Possible new pay parking policy at Mt. Baker

  • Powderhino
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22 Feb 2016 07:33 #226191 by Powderhino
While waiting for the Helicopter to control Shuksan Arm yeserday and thus allow Backcountry Access, Duncan Howatt, the Mt. Baker Ski Area Manager/ Share Holder, approached my son Cooper and I and said, " I have a great idea I want you to hear!" He then went on to outline his plan to charge $10.00 for every Backcountry enthusiast that uses the upper parking lots. This can be avoided if: A. You are a Season Pass Holder, or B. You have bought a lift ticket for the day. His plan is to stop all cars as they egress the lots at the end of the day and check for passes.

I was stunned, and the first question out of my mouth was " What does the Forest Service say about this?" His answer, with a grinch-like grin, " They LOVE IT!" Dang.

There are options. You can park at the Lower Parking lot and hitch-hike up " ( his suggestion), or park on the highway loop BELOW the parking lots and walk up.

Well folks, I don't know about you, but this seems punative to me. Yes, we Backcountry users enjoy the use of lots that are plowed by Mt. Baker employees at a cost, but doesn't Mt. Baker Ski Area enjoy the use of a plowed Mt. Baker Highway paid for by State Tax Dollars? Seems to me IF you are to charge for parking you cannot separate user groups to subsidize retirement plans. Every other ski area I have been to that charges parking (they are few and far between), have charged EVERYONE and not just one user group enjoying the National Forest.

Enough ranting; I am switching to De-Caf for my second cup of morning coffee..

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  • flowing alpy
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22 Feb 2016 07:36 #226193 by flowing alpy
Replied by flowing alpy on topic Re: Possible new pay parking policy at Mt. Baker
Do the same at lot4 and I'll throw another party.

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  • Powderhino
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22 Feb 2016 07:46 #226177 by Powderhino

Do the same at lot4 and I'll throw another party.
[Translation please?
]

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  • Jim Oker
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22 Feb 2016 08:57 - 22 Feb 2016 09:06 #226196 by Jim Oker
I suspect it depends on how their lease/permit is written. Given how many BC-bound folks I saw my one trip up there early season in November, I can understand why they may be starting to want to get some $ from all the folks using up prime parking in the upper lot who aren't buying lift tickets. I also get your highway plowing thought (i.e. would they even plow past the Nooksack if not for the ski area's being there?).

It's been a while since I've been to Baker on a busy weekend day - does the upper lot ever fill to capacity, including out behind the big maintenance building (my memory is that there's a lot more parking back there...)?

As for translating flowing alpy, my impression is that he's grumpy about the BC skiers and snowshowers and booters who park up in the upper Alpental lot (apparently clad in the latest most expensive BC gear), some of whom take their dogs off-leash and let them poop under his skis.

I'm thinking they'll have traffic jams at the end of busy days if they're stopping folks to check for lift tickets on their drive out. Might be interesting to see how that goes...

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  • T. Eastman
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22 Feb 2016 11:11 #226200 by T. Eastman
Thanks Powrhino! Time to crack the books and see exactly what the deal is. Maybe Duncan should start building a parking garage at WS...

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22 Feb 2016 11:47 #226201 by gravyb
I hear what flowing alpy is saying on the one hand. But, as long as I do my job of getting there early enough I kind of like a full lot and smaller lift lines. How about if everybody car pooled and we had twice the lift lines from the same number of cars? That also could mean twice as many free-defecating dogs running about. I hear these new-school free-defecating dogs are bringing their specialized pooping skills from the dog parks to the backcountry. 'My dog is all about progression brah!' Commented an REI dog person.

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  • markharf
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22 Feb 2016 12:27 #226202 by markharf
The upper Mt. Baker lot ("behind the big maintenance building") was packed tight on Saturday. So was the Mountaineers Lodge parking lot, and there were cars parked down the highway from there and around to the family sledding area. I've seen the lot full before, but never with so much attention clearly paid to stuffing in as many vehicles as possible. I've never seen so many cars along the highway.

The localized backcountry was also packed, mostly with snowshoers, avalanche classes, and at least a couple of large parties of tent-campers. Duncan's got his own perspectives on these things, but the ski area sure appears to be prospering these last few decades. Seems to me like there's room for all, except during major weekends like the Banked Slalom. Would Duncan be willing to fund shuttles if parking were available elsewhere? Like, say, at the giant, empty snowpark down in the Nooksack valley?

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  • nemolonsdale
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22 Feb 2016 13:21 #226204 by nemolonsdale
Replied by nemolonsdale on topic Re: Possible new pay parking policy at Mt. Baker
I overheard a conversation just like this one a few years ago. I think this attitude has trickled down the ladder as my last few experiences with ski patrol leaving the upper lot were not Representative of good customer relations. They feel like they own the place....

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22 Feb 2016 15:53 #226205 by Jason4
I'm surprised he said $10/day and not $20/day or $40/season like all of the other sno-park permits. fortress.wa.gov/parks/ecomm/prod/Store/SNO/SnoChoice.aspx

I've been warning about growing tensions between the ski area and the backcountry community for a few years now. The upper lot fills up quickly and there isn't really a lot of parking in the shoulders near the lodge, especially with ski buses running after Jan 1. It's not just on event weekends either, the lot is full most weekends now with cars for the ski area parking well beyond the Mounties lodge and even as far as the Firs lodge.

I've said it out loud a few times, hwy 542 should be a toll road. Why should everyone in the state pay for my recreation? It's paid out of tax dollars? Which tax dollars? Gas tax from all the fuel I buy? Or sales tax from my season pass?

If the backcountry skiers don't like it then maybe it's time for someone to organize and arrange for plowing up to Skyline Divide for better high access for skiing.

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  • pipedream
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22 Feb 2016 16:21 #226207 by pipedream
I wonder what the Howats would think of the state keeping the road cleared to Artist Point and operating it like a sno-park from Nov. - April...

They get to operate their ski area not only on FS land but across the last few miles of the WSDOT-owned road, you know, stuff the taxpayers are paying for...

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  • HillsHaveEyes
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22 Feb 2016 18:06 #226209 by HillsHaveEyes
Replied by HillsHaveEyes on topic Re: Possible new pay parking policy at Mt. Baker
I hate this.

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  • Andrew Carey
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22 Feb 2016 18:40 #226211 by Andrew Carey
Replied by Andrew Carey on topic Re: Possible new pay parking policy at Mt. Baker
IMHO, ski area operators on Federal land (mostly USFS) profilt from their contractual privilige to operate a skiing/shopping mall accessed via public highway maintained by the state. I would urge the USFS to ignore the needs of the oligarchs and require maintenance of parking lots for bc users who don't wear Bognar clothing or use snowboards.

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  • flowing alpy
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23 Feb 2016 05:05 #226213 by flowing alpy
Replied by flowing alpy on topic Re: Possible new pay parking policy at Mt. Baker
the party will be off the hook and we may have a snowshoe poop flinging event and a snowshoers slalom run, followed by an out traverse luge 'dodge the skinners' going up on the down track event.
No bognar necessary but there could be the gnar.

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  • Powderhino
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23 Feb 2016 07:17 #226216 by Powderhino
I think people are missing the Grand Irony of Duncan's options to paying his User Tax.

Option 1.  Hitch-hike up from White Salmon[/b]

Illegal, unsafe, and would clog the road to the upper lodge which would impede the flow of cash, er, customers to the area.

Option 2.  Park on the Highway and walk up

Unsafe     The first individual clipped by a passing Tiny-House shitter vent pipe will make headlines; the wrong kind.

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  • Blizz Mountain
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23 Feb 2016 08:27 #226217 by Blizz Mountain
Replied by Blizz Mountain on topic Re: Possible new pay parking policy at Mt. Baker
...could this be the tip of the iceberg of a brewing battle?

It appears that the greed of the organizations operating ski area's on public lands is getting the best of them.  More and more, employees of the operators  are acting like they completely own the property and are trying to push the boundaries of their authority on public lands.  I found this evident by the attitudes, language and attempted intimidation that I've personally seen and have also heard about from others. This is happening at Baker, Snoqualmie and definitely Stevens under the new ownership! 

Is it time for NPS and USFS to get involved in the discussion and make sure that public lands are for the benefit of all, and that operators of ski areas on public lands have the privilege of earning a return on public land by providing a service?  It's getting to the point where it's miserable for the paying user (lift ticket resort skier) as well as the public land user (BC skier, snowshoer, trekker, etc).

Yes, the owners do put money into operating the resorts (hmmm - seems more like $ going into marketing to generate more income than $ going into improvements that were promised but isn't happening) , but there is a lot of public money going into the area in order to make the resort viable,  plowing, traffic control, public road maintenance, etc.

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  • bwalt822
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23 Feb 2016 12:15 #226218 by bwalt822
Charging on the way out would be a nightmare. "Sorry, we all forgot our wallets"

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23 Feb 2016 12:18 #226219 by bwalt822

I overheard a conversation just like this one a few years ago. I think this attitude has trickled down the ladder as my last few experiences with ski patrol leaving the upper lot were not Representative of good customer relations. They feel like they own the place....


My last uninitiated interaction with a baker ski patroller on a snowmobile as we were skinning up the cat track. "Its going to be a busy day, we won't come rescue you if you get in trouble".

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  • Jim Oker
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23 Feb 2016 14:34 #226220 by Jim Oker
Given how a few threads here in the last few years have shown how ski tourers up there are getting on each others' nerves due to various gong show type fun, it's not super shocking to hear of that sort of comment from the patrollers.

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  • snoqpass
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23 Feb 2016 16:53 #226223 by snoqpass

...could this be the tip of the iceberg of a brewing battle?

It appears that the greed of the organizations operating ski area's on public lands is getting the best of them.  More and more, employees of the operators  are acting like they completely own the property and are trying to push the boundaries of their authority on public lands.  I found this evident by the attitudes, language and attempted intimidation that I've personally seen and have also heard about from others. This is happening at Baker, Snoqualmie and definitely Stevens under the new ownership! 

Is it time for NPS and USFS to get involved in the discussion and make sure that public lands are for the benefit of all, and that operators of ski areas on public lands have the privilege of earning a return on public land by providing a service?  It's getting to the point where it's miserable for the paying user (lift ticket resort skier) as well as the public land user (BC skier, snowshoer, trekker, etc).

Yes, the owners do put money into operating the resorts (hmmm - seems more like $ going into marketing to generate more income than $ going into improvements that were promised but isn't happening) , but there is a lot of public money going into the area in order to make the resort viable,  plowing, traffic control, public road maintenance, etc.

There are 470 ski areas in the US about 120 something on public lands they aren't holding you back from the millions of acres of land available
www.aspentimes.com/news/14449841-113/ski-lands-public-forest

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23 Feb 2016 18:09 #226224 by rover

There are 470 ski areas in the US about 120 something on public lands they aren't holding you back from the millions of acres of land available
www.aspentimes.com/news/14449841-113/ski-lands-public-forest


That's good that the resorts pay fees to the Forest Service, and they certainly should, given the massive profits that many big resorts are making. I also think that claiming there are millions of acres of land available for skiing is at best a little deceptive, since A) most of the land owned by public agencies isn't skiable, either due to lack of snow, thick timber, or inappropriate terrain type; B) most the land owned by the public agencies that is skiable is very difficult to access in winter due to lack of plowed roads into the high country; and C) much of the land that is appropriate ski terrain, is accessible during winter, and is within a reasonable driving distance of a major population center is already occupied by or shares access with a ski resort. 

Many of our most popular day tours share access with the resorts for the reasons listed above - they are simply the places you can get to in winter that have snow and good terrain. I'd be pretty bummed if I had to pay a parking fee to ski at Yodelin (Steven's Pass Parking) or East Peak (Crystal Parking).

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  • T. Eastman
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23 Feb 2016 18:40 #226226 by T. Eastman
The increasing demand for snow-based winter recreation and the limited number places with snow and parking in the Nooksack region are a real problem. The terrain is very difficult to service with plowing and parking areas even if the USFS were to decide to bump up the winter capacity. Hiking a thousand feet of vertical to the snow is not exactly going to meet the demand for access.

Some serious planning will be needed...

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23 Feb 2016 19:48 #226229 by snoqpass

The increasing demand for snow-based winter recreation and the limited number places with snow and parking in the Nooksack region are a real problem. The terrain is very difficult to service with plowing and parking areas even if the USFS were to decide to bump up the winter capacity. Hiking a thousand feet of vertical to the snow is not exactly going to meet the demand for access.

Some serious planning will be needed...

Exactly

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  • wickstad
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23 Feb 2016 20:34 #226065 by wickstad

While waiting for the Helicopter to control Shuksan Arm yeserday and thus allow Backcountry Access, Duncan Howatt, the Mt. Baker Ski Area Manager/ Share Holder, approached my son Cooper and I and said, " I have a great idea I want you to hear!"  He then went on to outline his plan to charge $10.00 for every Backcountry enthusiast that uses the upper parking lots.  This can be avoided if:  A.  You are a Season Pass Holder, or B.  You have bought a lift ticket for the day.  His plan is to stop all cars as they egress the lots at the end of the day and check for passes.

I was stunned, and the first question out of my mouth was " What does the Forest Service say about this?" His answer, with a grinch-like grin, " They LOVE IT!"  Dang.

There are options.  You can park at the Lower Parking lot and hitch-hike up " ( his suggestion), or park on the highway loop BELOW the parking lots and walk up. 

Well folks, I don't know about you, but this seems punative to me.  Yes, we Backcountry users enjoy the use of lots that are plowed by Mt. Baker employees at a cost, but doesn't Mt. Baker Ski Area enjoy the use of a plowed Mt. Baker Highway paid for by State Tax Dollars?  Seems to me IF you are to charge for parking you cannot separate user groups to subsidize retirement plans.  Every other ski area I have been to that charges parking (they are few and far between), have charged EVERYONE and not just one user group enjoying the National Forest. 

Enough ranting; I am switching to De-Caf for my second cup of morning coffee..


I'm with you so I just quit going to Steven's Pass last century. I would have to walk much further to get to the slopes or pay extra to park much closer so I could save my legs for real skiing.

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  • Gregg_C
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24 Feb 2016 09:47 #226234 by Gregg_C
Mt. Baker ski area arrogance has been a long standing issue for many locals.  Our joking motto for them is, "We don't care because we don't have to".  The rude behavior towards permit holders and backcountry users has trickled down from Duncan all the way to the lowest staff.  Allowing them to charge for backcountry users of all types would go down quite hard for many of us.

I put in a call to the Mt. Baker National Forest service and am waiting for a call back from the supervisor that oversees the ski area.  The two folks that I spoke with at the office in Sedro Wooley were surprised to hear about the paid parking issue as such a dramatic shift in policy would have been known about and discussed.  The  Forest Service is making a push to encourage use of the National Forests of all recreational users.  I doubt they would allow such a big shift in a long standing policy without giving thought to their recent mandates to get people recreating.

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  • Randito
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24 Feb 2016 17:54 #226239 by Randito
Mt Baker seems to have recently expanded their parking area,

USFS info on the project: www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=44523

The scoping document: a123.g.akamai.net/7/123/11558/abc123/for...5_FSPLT3_1653561.pdf

Says that the purpose of the project is to increase parking for "forest visitors' and to increase public safety by reducing parking along HWY-542

So IMO Duncan Howatt spouting about charging a parking fee for non-lift-ticket buying folks as they exit the lot is a bunch of nonsense. Especially the thing about him suggesting that people hitchhike from the lower lot to avoid the fee. There is no way that the USFS would endorse such a cockamamie scheme -- maybe he is having delusional dreams of how much he can charge for all sorts of things once "The Donald" is president and public land gets given away to commercial concerns.

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25 Feb 2016 18:48 #226253 by davidG
Powder.. ~ skiers are already paying. Step up bro..

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  • gravitymk
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25 Feb 2016 19:21 #226256 by gravitymk
It always amuses me at how some get an entitlement attitude and indignant about how ski areas manage the land and access under their permits.

Ski areas are not philanthropic organizations...
This is a tough business, so talk about massive profits is bunk. Some years they do well, other years they don't.
And, for areas that are below a certain elevation threshold there is also a long term aspect that factors in as well.

If you are parking in a lot that is maintained by a ski area for it's customers but you aren't purchasing a lift ticket a seasons pass or spending money at the lodge, what exactly is their obligation to you? If you are taking up a parking spot on a busy/full capacity weekend that might otherwise be filled by someone who has or will make a purchase, why shouldn't you expect to pay for the privilege?

Unless the USFS specifically states in the language of the seasonal use permit that a ski area must provide access and parking for non ski area patrons, they have no obligation to provide public parking.

As for lot 4, I would go to that party...

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  • Randito
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25 Feb 2016 20:28 #226257 by Randito
If the ski area owned the land then charging for parkingvwould be their own business . However the land is USFS federal land. Also while the ski area pays to plow the lot, the state pays to plow highway 542 which they would bother to do if it wasn't for the ski area...

Maybe Oregon has the right idea, where everyone - even lift ticket buying skiers/riders , need to buy a sno-park permit to park at ski areas. The OR sno-park is $25 vs $80 for WA sno-park permit.

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  • gravitymk
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25 Feb 2016 22:05 #226145 by gravitymk

If the ski area owned the land then charging for parkingvwould be their own business .  However the land is USFS federal land.


Randy, I think you are making a broad assumption here.
Just because it's public land does not mean that the public has unfettered access no mater what. Ski areas operate under a seasonal use permit, managing that resource and setting the rules and restrictions for use relative to those agreements.

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26 Feb 2016 10:46 #226260 by TDB
Most ski areas in Washington benefit substantially from tax payer funded plowing and road maintenance. The tax paying public is subsidizing private enterprises. Not sure why it's unreasonable that the public should be able to benefit from some of the publicly funded access that private enterprises benefit from.

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