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After the early closure of 2020, it’s finally time to ski but we’re looking at a season like no other. Before you book your trip, here’s what it’s actually like to visit a ski resort during the pandemic and whether it’s worth it or you should wait until another season. Every resort is taking serious measures but those can vary.
(Keep in mind, the experience will vary at each ski resort)
Are People Wearing Masks?
Not only are you required to wear masks inside, you will be required to wear a mask in the lift line. Social distancing is not possible and a gaitor won’t work unless it’s covering your nose. The staff is reminding people to cover their noses. I skied on a zero-degree morning so having a mask under my gaitor actually worked out well.
Is It Crowded or are People Staying Home?
If you’ve been out in the outdoors anytime during the pandemic, you’ll know how crowded the trails and parks are. The ski resorts are no different. I stood in very long lift lines surrounded by lots of people (several not wearing masks when the employees couldn’t spot them). Some resorts are limiting numbers and some aren’t.
Despite resorts saying skiers in different groups won’t be loaded on a chair together, they are. They said riders can request their own chair but with the long lines no one seemed to be doing this.
If you’re looking for social distancing, you won’t find it at a ski resort.
Can I Get Food On the Mountain?
The eating situation has definitely changed. The restaurants that traditionally had seating with cheaper options have removed the seating and transitioned everything to on-the-go food. You will not be allowed to linger inside. The nicer restaurants require advance reservations and have limited seating. If you want to eat inside, you’ll have to plan ahead.
At some resorts, they’ve set up ordering online for limited options. On busy days, plan to stand in a long food line surrounded by a lot of people. If there was ever a year to brown-bag it, this is the year.
Will I Be Able to Go Inside?
This will definitely be resort dependent but I wouldn’t plan on it except for short stints. Bathroom lines were moved outside and employees waved people in as others left. All seating had been removed and people were asked to keep moving inside and encouraged not to linger.
If you’re taking small children who need lots of breaks, I would plan on getting there very early so you can park close enough for breaks and meals in the car. Because of the crowds, I had to park fairly far away and walk in (despite getting there well before first chair).
Is It Even Worth Going?
This is a personal decision everyone will have to weigh on their own. Some things to keep in mind:
- Are you local or traveling? If you have to get on a public plane, consider waiting until spring or next year. COVID initially spread by many people on ski trips. The first towns it showed up in the western U.S. were ski towns.
- A day of skiing/riding isn’t as fun as it used to be. It comes with new stressors. People, like everywhere, are a little more on edge.
- Do you have small children? If so, are you okay with only skiing a short time or can you take breaks in the car or close-by lodging?
- Are you high risk? Even though everyone is wearing gloves and gaitors, noses are running more in the cold and people are touching their faces and then the chairlift. It’s not a zero-risk situation.
- Are you someone who goes for skiing or do you go for the experience? If you want the leisurely ski day with food, drinks, and breaks, it may not be your year. This is the year to get there, cram in a bunch of runs in a hurry, and go home.
After my first day of skiing and spending most of it in a lift line, I reevaluated my season. My Saturday ski days will mostly likely be limited this year. Instead of a winter vacation, I’ll take the occasional day off work on powder days. I’ll snowshoe more and ski a little less. I’m also going to try to head up after 1 pm as people are coming off the mountain (although there were steady stream of cars coming up when I drove down at 11:30).
Whatever you decide, take proper precautions and look out for everyone else.
The snow is falling in Lost Gorge, filling the resort with skiers. When one goes up the lift but never comes down, it’s up to ski instructor Mina Park to search through the blizzard. What she finds changes the town forever. While Mina doesn’t believe in myths, she does believe in murder.