Wyden urges POWDR to drop Mt. Bachelor ‘Fast Pass plan’; cites equitable access

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Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden has joined a growing chorus of voices opposed to Mt. Bachelor’s “Fast Tracks” plan this winter, which allows visitors to upgrade their passes to skip long lift lines.

“My concerns with this policy, shared by many long-time Mt. Bachelor guests, are rooted in the understanding that a two-tiered system of access to public lands based on financial ability is antithetical to equity in the outdoors, leaving those who cannot afford to pay for the pass being literally sent to the back of the line,” Wyden said in a letter to John Cumming, founder of Mt. Bachelor’s parent company, POWDR. “Ultimately, a Fast Tracks policy will ensure more time waiting in liftline bottlenecks and less time skiing or riding for those who cannot afford to pay for an elite, special upgrade.”

Fast Tracks pass prices will start at $49-a-day per person and sales will be capped although ski area officials haven’t said how many passes will be sold each day.

The passes will be available beginning November 1 at four of POWDR’s mountain resorts  – Copper Mountain in Colorado, Killington in Vermont, Mt. Bachelor, and Snowbird in Utah.

“Unlike our counterparts in other areas of the hospitality and event industry, the ski industry has yet to embrace the concept of providing options for guests to upgrade their experience,” said Wade Martin, co-president at POWDR. “We are exploring the opportunity to solve for our guests greatest pain points by becoming one of the first adventure lifestyle companies to provide upgrades that maximize the on-mountain experience.”

Wyden said it goes against the ski area’s agreement with the U.S. Forest Service.

“Given the serious concerns this policy raises about equitable access to the public lands on which Mt. Bachelor operates under its U.S. Forest Service Special Use permit, I request that POWDR abandon its plans to adopt this new pass system,” the Democrat wrote. “At a minimum, POWDR must delay implementation until it adequately explains to the public how the Fast Tracks policy will not exacerbate equity issues that already exist in outdoor recreation.”

▶️ New Mt. Bachelor ‘Fast Tracks’ option rankles some locals ahead of ski season

For years locals have wondered why the ski area wasn’t able to offer discounted lift tickets or passes to those who live in Central Oregon and frequent the mountain.

But the ski area has said it’s unable to do that because of that unique permit to operate on federally-owned land.

Meanwhile, some locals now say the “Fast Tracks” pass caters to tourists and called out the ski area for announcing the plan after the early bird season pass sale.

Season passes this winter are now more than $1,000 and single-day lift tickets at the mountain are as much as $169 per day during holidays.

“Snow sports are already expensive enough that equity issues have been persistent, and financially disadvantaged families have long been unfairly priced out of access — something a Fast Tracks policy is sure to only make worse,” Wyden said.

An online petition calling for the ski area to reconsider has generated more than 6,500 signatures.

Central Oregon Daily News has reached out to Mt. Bachelor to determine whether the ski area is fully committed to the plan for the 2021-22 ski season, but we have not heard back.

You can read Wyden’s full letter below:

Dear Mr. Cumming,

I am writing to express concerns about the new Fast Tracks upgrade pass policy that POWRD announced it will implement at Mt. Bachelor and a number of its mountain resorts this year.

Mt. Bachelor operates the ski resort on public lands via a U.S. Forest Service Special Use Permit, and as such, the public deserves fair and equitable access to those public lands.

Given the serious concerns this policy raises about equitable access to the public lands on which Mt. Bachelor operates, I request that POWDR abandon its plans to adopt this new pass system.

At a minimum, POWDR must delay implementation until it adequately explains to the public how the Fast Tracks policy will not exacerbate equity issues that already exist in outdoor recreation.

Mt. Bachelor’s website describes Fast Tracks as “an all-day upgrade to gain access to our new express lift lanes. It is the best way to maximize your time on the mountain any day you want.

Less time waiting, more time skiing/riding.” My concerns with this policy, shared by many long-time Mt. Bachelor guests, are rooted in the understanding that a two-tiered system of access to public lands based on financial ability is antithetical to equity in the outdoors, leaving those who cannot afford to pay for the pass being literally sent to the back of the line.

Ultimately, a Fast Tracks policy will ensure more time waiting in liftline bottlenecks and less time skiing or riding for those who cannot afford to pay for an elite, special upgrade.  

Snow sports are already expensive enough that equity issues have been persistent, and financially disadvantaged families have long been unfairly priced out of access — something a Fast Tracks policy is sure to only make worse.

I continue to advocate for improving access to the outdoors on America’s public lands such as supporting the Outdoors for All Act and championing Kids to Parks Day.

While I understand that Mt. Bachelor needs the ability to charge guests for use of its infrastructure in order to create and maintain safe access to the mountain, I firmly believe these fees should not be set higher than necessary nor give preferential access to the wealthy, especially given that the resort operates on public land owned by every American.

I look forward to your response and to continuing to work with you to improve access to Mt. Bachelor so that all Oregonians, regardless of wealth, status, or privilege, can experience the remarkable natural landscape that Oregon’s public lands have to offer.

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