all of our guests in the valet lot. But this lot is no less crowded than the upper lot, and guests do not want to have to walk their children through the already busy main Gold Peak building, knowing that a closer drop off lot exists.

There must be a better solution to ease this dangerous situation. There is no room to increase the size of the children's drop-off lot. I doubt the powers that be will want to move or do away with the valet lot. The road cannot be widened. Ski school start times are already staggered.

We must work to reduce the amount of traffic on this road. I suggest that Vail Resorts open a children's ski school check-in area in the village. Perhaps it can still be incorporated into the new Front Door plans around the Vista Bahn. If a new building is not possible, then a tent could be erected for check-in purposes. Vail Resorts could transport the children over to Gold Peak, perhaps in something like a hay wagon, or faux train car pulled behind a snowcat. I have been told that this is done in other resorts.

So many people pay top dollar to stay in the village, and then have to go through this daily nightmare to get their kids into the ski school. It is probably the biggest source of stress that our guests encounter on their vacation. A check-in for children in Vail Village would alleviate a lot of the traffic at Gold Peak.

Vail is supposed to have the best ski school in North America. This situation is anything but indicative of that image. To the town of Vail: Why do our police ignore the main roundabout and South Frontage Road during these busy times? It's as if someone was waving a checkered flag in front of the parking structure.

Chip Bartsch


Vail, Colorado