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Ski areas and accessibility: how well are they doing?: Travel Weekly

Vaseline 3 months ago

PALISADES Tahoe, California – The ski industry has made strides over the years in providing adaptive skiing and riding opportunities, but people with mobility limitations continue to face challenges when arriving on the mountain, said Marina Gardiner, director of guest services for the non- profit organization Achieve Tahoe.

Achieve Tahoe’s mission is to provide affordable and inclusive recreational activities in the Lake Tahoe area.

“Resorts generally have a hard time accessing snow from the parking lot,” Gardiner said at the Mountain Travel Symposium on April 18.

For example, she noted that customers at the Village of Palisades Tahoe base of the Palisades Tahoe Ski Area must first travel through the village before riding the tram, gondola or lift.

As resorts try to improve their facilities, it’s critical to consider designs that get people from accessible parking lots to the snow as easily as possible, Gardner said.

She mentioned Palisades Tahoe’s Alpine Meadows base highly. Alpine Meadows used to be a separate resort from Palisades Tahoe, but the mountains are connected via a gondola by owner Alterra Mountain Company.

“Alpine Meadows is the best resort I’ve ever been to because I can park 100 feet from the snow,” says Gardiner, who himself has mobility limitations. “It’s flat from my car to the snow and I can be at the chairlift in three minutes. Most resorts have more obstacles.”

Providing ample accessible parking is critical, Gardiner said, as it is important that spaces are available when needed.

Gardiner said across the travel industry, it is important for all types of operators to make accessibility a core part of new build designs. There’s no reason why all hotel rooms shouldn’t be accessible, she said.

Existing ski huts, which often have multiple levels to adapt to the landscape, must be carefully adapted to facilitate maneuverability for persons with disabilities.

Gardiner commended Palisades Tahoe and Northstar Ski Area in the Tahoe region for providing free lift tickets for Achieve Tahoe participants and volunteers.

But, she said, demand for accessible classes always exceeds supply. Achieve Tahoe can sell subsidized day classes for $160. That applies not only to people with mobility limitations, but also to people with other types of disabilities. For example, a child with autism may need a private lesson instead of a cheaper group lesson.

Other resorts in the Tahoe areas do not have programs like Achieve Tahoe’s in partnership with Northstar and Palisade Tahoe, Gardiner said.

During a speech to ski industry professionals at the Mountain Travel Symposium, she encouraged attendees to explore the pros and cons of developing in-house adaptive ski programs versus partnering with nonprofits like Achieve Tahoe.
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Mountain Travel Symposium is run by Travel Weekly parent company Northstar Travel Group.