Thanks, Anachronism. I will heed your advice and hit those spots on our next trip and DEFINITELY for ski school. Will put Jr. in there and just ski the mountain while he is in his lesson. You are so right about "experience". The "customer experience" at Vail leaves something to be desired. Rather than making me want to be a repeat customer, it makes me want to avoid it. Being in the corporate world myself, this is the opposite of what my firm tries to do. Obviously they do what they do b/c they can an the market will support that. Its up to me, to exercise some choice by voting with my feet and I will definitely do this next time. Lesson learned.
I think Vail management feels (at least in the case of Vail and Breck) that because these two mountains see so many skier visits that they have no real motivation to make things any better for the day skier- as that would just entice more to come. Why bother adding more parking when that takes up space that you could build more condos on? That would just mean more people on a crowded mountain, and Vail makes more money in real estate than they ever do with ski operations. I honestly think Vail could not give a damn about providing a good experience to people not staying at the base. In this regard, Aspen is the same way- We complain about Vail parking, but Aspen has NO parking at Ajax and Highlands, and minimal parking at Snowmass.
Contrast that with the smaller areas I mentioned, who either have no condos/lodging at the base, or minimal. They make their money on ski operations. If the visitor does not have a great day, they lose all opportunity to make any income from them. They don't have giant marketing budgets, and they don't have money to bribe the forest service to open up 1,000 acres of new terrain to get people back. All they have is their ability to deliver a great skiing experience.