Want to know what it’s currently like to go snowboarding or skiing during the COVID-19 pandemic? Here’s my experience so far.
My first snowboarding trip of the 2020-2021 season consisted of a stormy powder day followed by a bluebird with corduroy groomers at Mt. Bachelor in Oregon.
The resort only sells a limited number of tickets per day, so my family and I purchased them in advance and had to secure reserved parking for each day. The lodge was closed except for bathroom use. Lunch either took place in the parking lot or on the chairlift. The people in the car next to us brought lawn chairs and a grill. Masks were required and liftees called people out for not covering their noses.
On our second day, there were no parking reservations available so we figured one of us would drop the others off and stay back that day. However, this would mean those skiing would have nowhere to break for lunch. Lucky for us, on our first day on the slopes we heard someone in the lift line yell out “they just opened parking for tomorrow if anyone needs a spot!” and we hopped on our phones to snag a last-minute reservation.
This is what skiing looks like in the age of COVID-19.
What You Can Expect Skiing During COVID-19
Every resort seems to be handling this wild season differently. Some require reservations, some require verification of a self-quarantine if you’re coming from out of state, and some don’t require either. However, there are a few rules based upon CDC guidelines that nearly every resort has in place.
The first is that we must wear masks. This is an easy one because most of us have always worn face masks while skiing anyway. Make sure that you keep your mask all the way up (covering your mouth and your nose) whenever you are in line, loading, or unloading from the lift in addition to when you’re interacting with staff or are in public areas.
The next is social distancing. Keep your six-foot distance from others both on the slopes and around the resort. You can also expect more hand sanitizing stations and limited lodge access. Overall, things are definitely going to look different than you’re used to. Remember to roll with the punches and remain grateful that you get to enjoy the fresh air, vitamin D, and exercise that skiing can provide after a long year of work-from-home and quarantine.
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Individual Resort Policies
Every resort has its own way of doing things this winter, so you must check out the website of the resort where you’re going to ski ahead of time and plan accordingly.
Look out for lift ticket and parking reservations. You may need to consider dining reservations, limited dining hours, or dining alternatives. And keep in mind that many hotels and other lodging options are not functioning at full capacity.
You might not have a warm lodge to take a lunch break in this season, so plan ahead and park a car to warm up in, bring extra layers, or ski through lunch and end your day a little early. You may not be able to ride the lift up with people outside of your family, whereas other resorts may put two singles on a four-person chairlift together.
If you’re coming from out of state, make sure that you’re able to meet the state you’re skiing in’s travel guidelines. Some services like gondolas and trams may be functioning differently or not at all, to maintain social distancing. Do your research so you know what to expect and be flexible.
The Ikon, Epic, and Indy passes all have pages dedicated to helping you navigate the COVID-19 guidelines for the resort you’re going to:
- Ikon — ikonpass.com/en/reservations
- Epic — epicpass.com/info/reservation-details.aspx
- Indy — indyskipass.com/covid-19-resort-reservation-policy
Resorts Are Doing Their Best
Many resorts have gotten creative and found ways to offer lots of the same services while
abiding by CDC guidelines. Mt. Bachelor, for example, had food carts parked by the lodge so that skiers could still buy warm food to-go. I’ve seen many resorts come up with covered, heated, outdoor seating options, often separating parties by plexiglass or plastic curtains.
They’ve also come up with restaurant reservation systems to limit the number of people indoors at one time. Some have made take-out windows so you can order restaurant food to go. I even saw a magic carpet with a stuffed animal taped next to it six feet in so kids know how much space to give the person in front of them.
Ski resorts are doing the best they can. Despite many of them closing down early last season and taking a big hit from this health crisis, they are now spending big bucks on new technology and sanitization zones. Mammoth Mountain reportedly spent $1 million on COVID-19 safety precautions.
Although the changing rules can be confusing and complicated, and not everything makes perfect sense to everyone, keep in mind that resorts, just like many of us, are doing the best they can considering the current state of the world.
Resort employees that you may interact with during your trip aren’t usually the ones making the rules, but it is their job to enforce them. Treat them with respect—you wouldn’t get to ski this season if it weren’t for them putting their own health on the line to keep resorts open for all of us to enjoy.
When it comes to snowboarding and skiing during the COVID-19 pandemic, just remember to have fun and stay safe out there!
By Christa Huddleston
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