Jenny Leveille intends to “chasing the powder” again this year. Despite various Covid-19-related limitations at ski resorts worldwide, the most dedicated skiers and riders, such as Leveille, may be able to overcome the coronavirus barriers. However, enthusiasm for the sport will not be sufficient to get you through the season.
A successful ski season in 2020-21 will require a flexible travel schedule, Type A planning sensibility, and the financial resources to do everything.
The automobile as a ‘lodge’
Having grown accustomed to doing everything in her vehicle – including going to the restroom – Leveille, 30, says she does not rely on the inside facilities at ski slopes. Indeed, she seldom ever uses them.
That will work very well for certain destinations. According to a press release from Ski California, which represents resorts throughout California and Nevada, food and beverage choices will be available this year but will be different than in previous years due to limited inside capacity.
As such, the statement states, “several resorts this year will promote outdoor dining, provide ‘grab and go’ alternatives, and encourage guests to utilize their personal automobiles as a ‘lodge.'”According to Chris Linsmayer of Colorado Ski, several resorts in Colorado “encourage the use of the automobile as a home base.” He believes it might be an excellent lunch spot.
However, what if you do not own a car?
Many visitors fly to their preferred ski destination or as near to it as feasible and then rely on the shuttle or shared transportation services to get around town, to the mountain, and back to their lodgings. This year, shuttle service will be curtailed or eliminated entirely, leaving tourists with few options and maybe the additional price of hiring a car.
However, for those who are able to drive to the summit, access remains an issue.
At East Coast resorts (which are far smaller than their Western equivalents), like Stowe and Killington in Vermont, the trek from the automobile to the lodge and back may be lengthy and difficult. Ski boots were not designed to be worn when walking.
Tim Pham, an avid skier, founded SnowPals.org, a snow-sports organization for busy professionals headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area. He believes that the “car-as-lodge” concept is particularly harmful for families.
“It’s inconvenient to get kids into and out of skis, boots, and clothes to get into the car and then out on the slopes following the break,” Pham adds. However, not all ski communities permit automobiles. Zermatt (Switzerland), Oberlech (Austria), and Valmorel (France) all prohibit automobiles.
As a result, Zermatt is unable to recommend that guests eat lunch in their automobiles, but the Swiss alpine resort will enforce Covid-19 eating limitations. A table is limited to four individuals, and diners must be around five feet apart.
Flexibility is critical.
Along with the required face mask and social separation procedures, several resorts are promoting weekday visits. According to Linsmayer, Colorado ski regions encourage tourists to visit throughout the week or at off-peak periods. “We understand that this may not be possible for everyone, but if it is, it is the greatest time of year to visit a ski region.”
“There will be no problem accessing the mountain during the week, and we do not anticipate overcrowding on weekends, as we have decided to postpone all-season activities,” adds Leif Williams, vice president of marketing at Hoodoo Ski Area in Oregon.
Of course, not everyone can make a midweek mountain vacation outside of the holidays.
Leveille’s flexible work schedule, combined with her unusual living arrangement (she lives in a van with her dog), allows her to lace up and snowboard first thing in the morning during the week. She can completely avoid weekends and heavier crowds while still racking up days on the mountain.
“When you can ski on any given day, you develop an aversion to lift lines,” Leveille explains.
Pham, on the other hand, did not purchase a Mountain Collective Pass last year and will not do so this year. While he claims to be fine with the reservation system necessary at several of the California and Colorado resorts he intended to visit, he finally expressed dissatisfaction with the protocols used at the various facilities. He describes them as a reflection of the country’s “piecemeal strategy,” with states and towns responding differently to the pandemic.
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This season, planning will be mandatory at ski resorts worldwide. While several of the Ikon system’s resorts will be open without reservations, all of Epic’s 34 North American properties will.
Passholders will get preferential access regardless of whether they make a reservation. Certain resorts are eliminating walk-up window sales, thus putting an end to skiers and riders who awake to several feet of new snow and sense an opportunity.
With mountains restricting their capacity, reserving a seat in advance is certain to be critical. Deer Valley Resort in Utah will avoid congestion this season by “prioritizing access for season pass holders and strictly limiting the number of daily lift tickets available for purchase only in advance.”
“We strongly encourage you to purchase one of our pass products in advance of the season to guarantee that you receive the best value and access to our resorts this season,” Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said in a letter to visitors.
Daily capacity allowances at Lutsen Mountains in northern Minnesota will result in a handful of sold-out days. Additionally, “Online bookings are strongly advised and will be required to guarantee your spot on the mountain for chosen days,” according to Covid’s website.
As a result, peak season, the week preceding Christmas and New Year’s, will be less crowded, but more desirable than ever. In the United States, extended holiday weekends are also frequently associated with packed slopes.
According to an Ikon representative, tourists should begin planning their vacations immediately. “If snow aficionados intend to go skiing during the holidays, I highly advise them to book their vacation immediately.”
“Depending on the location, they should check the resort’s declared procedures (priority entry for pass holders vs. reservation system, for example) and closely monitor the state’s condition.” While Aspen, a popular premium ski resort among Europeans and Americans, will be unable to welcome foreign guests in the near future, travel limitations haven’t reduced the area’s Christmas cost.
Over Christmas and New Year’s, a four-star stay at the Limelight Hotel costs more than $1,000 per night; a five-star stay at The Little Nell costs more than double that. Meanwhile, it looks as though The St. Regis Aspen Resort is sold out throughout the busy holiday season.
Prepare for the worst-case scenario
Ski resorts have been hammering out preparations for worst-case scenarios across the board.
The 2019-20 season was unexpectedly canceled due to the epidemic, leaving pass holders stranded and financially disadvantaged. For many passholders, the purchase makes sense only if they can accrue sufficient days on the mountain; missing months in a season proved pricey.
Skiers with vacations booked for mid-March and beyond this year were left scurrying for a solution. The extent to which their efforts were effectively varied bypass and, in some cases, by the particular resort.
Epic Passholders were entitled to a percentage credit based on the number of — or insufficient — days they were able to utilize the pass.
Meanwhile, Ikon provided a discount on the forthcoming 2020-21 season but did not offer any compensation to passholders whose season was abruptly ended.
As the epidemic continues to spread across Europe and shows no signs of abating in the United States, resorts are proactively addressing potential closures and lockdowns.
Dolomiti Superski, which sells a pass that allows access to 12 ski regions in Italy, has gone to considerable lengths to avoid potential closures.
Similarly, Maine passholders this season are eligible for the Worry-Free Winter Assurance program, which guarantees 150 days of skiing at Sunday River and Sugarloaf combined, as well as the option to roll over the value of their purchased 2020-21 season pass to a 2021-22 pass if requested prior to December 10, 2020.
While the clarity around refunds and credits may reassure some skeptical skiers, the plans for future Covid-related closures fall short of resolving Pham’s worries.
He expresses disappointment at the absence of a coordinated strategy and expresses concern that resorts in his neck of the woods are not taking adequate measures. Pham feels skiing is a low-risk activity in and of itself due to its outside nature, but he continues to voice worry about exposure in enclosed places such as gondolas, hotels, and lodges.
With the greatest of intentions
Big Sky Resort in Montana is optimistic that the present strategy will allow for a complete ski season. Additionally, it is relying on visitors to adhere to Covid-19 standards.
The two non-negotiable criteria are already well-known concepts: Face coverings must be worn at all times, save while actively skiing or eating, and social distancing standards must be adhered to – in lift lines, in dining areas, and when waiting for bathrooms, among other places.
As in previous years, ski lifts will not be packed to capacity; rather, families or groups of friends going together will be seated together. Individuals will either ride alone or in bigger chairlifts and gondolas, such as those at Whistler-Blackcomb.
The world’s largest and greatest ski areas include the following: Whistler is connected to Blackcomb Resort in British Columbia, Canada.
“In terms of lift transportation, we are fortunate in that nearly all of our ski lifts are gondolas with a maximum capacity of ten people, chairlifts, or drag lifts. This facilitates social distance significantly, since groups and families may remain isolated in their own bubbles “Claire Burnet, Chamonix’s press officer, says. She did not reply to concerns regarding solitary skiers, who have typically benefited from sharing a ski lift or gondola with a virtually entire group.
It is unknown how the new lift regulations would affect single travelers, although waits are likely to be longer.
On the other hand, the impending ambiguity around Covid-19 and concerns about the safety of air travel may finally render the battle against crowds moot.
Due to the extra layer of bother, several skiers, including parents in Pham’s ski club, have opted to forego this season.
Leveille, on the other hand, is unconcerned about the protocols, many of which will never apply to her skiing lifestyle. She made it through the winter last year, living out of her van for the first time, and confesses her concentration was “on skiing and cramming as many days as possible in as many locales as possible.” She clocked in at 29 days before the epidemic ended the season.
Leveille, who is this year’s holder of an Ikon pass, said she wants to spend 50 days on the mountain.