Despite being an outdoor recreation, skiing during the pandemic requires physical and mental adjustments.
Across the country, ski resorts will soon open. The raised seat will be activated. Ski instructors will line up for their students. Skiers and skiers will be ready to fly up and chop. It will be like any other season – except, no.
The effects of COVID-19 and the need to change habits, including social distancing, extend as far as the mountain. And if the increase in outdoor recreation activities over the past summer is any indication, then the mountains can expect high demand. How do they fit the majority while also limiting capacity and reducing operations and services, when necessary?
Mike Kaplan, CEO of Aspen Ski Company, which runs the town’s four main ski slopes, said: “COVID is forcing us to reimagine, reimagine winter and how we ski. While none of those mountains limit the number of people on any day, Kaplan is clear: “Everyone should first commit to safety and stay safe.”
More specifically, Kelly Pawlak, president and chief executive of the National Association of Ski Resorts, which represents more than 300 U.S. resorts, said: “That includes staying or going home if they experience any symptoms such as fever, sore throat, and muscle ache.”
Responsibility continues in the mountains, wearing masks and adhering to physical protocols. It’s not just the explorers who are responsible. “Ski resorts will be reciprocating by training all staff and practice COVID-related best methods,” Pawlak said.
Although you must always check the site of the specific mountain that you are going to visit, this is how some activities are being modified.
It’s a good place to book a lift in advance to make sure you have a seat and choose a day of the week when there are usually fewer people. While some mountains, like in Aspen, don’t restrict ticket sales, others, like Stowe and Okemo in Vermont, manage the number of people on the mountain. And while some resorts will open windows to buy real tickets, most are turning to compulsory online purchases. Equipment rentals are also largely shifting to advanced online bookings, as well as parking, like at Utah’s Snowbird, where dedicated parking is required.
Lift Lines and Rides
At Mount Mohawk in Connecticut, they formed a new maze for lifting lines to ensure there was a separation between the parties. As a smaller mountain, they do not have quads or gondola. “If there’s only one person, it’s their decision if they want to shake hands with someone else,” said Cassie Schoenknecht, Mohawk’s director of operations. But at larger resorts, such as Snowbird and Crystal Mountain in Washington, the capacity on the gondola will be limited and only those traveling can take the lift together.
Lessons and individual classes are mostly still being offered, albeit on a smaller scale and with reservations in advance. At some mountains, such as Vail in Colorado, you will have to confirm a self-health check online, just like the instructors. Most childcare and smaller programs will be suspended.
“Dress warmly because our restaurant establishments will be extremely limited in capacity, and going inside to warm up or have a long lunch is not something you can depend on,” Kaplan said of Aspen’s plans. It’s the same story in almost every resort, big and small. Restaurants and motels will have seating and meal options restrictions, most full-service bars will be closed, non-cash transactions, and will have to wear masks unless eaten literally.
The good news is that many mountains already have apps and other methods in place to pre-order food and some also encourage skiers to bring their meals.
General rituals and expectations
On top of that, be patient and flexible this season. Kemp Dowdy, an outdoor adventure expert at Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, suggests: “If your preferred ski resort is sold out, consider another mountain.
While he expects to see more sliding and sledding requests this year, he shares this amazing reminder: “Some of the best skiing experiences can be found in uns explored and unexpected destinations that you may not have considered before.