Local ski areas share current plans for the upcoming season
DILLON — Details on reservations, opening and ski area amenities were discussed at a group meeting of Colorado resorts via Colorado Ski Country USA, which represents 22 ski areas. While methods differ, the two things ski areas are trying to do to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 this season is to limit the number of people that visit the ski area and move things outside wherever possible.
“Even though there remains uncertainty around the season and things are likely to change or be modified throughout the season … we are still really looking forward to a great ski season and welcoming people back to our ski areas,” Colorado Ski Country USA Public Affairs Director Chris Linsmayer said. “This is the year to do your research before you book your trip and then all the way up until the day before or even the day of arrival, visit ski area websites, visit their social media channels to understand any resort-specific COVID protocols.”
He noted that at various ski areas things like dining, ski school, check in, rental pickups and retail may be moved outside. Linsmayer said that state guidance is expected to be finalized in the next week, but that the ski areas have been engaged with their counties on ski season plans. He said that once state guidance is finalized, as long as the ski area’s existing plans do not conflict with the guidance, they have the green light to move forward.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area spokesperson Katherine Fuller said the ski area plans to simply open as soon as snow conditions allow. She said that while A-Basin is currently making snow, the weather looks warm and dry for the next two weeks, making it hard to estimate an opening day.
“We can’t pull the same trick twice,” Fuller joked when asked if A-Basin would try to swoop in before Keystone’s opening day like last year. “This year feels less focused on (a race to open) and more focused on, what are our health and safety procedures.”
A-Basin got a practice round for this upcoming season as it was the only Colorado ski area to reopen in May after the governor ordered shutdown of ski areas. Fuller said A-Basin learned a lot during the 12 days of reopening and as far as they know, no cases were tied to the reopening. However, just the lifts opened for the May 27 reopening day — no buildings were open. Fuller said for the upcoming ski season, ski and snowboard rental services and restaurants will be in operation and noted that restaurants were open during summer operations.
“I think the advantage of us having opened is our staff has been through it and they know how serious it is and they know what to do,” Fuller said.
While A-Basin passholders will not need a reservation to ski or snowboard on any given day, Ikon Pass holders will have to make a reservation at A-Basin in advance. A-Basin installed new RFID gates for this season that will eliminate the need for ticket scanners in the lift lines.
Copper Mountain Resort spokesperson Olivia Butrymovich said the resort’s Nov. 30 opening day is on a Monday, which will help the mountain ease into the season. The resort is preparing for race training and hopes to have the U.S. team on the mountain by the end of the month. Butrymovich said that details about the parking reservation system will be available in coming weeks, including how many spots will be available, but that the resort is moving forward with a touchless transactions system where people can reserve tickets online and pick them up from boxes at the resort instead of a ticket booth.
Butrymovich said that aside from mask wearing, one thing people will have to get used to at the resort is the changes to lift lines as people will have to keep physical distance. Copper’s new — and first — hotel, Element 29, plans to open on Nov. 30 along with opening day. The hotel will open in the center village and will have 127 rooms. Copper spokesperson Taylor Prather said that other outdoor activity options, including tubing hill operations, ice skating, snowshoeing and uphill access, will be available this year. The resort hopes to bring back uphill guided tours as well, depending on local regulations.
Loveland Ski Area spokesperson Dustin Schaefer said the start of snowmaking, which began Sunday afternoon, has been productive over the first two nights of the week. He said the ski area is looking at a late October or early November opening. Last year, Loveland opened on Oct. 25. The ski area is not using a reservation system.
“We’ve been working all summer to come up with a plan to make things safe not only for our guests but for our employees, and we want to continue skiing all season and not end it like we did last year,” Schaefer said.
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