Last Updated: October 23, 2020
There’s no way around it. Times are strange and everyone we know is asking the same thing: Will ski areas be open this ski season? Will ski resorts open during COVID-19?
As a ski company, we’re pretty tuned into what’s going on behind the scenes in the outdoor industry — and as a bunch of skiers ourselves, we’ve been itching to know too. From everyone we’ve talked to, barring any governmental mandates, the answer is a resounding "yes."
But things will be different and the days of last-minute decisions to head to the mountain are gone (for now) as more and more resorts roll out their reservation systems.
Here's what to expect:
1. Reservation Systems
In an effort to better predict— and in some cases outright limit skier capacity—most resorts will require you to reserve a spot or buy your ticket ahead of time to claim a place on the hill.
Vail recently announced it's (complicated) reservation system with great fanfare. At smaller privately owned resorts, we don't expect there to be huge limitations other than simple online reservation systems. But at high-traffic or very desirable resorts, expect daily skier visits to be capped and space limited. Moral of the story is: you’ll just have to plan a little.
Pro Tip: Bookmark your resort's reservation page to make it easy to reserve your days on the slopes.
2. No Singles Lines
This is an easy one. It’s fair to say the singles line will be largely avoided this year. For all you single folks out there, we are truly sorry. In an effort to keep interaction with those outside of your core group to a minimum, singles will have to take their own chair or share with another lonely single and sit on opposite sides of a 4-pack for proper distance.
Pro Tip: Establish your skiing crew early to avoid any day-of mishaps and leaving one person alone to fend for themselves.
3. Limited Ski Supplies
The ski industry as a whole relies on a massive global supply chain to build the gear you love. We've seen the effects at our own Renoun ski factory and subsequent supply shortages. Vail Resorts, which owns countless stores and shops under different names, has cancelled all of its hard-good orders from ski companies this year, so there will be much less to choose from in person. Based on this trend, and others, there will actually be plenty of ski boots, but expect limited supplies of bindings and skis, so plan on buying them early. Expect a surge of online ordering as well. Online retailers have already been seeing record-setting sales.
Pro Tip: If you are buying new equipment this year, we recommend buying a month or two ahead of time.
4. Reduced Capacity at Base Lodges
Apart from restrooms, base lodges will be limiting capacity. Since base lodges have always been a place to rest and recuperate, for travelers and locals combined they're often crowded making for a paradise of conditions for a virus to spread.
Though many resorts are "strongly committed" to providing "on-mountain dining experience" the reality is they have no control over governmental mandates from location to location. We’d recommend getting an extra boot heater, a fresh pair of socks and "learning to boot up at the car." It's what most locals do anyway.
Pro Tip: Keep your ski boots warm on the way to the hill by putting them down by your feet where there are floor heat vents. A warm pair of boots is vital to booting up outside the car once you arrive.
5. Altered Lift Line Layouts
In an attempt to spread the stoke beyond 6 feet, lift lines will look longer at first glance. The nice thing about skiing, however, is it's hard to get much closer than 6 feet without trodding on a fellow skier's rip sticks ahead of you. Lift lines will fan out quicker for extra space between groups. But, fear not, the lines may look longer, but they will move much quicker than normal.
Pro Tip: Lines will look longer due to increased spacing between groups but expect them to move quicker than normal.
6. More Outdoor Aprés Offerings
Just as we’ve seen in the restaurant industry, we expect there to be increased offerings for aprés drinking on patios and sundecks and to-go boozing. Some level of face coverings will still be required, but it’s safe to say keeping skiers away from beer will not be happening in the era of COVID — it'll just be done outside in the fresh air.
Pro Tip: Pack some beer in a cooler to prevent it from freezing. Or just pack a flask of whiskey and avoid that problem altogether.
7. Less Traveling
As if the plummeting stocks of the airlines aren't enough of an indication, the folks at Vail Resorts Retail have cancelled all of their orders with ski gear vendors, so we know for a fact they're preparing for an extremely limited influx of visitors buying gear. But this actually isn’t a bad thing for many skiers out there — most will head to their local resorts, or their childhood stomping grounds instead of flying cross-country to chase the snow. Either way, people will be skiing — and who knows, you might even meet one of your old friends out there on the slopes. It also means you should expect a shortage of ski gear, so plan on buying early.
Pro Tip: Working remotely? Take a vacation and rent an Airbnb for a month instead of a week. Your boss will never know.
8. Limited Gondola Use
Gondolas will be tightly controlled and monitored and there will absolutely be no sharing of them with strangers outside your core group. Also expect to be loaded up on an every-other basis so the resort staff can properly clean, sanitize and sterilize them in between uses. From our experience using gondolas this summer while downhill mountain biking at Killington in Vermont, we found this experience surprisingly simple and easy to navigate.
9. Limited food offerings
On-hill dining options will adapt much like your local restaurant has: smaller capacity, increased spacing between tables and mask-toting servers. Exact dining options will constantly be in-flux depending on where exactly you are skiing and the current standing of COVID in the area. But, generally speaking resorts will be trying their absolute hardest to make sure you're well fed.
If you want to avoid these lines altogether, just bring your own snacks from home. We don't recommend bringing shrimp tacos unless you want to fish them out of your pockets some spring.
Pro Tip: Pull out the brown bags and enjoy the fond memories of PB&Js you had as a kid.
Fortunately for all of us snow lovers, being outside is the best place to be during a pandemic — and that is exactly where you will find us this winter: on a lift with our close, mask-toting friends whooping and hollering at those shredding below. Yes, ski resorts will be open during COVID, we’ll just have an extra facemask in our pocket in case ours, or a friend's, freezes up.
As we all adapt to the reality of skiing during COVID, Renoun Skis is offering a COVID-19 Guarantee on all full-priced skis during the 2020/21 ski season. This guarantee allows you to return your skis if resorts don't open, even if you already mounted them — something you won't find from any other ski company.