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Pilot Fast Pass program is controversial, successful

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By Emily Stifler Managing Editor

BIG SKY – It’s similar to a program at Disneyland.

Big Sky Resort did the first trial run on its new Fast Pass program over the weekend of March 3 and 4. The system allows day ticket or season pass holders to reserve a timeslot on the Lone Peak Tram, between 10:45 a.m. and 3 p.m.

“Riding the Lone Peak Tram is the signature Big Sky experience, and we want to make sure everyone gets a chance to do that,” said Meg O’Leary, Big Sky Resort’s director of sales and marketing. The idea is to allow guests to spend time skiing instead of waiting in line, O’Leary said.

On weekends through March, the plan is to distribute fast passes on a first-come, first-served basis each day. Skiers are limited to one per day and are given a 30-minute grace period from their assigned time slot until their pass expires. Fast Pass timeslots will take up a third of available tram capacity.

It could make the tram less intimidating for visiting skiers, and give locals a chance for one walk-on tram each day.

But many season pass holders and employees have expressed frustration, particularly employees because they aren’t eligible.

When the resort announced the program on its Facebook page, it received more than 80 comments, many of them negative. Several season pass holders threatened to throw snowballs and epithets at Fast Pass users.

“I think the idea is sort of good, but I’m just not for something that’s good for ticket holders and season pass holders but not employees,” said one employee who had been with the resort for four years and wished to remain anonymous. “It’s biting the hand that feeds you.”

“Everyone is afraid they’re going to charge for it,” the employee said.

But the first weekend went without any hurling snowballs whatsoever, said Chad Jones, Big Sky’s public relations director.

“We’re still evaluating it, working out some kinks and ways to make it more efficient,” Jones said. The passes went quickly in the morning, and had a good redemption rate, he added.

A review of the resort’s Facebook page showed no new comments after the weekend.

“I think most of the problems that I ran into were from people misunderstanding the program initially,” Jones said. He said there are no immediate plans to charge for the Fast Pass.

As part of the program, guests interested in taking a scenic tram ride without waiting in line may now do so between 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., after the tram is closed to skiers. Scenic rides are still available during regular tram operating hours, no Fast Pass required.

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