A central Oregon ski area operator will keep in place a new ski pass that allows people who pay more to bypass most chairlift lines despite a request from Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden to scrap the plan due to equity issues.
POWDR Corp. co-Presidents Wade Martin and Justin Sibley, in an open letter Friday, said the company intends to keep the pass available at Mt. Bachelor near Bend, but will offer season ticket holders refunds before the season starts.
The pass, called Fast Tracks and announced Monday, starts at $49 per day and allows buyers to use a dedicated lane at each chairlift. The price will vary based on high-demand days, the company said.
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.”
Related: Sen. Wyden criticizes plan to create ‘fast lanes’ at Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor
The U.S. Forest Service, which manages the land the ski area is located on, has looked into the matter. Deschutes National Forest District Ranger Kevin Larkin told The Bulletin in a story on Friday that the agency will continue to evaluate information.
“At this juncture, I haven’t seen anything that would compel us to say that it’s outside the terms and conditions of the permit,” Larkin said. “But we remain open to different interpretations and different information.”