Ski areas discuss dial change, crowd management and mask requirements
More than halfway through ski season, and in anticipation of a busy spring break period, ski industry leaders are sticking with the “know before you go” message.
While tweaks have been made to manage crowds and adjust to the state’s new COVID-19 dial, ski areas continue to be focused on communication around wearing masks, keeping 6 feet of distance and planning ahead.
“Skiing and snowboarding itself have not changed,” Colorado Ski Country USA Public Affairs Director Chris Linsmayer said during a Zoom meeting Tuesday. “It’s the whole getting to the ski area, indoor dining — those pieces that are different. The major piece of what we are reminding folks and continuing to remind folks on is masks, and that means not just covering your mouth, but covering your mouth and nose.”
Linsmayer said it’s especially important to continue reminding guests to pull up their mask when they come off a run and enter a lift line, where masks are required. Linsmayer said most ski area protocols haven’t changed since the ski season started, but recent changes to the state dial have allowed for expanded indoor dining capacity.
At the national level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its mask-wearing guidance around neck gaiters in October, asking people to “wear a gaiter with two layers or fold it to make two layers” if choosing to wear this type of facial covering.
Neck gaiters, which were popular among skiers and snowboarders simply for warmth before the pandemic, are often seen on the slopes. Linsmayer said some ski areas are asking guests who wear gaiters as facial coverings to cover their mouth and nose with at least two layers by wearing two gaiters, a gaiter that is folded in half, or a gaiter and a fabric or surgical mask.
As for COVID-19 outbreaks, Linsmayer said none have been traced to the activity of skiing and that employee housing outbreaks largely have been attributed to employees not following COVID-19 protocols.
Copper Mountain Resort spokesperson Taylor Prather chimed in on the call to tout the resort’s recent snowfall — 36 inches so far in February — and said the mountain is in a “good cadence” when it comes to conditions. She added that the resort has expanded uphill access by allowing daytime access on two routes: one that brings skiers down the intermediate Copperfield run and another that brings skiers down the intermediate Roundabout run.
To manage the resort’s capacity restrictions, Prather said the resort looks at several factors.
“We’ve really gotten into the formula,” Prather said. “It’s not just parking reservations, it’s lodging reservations. It’s also lift tickets, and we’ve really looked at all three of those things to be able to manage a comfortable capacity for us.”
Parking reservations, which are required to park at the resort this year, originally were announced as full-day reservations starting at 8:30 a.m. Prather said the resort now has added a 12:30 p.m. parking reservation time to spread out guests.
“Instead of everybody going straight for the lifts right when we open, we’re able to space out the flow into the resort at the same time,” Prather said.
Linsmayer said business is down this season as expected at its 23 member resorts, which do not include Vail Resorts properties, but that the organization has consistently heard that the season is bringing “some sense of normality” during the pandemic.
Linsmayer said the industry trade group is hopeful for March, which is a popular time for family visits to ski areas.
“We think that this formula we’ve created really set us up for success, especially moving into the March time frame,” Prather said.
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