A chairlift sits idle at Stevens Pass on Dec. 30. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

A chairlift sits idle at Stevens Pass on Dec. 30. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

A blizzard of Stevens Pass complaints hits the AG’s office

The ski resort’s new manager says he’s working to address frustrations about lines and closures.

OLYMPIA — Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is requesting input from skiers and snowboarders who have been affected by hangups at Stevens Pass ski resort this season.

In the past two months, Ferguson’s office has received more than 80 complaints about the resort on U.S. 2 near Skykomish.

“This is a significant number of complaints in a short period of time. If you have been impacted, or have information, I’m asking that you file a complaint with my office,” he wrote in a tweet.

The appeal to consumers comes amid widespread concerns about limited operations at Stevens Pass this winter due to understaffing. Those frustrations erupted last month, when roughly half of the mountain remained closed through the holidays. Season pass holders have also complained about parking troubles, long lift lines and limited food and lodging options.

“We are aware of pass holder complaints being filed with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, and will work with all parties as appropriate,” Vail Resorts spokesperson Sara Roston said in an email on Friday.

Vail, the ski conglomerate that owns Stevens Pass, replaced the resort’s general manager last week in a bid to address the problems. Interim General Manager Tom Fortune, a lifelong skier of the pass, has pledged to “work towards getting the mountain open as quickly and safely as possible.”

Ferguson’s office is responsible for enforcing state consumer protection laws and can take legal action against businesses for deceptive dealings and unfair practices. In such cases, the attorney general can impose civil penalties against violators or seek refunds for customers who fell victim.

Complaints filed with Ferguson’s office also are evaluated to determine whether they can be resolved informally, without litigation.

Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass, priced from about $500 to $1,000, offers a range of options for seasonal access to Stevens Pass and dozens of other Vail-owned ski areas across North America.

People continue to add their names to an online petition, started in late December, that accuses the company of underpaying employees and deceiving consumers. As of 1 p.m. on Friday, the Change.org petition had more than 42,000 signatures.

Some consumer protection attorneys have said customers might be able to argue in court that the company violated consumer protection laws by charging high prices for resort access and then not fully delivering on that promise. However, the Epic Pass purchase agreement includes provisions that bar patrons from suing the company based on their resort experience.

In a Wednesday blog post, Fortune said the resort has already made a few “subtle” operational improvements and is focusing on opening the backside of the mountain.

“We’re reworking current plans to determine a path towards this, and hope to do so within two weeks,” he wrote. “This isn’t guaranteed, but we want to be transparent that we are working against this projected timeline.”

The resort is also recruiting more staff for the season.

“We have created a specific hiring plan for lift operations that has been implemented and I am happy to say that we’ve brought on several new people in just the last 48 hours,” Fortune wrote.

He plans to continue posting regular updates to social media to share information about openings and other steps that the resort is taking to improve the employee and customer experience.

“It’s not lost on me how high expectations are, but please know that I am listening … and so is our company,” Fortune said in the post. “We want Stevens Pass to be the mountain that you love and have pride in.”

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

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