Tahoe ski resort reverses parking policy after legal battles

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Free parking, as precious to some skiers as pristine mountain powder, returned to a Lake Tahoe resort, but not before its owner waged a costly year-long legal battle with two season pass holders .An 80-year-old lawyer and another man whose first job outside of college was parking cars at the mountain ski resort now owned by Vail Resorts filed separate lawsuits when Northstar California replaced free parking traditional by a daily fee of $ 20 ($ 40 on weekends) – after they had purchased their passes.

Unlike visitors to San Francisco, who can spend the whole weekend skiing, locals like lawyer Steven Kroll and Robert Grossman often do a few quick errands in the morning, then hop in their cars to get to work.

The two have hiked steep slopes this way for decades. They never imagined the uphill battle they would face when they learned months after renewing their passes for 2019-2020 that it would cost them $ 2,000 for the season to park on the lot. ‘they were using it for free for years.

Grossman eventually got a Small Claims Court judgment for $ 692 plus $ 135 in costs.

Kroll walked away with nothing after being buried in an avalanche of opposition filings and agreed to dismiss his federal lawsuit for fear of being ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and expenses.

“Never fight with a big bully,” said Kroll, of Crystal Bay.

Last October, Grossman started hearing rumors of an unexpected policy change. So he called Northstar to see if it was true that the only free parking would be a mile and more away, accessible via a shuttle which he said would add an hour to each visit.

“I told them that all you have to do to get out smelling good is give a parking pass to all the season skiers who have applied for one,” he recalls. “They told me to beat the sand.

Vail championed the fee as a way to reduce traffic congestion and speed up overall runway access. The company declined to comment on the lawsuits.

A cross-country skier walks a trail at Northstar overlooking Lake Tahoe in a file photo.(Northstar in Tahoe)

Grossman won in small claims court – where formal legal representation is prohibited – because the pass stated that refunds were permitted for those who haven’t skied once all season.

Vail appealed to Placer County court “and I’m starting to hear from a whole bunch of lawyers,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Really?’ This is a $ 500 small claims case. I won’t pay $ 20,000 to have a lawyer defend me.

To his surprise, the district court upheld the judgment. Grossman expected another call but recently received a payment.

In her case, Kroll said Vail’s attorneys made it clear during a court-ordered settlement conference call that lasted 12 minutes that they would do whatever is necessary to delay a hearing.

The tipping point came when the judge threatened him with penalties for the first time in his career.

“I thought it didn’t look good,” Kroll said. “They had a law firm with 80 lawyers and I just had me and my secretary.”

Kroll dropped his case. He and Grossman are skiing elsewhere.

Vail Resorts spokesman Russell Carlton said the parking fee had helped alleviate congestion but proved unnecessary on some days.

“Customer feedback” and COVID-19 contributed to the decision to revert to old free parking options, he said in an email to The Associated Press. “The ultimate goal of all operational decisions is to provide our customers with the best overall experience when visiting our resort.”

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