Technology added to Meadows

Summer changes aim to alleviate crowd issues on peak winter days

Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort announced last week that a new technology will be installed and ready for the upcoming season to address what it says is the resort’s most complained-about issue.

The traditional lift ticket will be a thing of the past, as will the lift line attendant manually scanning passes each time a guest passes through the line. In their place, Meadows is installing electronic gates at all of its lifts this summer. The gates use Radio Frequency Identification technology to scan passes guests will carry either inside their clothing or on an arm band. An embedded chip in tickets and passes will trigger gates to open, eliminating the requirement for guests to present their pass or lift ticket for hand scanning

“Showing a ticket or season pass for scanning, every time a lift is boarded is the number-one guest complaint at Mt. Hood Meadows,” said Dave Tragethon, resort executive director of communications. “The RFID access gates will allow instant and consistent verification, with the card or pass tucked securely in a guests’ pocket. Guests will no longer need to fumble for their ticket, holding up others for scanning. This will improve lift line flow and the overall experience.”

To facilitate the new system, and to improve overall digital capabilities, the resort is installing fiber optic lines to update its old internet connection. Other changes for the upcoming year include two new snow-cats added to the grooming fleet, some minor “infrastructure improvements” and new efforts to help alleviate at-capacity conditions during peak winter days.

“A large initiative we’re taking is to reduce the amount of vehicles coming to the mountain on peak days,” Tragethon said. “We had six days last year and six the year before when we reached capacity in our parking lots.”

Tragethon noted two ways the resort is trying to reduce traffic on peak days. The first is by increasing the number of buses traveling to the mountain. He said there will be about four times the number of park-and-ride buses available. The second is a new pricing structure that will result in higher ticket prices on peak days.

Ticket and season pass prices for the 2012-13 season have not yet been released.

With parking at a premium on peak days, the resort is also planning on expanding its capacity with a new lot between Highway 35 and the Hood River Meadows parking lot, where an Oregon Department of Transportation gravel staging area currently sits.

Tragethon said the development is still a few seasons away and will serve as a shuttle lot.

Ongoing major construction along Highway 35 has sparked discussion of developing additional parking for the resort along the highway, as an extension of the Teacup Lake nordic area parking. Tragethon said that both ODOT and the U.S. Forest Service do not approve of having shuttle parking along the highway.

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