Vail Resorts CEO says reservation system could be lifted during season if it proves unnecessary

When is a season ski pass not exactly a season pass? It’s when a pandemic of historic proportions prompts a resort company to impose a reservations system restricting the number of people it will allow on its mountains.

That’s what Vail Resorts has done this year, something its Colorado competitors have elected not to do. (Not yet, at least.)

Vail Resorts sent a 6-minute video with chief executive Rob Katz to pass-holders this week in which he answers a few questions. In it, he concedes the Epic Pass and Epic Local pass won’t be season passes this year in the traditional meaning of the term. Pass-holders do get first dibs on reservations, but there’s no guarantee they will be able to secure reservations for all the days they hope to ski.

Related: Vail Resorts to require reservations, and only Epic Pass holders can save spots at start of season

“A season pass used to mean that I could ski as much as I want, all season,” Katz said in the video, which was posted on the company’s website. “This new reservation system adds limits to that.”

Winter Park and Steamboat officials this week announced that they are not requiring reservations “at this time,” implying that that could change. Vail Resorts — whose Colorado holdings include Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte — is taking the opposite approach. Katz left open the possibility that, depending on “how things play out,” the reservation system could be lifted at some point during the season.

“But it would be a lot easier to remove the reservation system than to put one in mid-season,” Katz said. “We want to be prepared, be safe, and provide peace of mind to our guests.”

Katz said for most days of the season, capacity limits probably won’t be reached.

RELATED: When Colorado ski resorts plan to open this season. Plus, how much snowfall is expected this winter.

“The reservations system is really in place for peak days,” Katz said. “The issue is, we can’t always predict a peak day. So this reservations system becomes a tool to help us manage that capacity, and be out front in our approach to help keep you safe all season long.”

Katz conceded that raised an obvious question: What exactly will those capacity limits be?

“I wish I could provide a simple answer,” Katz said. “Capacity restrictions at our resorts will be based on the unique characteristics of the resort, the available terrain, historic visitation levels and modeling of what visitation will look like this season, as well as how we see the resorts operate with the new COVID-19 restrictions that we’ll have to put in place.”

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