Since announcing earlier this month it would begin to charge for parking at its Village View parking lot, in an effort to ease congestion, Northstar California has drawn criticism from many who ski and ride at the mountain.
Guests can still park for free at the resort’s Castle Peak lot. But the resort’s plan of charging $10 on weekdays and $20 on weekends to park at the Village View lot led to some sharp feedback.
One of the key complaints was the timing of the announcement, which was made public in October and, according to many, came shortly after riders and skiers had their bank accounts charged for the cost of 2019-20 season passes.
“In this situation, there was no communication about pass charge dates and the parking announcement whatsoever. They were two independent processes happening,” said Northstar Director of Base Operations Tony Karwowski. “The actual decision itself was a process that started some time ago … in that process we’ve tried many different things over the years to manage our ingress, egress, and parking areas at Northstar to really try to improve the guest experience.”
While determining the best way to handle parking at the resort has been an ongoing issue, Karwowski said Northstar was only recently able to announce the decision to begin charging at Village View.
“It’s a timing issue with that process,” he said. “There are a lot of different factors in that process that we have to finalize before we can actually go public with it.”
WILL IT WORK?
Another issue raised by many skiers and riders at the resort is whether the decision will actually improve congestion on Northstar Drive. The Sierra Sun received several phone calls, emails, and messages arguing that guests with passengers will make the trip up Northstar Drive, drop off passengers, and loop back around, potentially making traffic worse along that stretch of road.
The resort, however, maintains the decision to charge guests to park at Village View, along with improved shuttle frequency, will reduce congestion on Northstar Drive.
“The whole design of the system itself is to create less congestion on Northstar Drive,” said Karwowski. “The idea is that the time it takes to pull into Castle Peak, boot up, and hop on a bus, and then ride to the village is equal or less than the time it takes to drive up Northstar Drive, drive through the village, boot up, and walk down to the village to the lift.”
In order to ensure that happens, Karwowski said the resort has enhanced its transportation services from Castle Peak with additional shuttles and drivers.
Another issue facing the resort the past several years has been the congestion created on California State Route 267 during holidays and weekends.
“One of the benefits of this program, that we believe, is that it will actually allow us to take in traffic faster because we are going to be parking in simultaneous lots — both Village View and Castle Peak at the same time,” said Karwowski. “Whereas in the past, our traffic pattern has been Village View parks, and then we park Castle Peak, and that has generated some of the congestion and backup in and of itself. We feel activating both of these parking lots at the same time is going to actually allow us to take inflow faster and reduce backup on 267.”
For peak holidays and weekends Northstar said it’s working to bring back its Park & Ride program, which is a free bus service that will operate out of the Truckee Tahoe Airport.
PAY AT kIOSK OR ONLINE APP
In order to implement and enforce the parking changes at Village View, the resort has partnered with Interstate Parking, which will be responsible for taking payments, and enforcing parking via its license plate recognition technology.
“People are still going to see our employees in the parking lot directing parking spaces,” said Karwowski. “What they are also going to see is a pay-point system. We’re going to have some self-pay kiosks in the parking lot, and then we’ll also have the online app.”
For season pass holders upset enough to ask for their money to be refunded, Karwowski said, all pass sales are final.
“That is part of our season pass policy,” he added
Ultimately, the resort maintains the decision to charge for parking at Village View this season has been driven by the need to improve traffic flow on Northstar Drive.
“This is going to increase guest experience, and that’s really the aim of the program,” said Karwowski.
“Really what it comes back to is what we’ve built this program around — improving congestion on Northstar Drive and the guest experience. And that is evident in us putting in more resources into Castle Peak transportation for the year to make sure that is an expedient process … we appreciate the feedback we hear from our guests.”
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at email@example.com.