Summit County ski areas plan for winter while waiting on guidance from the state
DILLON — Summit County’s ski areas were abruptly shut down in mid-March by COVID-19. Now, ski area officials are preparing for the upcoming ski season as the pandemic continues to affect daily life.
With ski season just two months away, most ski area officials were reluctant to discuss specific winter plans but noted that they are or will be working with local and state health authorities as well as other ski areas to develop rules and guidelines for ski season.
During the Business Leadership Forum hosted Wednesday, Aug. 12, by the Summit Chamber of Commerce, Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said officials from ski areas across the state met Wednesday with state health officials and representatives from the governor’s office.
Keystone Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort’s parent company, Vail Resorts, announced at the end of July that the resorts were preparing for the upcoming season and urged communities, employees and guests to “stay vigilant” in the fight against COVID-19. The letter, written by Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz, touched on some of the requirements of the 2020-21 ski season, including facial coverings in all indoor and outdoor public gathering spaces. He also wrote that physical distancing efforts will limit or restrict events or other gatherings where 6 feet of space between unrelated groups can’t be maintained.
Keystone spokesperson Loryn Roberson wrote in an email that the resorts are planning for a normal opening schedule as they continue to learn from summer operations. Employees also are undergoing health screenings and training.
Copper Mountain Resort President and General Manager Dustin Lyman said the resort has learned from industry partners, Copper’s summer operations and spring Alpine training.
“We remain confident that skiing is one of the safest things people can do this winter,” Lyman wrote in an email. “After all, not only can Copper Mountain guests spread out across over 2,500 acres of skiable terrain, but the equipment inherent to the sport — including gloves, masks and goggles — are considered COVID-19 protective equipment.”
Loveland Ski Area officials said in an Aug. 5 update that the season will be “different” but that the ski area expects to open on time. Pandemic precautions will include increased cleaning and sanitation as well as required physical distancing and masks in indoor areas, base areas and lift mazes as well as on chairlifts and shuttle buses. Only related groups will be permitted to ride together on chairlifts, and occupancy limits will be in place for indoor spaces and shuttle buses. The ski area also noted that as many transactions as possible will be conducted online.
John Sellers, spokesperson for Loveland, added in an email that Ski & Ride School lesson capacities will be reduced and that a number for group lessons likely will be set in the coming weeks. Sellers said the ski area does not plan to limit daily visitors and that while tickets will still be scanned at the base of the mountain, specific procedures are still being finalized.
Loveland has a snowmaking countdown on its website to get people excited for ski season. The countdown is for the first weekend in October, but Sellers gave the caveat that snowmaking is still at “the mercy of Mother Nature,” meaning the countdown might not be accurate. However, Sellers said snowmaking will start as soon as conditions permit and that the ski area hopes to open in mid- to late October.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area spokesperson Katherine Fuller wrote in an email that the ski area intends to work with public health officials and other ski areas but did not share details on the planning process for the upcoming ski season.
While it is unclear what A-Basin’s plans are for winter, the ski area already opened once during the pandemic after getting a green light from Gov. Jared Polis. On May 27, more than two months after ski areas were ordered to close due to COVID-19, A-Basin reopened to a maximum of 600 skiers per day for about two weeks.
Reservations for visiting A-Basin had to be made in advance, and guests had to wear facial coverings in designated areas, including in the restrooms, base area, lift lines and through the lift ticket scanning process. Skiers and riders also were required to stay 6 feet from others in lift lines.
County Manager Scott Vargo said Tuesday that he is hopeful state guidance for the ski areas will be released next week.
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