There’s no way around it. Times are strange and everyone we know is asking the same thing: Will ski areas be open this season? Will ski resorts open during covid?
Timberline in Oregon is already open for summer skiing and has given us a glimpse into what this season will hold.
As a ski company, we’re pretty tuned into what’s going on behind the scenes in the outdoors industry — and as a bunch of skiers ourselves, we’ve been itching to know too. From everyone we’ve talked to, barring any national mandates, the answer is a resounding yes.
Ski resorts will be open, but things will be different. Here's what to expect:
1. No single's lines
This is an easy one. It’s fair to say the singles line will be nixed 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 down to a minimum, singles will have to take their own chair, or perhaps share with another lonely single and sit on opposite sides of a 4-pack for proper distance.
2. Controlled skier capacity
In an effort to better predict, and in some cases limit, the capacity at resorts you may have to reserve a spot or buy your ticket ahead of time to claim a place on the hill. At some resorts, it may be just a way to better track skiers and decrease interactions at ticket windows, but at high-traffic (or very desirable resorts like Sun Valley) expect daily skier visits to be capped. Moral of the story is: you’ll just have to plan a little — something that we can all get a little better at anyhow.
3. Limited ski gear supplies
The ski industry as a whole rely's on a massive global supply chain to build the gear you love. Our own Renoun factory was effected during the height of the pandemic which lowered our inventory levels, and we knows other's were as well. Based on the trends there will actually be plenty of ski boots, but expect limited supplies of bindings and skis this winter so plan on buying them early.
4. Reduced capacity at Base Lodges
Apart from restrooms, base lodges will be at extremely limited capacity. Lodges are basically a place for a bunch of sweaty people to change into various garments dragged in from their homesteads — a haven for the little virus. We’d recommend getting an extra boot heater, a fresh pair of socks and learning to boot up at the car. It's what the locals do every day.
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 skis however, is it’s hard to get much closer than 6ft without trodding on a fellow skiers rip sticks. Lift lines will fan out quicker for extra space between groups. Fear not however, the lines may look longer, but they will move much quicker than normal.
6. More outdoor aprés offerings
Just as we’ve seen in the restaurant industry, we expect there to be heightened offerings for Aprés drinking on patios, sundecks and even the streets. It’s possible 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.
7. Less traveling
We know Vail Retail has cancelled almost all of their orders with vendors so we know for a fact they are preparing for a extremely limited travel season. But this actually isn’t a bad thing for many skiers out there — most will head to their local resort, or their childhood stomping grounds instead of flying cross country to chase the snow. Either way, people will be skiing — and who knows, you night 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.
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.
9. Limited food offerings
With lodges under higher capacity restrictions, food wil only be offered in very controlled settings. We’re not even talking grab-n-go but instead expect pre-wraped food to be handed to you by the (gloved up) resort staff. And if you want to avoid these lines altogether, then just bring your own snacks from home. We don't recommend bringing tacos.
Fortunately for all of us snow-lovers, being outside is the best place to be during this whole pandemic thing — and that is exactly where you will find us this winter: with our close friends on a lift still whooping and hollering at those shredding below. Yes, ski resorts will be open during covid, we’ll just be sure to have an extra bandana in our pocket in case ours, or a friends, freezes up.