Ormes Peak Skier Visitation and the Potential Local Traffic Impact

One of the biggest concerns of Ormes Peak is the potential impact on local traffic.  We find it fair to share the data and our assumptions so the community can understand and take part in discussions concerning the potential impact.  As a community resort, we estimate Ormes’ visitation to grow to and stabilize around 200,000 visitors.

How did we get to this 200,000 visitation figure?  If this figure is correct, how will it impact traffic on the routes to the resort, and more importantly, the local community?

Determining Visitation

First, how does 200,000 visits compare to other ski resorts we visit?  Most resorts only publish visitation data when required to do so in a Master Development Plan (MDP) update.  Every resort’s MDP must be publicly available, so in your favorite search engine type “*Resort Name* Master Development Plan.”  MDPs seeking to expand their area or justify new buildings usually must report their annual visitation.  Visitation is defined as one person visiting a resort for all or part of a given day [1].  Many of the top visited resorts in America are here in our backyard of Colorado, Ski Country USA.

Table 1: Most Visited Resorts in America Averages 2007/08 – 2011/12 Seasons [1]TrafficTable1

The ultimate goal of Ormes Peak is to bring skiing to Colorado Springs.  Ormes provides the Front Range an easily accessible, family friendly, and environmentally responsible option to get outside and enjoy winter recreation.  We want to develop school programs to keep our youth active in winter, night skiing for après work, and a real option for those who want to ski but can’t due to high cost and time necessary to get to the major resorts (currently five hours round trip).   With this in mind, we sized Ormes for our community.  At 1,150 acres it provides a range of terrain for our enjoyment, but its capacity is nowhere near that of destination resorts.  Our desire to be part of and embed within the existing community is why we are trying to create access from Colorado Springs, our community.

With this sizing in mind, we looked at comparable resorts.  The top three being Monarch, Loveland, and Arapahoe Basin.  Loveland and Arapahoe Basin both made major pushes in the last decade to draw in more destination skiers.  Their substantially longer seasons, opening in October and closing as late of June, result in approximately 30-40% higher visitation than resorts which operate in the core ski season of November to March (five months).  Meanwhile, Monarch has made significant progress growing its Front Range day-use visitors.  Using these resorts as benchmarks we developed the Ormes Peak proposal to service approximately 200,000 visitors over its five month season from November to March, both in terms of acres and lifts.  Market experts think it will take us several years to get to 200,000 visitors, but we are optimistic we can achieve it within five years.  While we are flattered by comments frequently comparing us to top 10 resorts such as Vail or Breckenridge, this is neither realistic nor our aim.

Table 2: Front Range Resorts Comparable to Ormes Peak [6] [7] [8]TrafficTable2

Local Traffic Impact

Flash forward to the future in Colorado Springs – Ormes is operational and the Front Range is rejoicing in the ability to night ski after work and our youth programs are producing future X-Game Gold Medalist and Olympic Champions.  What has happened to traffic in the area surrounding the Ormes Peak Base Area?

The population of the 80919 zip code serviced by Woodmen and Centinela is approximately, 27,400 residents living in over 11,450 homes [2].  The 2003 El Paso Transportation Report measured per day traffic volume on W Woodmen at 10,000 cars [3].  Traffic volume is measured in one direction, so a volume of 10,000 cars means 20,000 cars per day pass in front of a business or home located on W Woodmen [5].  At that time only a fraction of the homes in the Peregrine community were constructed.

Figure 1: El Paso County Transportation Report – Existing 2003 Traffic and Congestion Level MapTrafficFigure1

Those that live in Peregrine or have visited might believe 20,000 cars a day sounds large.  Frequenting the local area, we agree, this estimate is high.  The county’s estimate was derived from various measurements taken from the base of W Woodmen all the way to its top.  The base of W Woodmen sees an average per day volume of far more than 10,000 cars, while at the top it sees substantially less.  Let’s take a closer look at the area immediately surrounding Ormes Peak’s proposed base area.

Figure 2: Traffic Impact Area of Study [9]TrafficFigure2

To determine current traffic volume for Peregrine, we utilized the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) [4].  The NHTS has been collected by the US Department of Transportation since the 1970s to measure household vehicle use and is the gold standard for traffic studies.   The major metric of the NHTS is the number of vehicle trips per household, a household vehicle departing and then returning to home.  The average number of vehicle trips per household has settled near 10 per day since the 1990s.  For this study, 10 trips per household is utilized for Peregrine.  This figure is likely biased low by 30% to 40% for two reasons.  One, the average number of vehicle trips per household is higher in suburban areas such as Peregrine as compared to rural areas.  Two, the biggest discriminator for vehicle trips per household is income.  Households with earnings in excess of $80,000 drive almost twice as much as households with incomes between $10,000 and $20,000 [4].

Table 3: Daily Trips per Household, All Incomes and by Income [4]TrafficTable3

With a trip starting and originating from home, it would travel along Peregrine’s thorough fares 20 times per day, 20 passes per day = 10 trips per day * 2 (one departing and one returning).  There are more than 400 homes which must use W Woodmen North of Orchard Valley Road, the area of this study [9].  This amounts to 8,000 cars per day before we consider non-household traffic, 400 households * 10 trips per day * 2 (one departing and one returning) = 8,000 cars per day.  Non-household traffic includes travel to Mt St Francis, local business traffic to the Media Strategy Group, Bella Dia Events, Blum Wholesale Florist, and the Pine Creek Gallery among others.  It also includes school buses, delivery services, garden and home services, visitors to the Peregrine community and the Blodgett Open Space.  Non-household traffic can account for more than 40% of residential traffic [4].  For Peregrine, let’s use a low end planning factor of 20%.  This makes traffic departing and returning from Peregrine 9,600 cars a day (8,000 cars per day * 120% increase due to non-household traffic = 9,600 cars per day).  There are two primary routes of egress and ingress into Peregrine, towards Centinela and towards Woodmen.  If we assume both of these routes are utilized equally 4,800 cars per day pass along either route (9,600 cars per day/2 = 4,800 cars per day).  From the El Paso W Woodmen assessment of 20,000 cars per day passing through the local area, we computed a conservatively low measurement of Peregrine traffic at 4,800 cars per day along each of the two West Woodmen corridors of interest.

Next, let’s determine what impact Ormes Peak would have on these routes?  If Ormes achieves 200,000 visits over its five month, 150 day season, that amounts to 1,333 visitors a day.  Let’s assume all of these visitors park at the resort , traffic is spread across the week with no surge on weekends, and ignore our proposed shuttle parking plan.  The average number of people in a car for social or recreational travel according to the NHTS is 2.2 [4].  The trend towards charging for parking is because pay parking results in increased occupancy per vehicle.  Ormes plans to charge for parking at the resort, with parking being either free or discounted if the vehicle is full.  Assuming 3 people per vehicle, we expect 444 cars per day (1333 people per day/3 people per car = 444 cars).  For simplicity, let’s round up to 450 cars a day.  Day-use ski traffic sees near zero in-and-out.  In-and-out is when a visitor leaves and then returns to a resort.  This practice is further discouraged by the practice of charging for on-site parking, so we may safely ignore it.

Each car must come and go from Ormes though.  This results in 900 additional cars passing through in a day, 450*2 (one arriving and one departing).  If we assume both routes to Ormes are utilized equally, as we did for Peregrine’s other traffic, the resort adds 450 cars per day on each route.  This results in a worst case scenario of a 9% increase in traffic.  What does a 9% increase look like?  Well, the 55 cars that passed your house previously in an hour are now 60 cars passing your house.  Practically speaking, this is an imperceptible change and thus far have done everything to estimate this figure high.  We used a low estimate of trips per household for Peregrine (10 when its likely higher than 13), we used a low multiplier for the percent of current traffic not originating in Peregrine (20% when it’s probably closer to 30% or 40%), and we assumed every visitor to Ormes will park there, ignoring our proposed shuttle operations of which 30% of Ormes visitors would utilize.

Traffic Impact Mitigation

The Ormes Shuttle system reduces the impact on local traffic from a 9% to 6% increase in traffic, a 3% reduction.  Ski resorts see the majority of visitors on Saturday and Sunday.  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday account for upwards of 60% of weekly ski resort visitation.  If shuttle use accounts for 50% of weekend visitors the number of visitors driving to the Ormes Base Area reduces from 200,000 to 140,000.  This is approximately 310 cars per day.  Utilizing the same computations as before, thus is a 6% increase in daily traffic.

There is another reason the traffic impact of Ormes is likely to be less noticeable than the computed estimate.  Day-use ski traffic moves counter-cyclical to day-time residential traffic.  What does that mean?  When the current surge of residential traffic flows out of Peregrine for work, weekday ski traffic is moving up the hill in the opposite direction.  When work traffic returns home, the majority of ski traffic is again traveling in the opposite direction.  This makes the effect of the traffic less perceptible to locals for two reasons.  First, because ski traffic does not impact the predominant direction of travel, and second, ski traffic occurs when more cars are on the road making the increase in traffic smaller relative to existing traffic levels.

Figure 3: Cyclical Residential Traffic Patterns and Ski Traffic Concentration Periods [5]TrafficFigure3OptB

How will Ormes enforce parking?  Ormes is working with the City of Colorado Springs in developing its proposal.  Our preferred solution is to create a free permit system for local residents.  Non-permitted parking in the local area will result in ticketing and towing enforced jointly by Ormes and the City of Colorado Springs.  This has been the approach utilized by other ski areas (Breckenridge, Keystone, Wolf Creek, Aspen, Vail) and it has proven very successful at preventing skier parking in the surrounding communities.

Ormes goal is to integrate into the Colorado Springs community.  We appreciate all the support we have received from Peregrine and the surrounding area and thus wanted to allay as much as possible one of your biggest concerns, that Ormes would bring an incompatible level of traffic.  While we agree Ormes will be an amazing success and it is flattering to be compared to many of America’s largest and most successful ski resorts, Ormes will be sized to our community.

Sources

[1] Stewart, S. “America’s Most-Visited Ski Resorts” (n.d.)  Travel and Leisure. Retrieved 13 April 2016 from http://www.travelandleisure.com/slideshows/americas-most-visited-ski-resorts

[2] 80919 Zip Code Detailed Profile (2013).  City-Data.com.  Retrieved 14 April 2016 from  http://www.city-data.com/zips/80919.html

[3] El Paso County Major Transportation Corridors Plan (2004). El Paso County. Retrieved 10 April 2016.  http://adm.elpasoco.com/transportation/Documents/report_final2.pdf

[4] Summary of Travel Trends: 2009 National Household Travel Survey (2011).  US Department of Transporation. Retrieved 08 April 2016 from  http://nhts.ornl.gov/2009/pub/stt.pdf

[5] Federal Highway Administration Traffic Guidelines (2015). US Department of Transportation. Retrieved 08 April 2016 from  http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/Environment/air_quality/air_toxics/research_and_analysis/near_road_study/protocol/protocol03.cfm

[6] Arapahoe Basin 2012 Master Development Plan (2012). SE Group. Retrieved 10 April 2016 from http://arapahoebasin.com/ABasin/document-library/Arapahoe-Basin-2012-Master-Development-Plan_FINAL.pdf

[7] Loveland Ski Area Master Development Plan (2013). SE Group. Retrieved 10 April 2016 from http://skiloveland.com/the-mountain/master-plan/

[8] Monarch Ski Area Master Development Plan (2011). SE Group. Retrieved 10 April 2016 from http://www.skimonarch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/monarch-mountain-mdp-august-2011.pdf

[9] Public Record of Real Estate Property (n.d.). El Paso County. Retrieved 06 April 2016 from  http://land.elpasoco.com/