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Sen. Wyden criticizes plan to create ‘fast lanes’ at Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor

mtbachelor.jpg
Bradley Parks
/
OPB

Skiers and snowboarders can dip gloved hands a little deeper into their waterproof pockets to skip long lift lines at Mt. Bachelor this winter, but U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden is calling on the Central Oregon resort’s parent company to scrap its plan to charge people extra for premium access.

The Utah-based company POWDR, which operates Mt. Bachelor along with several other ski resorts, on Monday announced the launch of its “Fast Tracks” program. It would allow skiers and snowboarders to pay an extra $49 a day to access limited-entry fast lanes at lift lines.

“Now you can spend more of your day skiing and riding and less time waiting,” reads an ad for the pass on Mt. Bachelor’s website.

Wyden on Wednesday sent a letter to POWDR chairman and founder John Cumming urging the company to abandon the Fast Tracks program or at least delay its implementation.

“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,” Wyden wrote, “leaving those who cannot afford to pay for the pass being literally sent to the back of the line.”

Mt. Bachelor is a privately owned ski resort operating on public lands under a special use permit issued by the Deschutes National Forest. Wyden says in his letter that the public, thus, “deserves fair and equitable access to those public lands.”

“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,” the senator wrote.

Visitation to ski resorts generally skews white and wealthy.

The top-shelf winter season pass at Mt. Bachelor costs $1,279 for adults aged 23 to 64 years old. Weekend lift tickets cost as much as $159. The resort’s website urges potential customers to “buy with confidence and outplay the rest.”

OPB has reached out to Mt. Bachelor and parent company POWDR for a response to the senator’s letter.

In a press release, POWDR co-president Wade Martin said the company was launching Fast Tracks to keep pace with the hospitality and event industries by allowing customers to “upgrade their experience.”

“We know our guests’ number one priority is to spend more time skiing or riding,” said Martin. “With the launch of Fast Tracks, we are providing our guests a way to maximize their time on the mountain – and memories with family and friends. That’s what it’s all about.”

Mt. Bachelor has scheduled the reopening of its winter season for Nov. 26.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting.