Summit County ski areas weigh in on newly released state guidance for ski season safety |

Summit County ski areas weigh in on newly released state guidance for ski season safety

In March, ski areas attempted to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 via physical-distance messaging but were later shut down by the state. To open this season, ski areas must undergo a health and safety planning process with local and state health departments.
Liz Copan /

DILLON — Ski area guidance released Monday by the state health department didn’t come as a surprise to the ski industry, though it might lead to some tweaks to operating plans that were previously released by each resort.

The state guidelines ask ski areas to provide numerous details about their plans for the upcoming season, and the ski areas are required to undergo an approval process prior to opening.

Ski area leaders are working with Summit County public health officials to develop a plan. Once a plan is developed, ski areas must submit them to the local public health agency for approval. Once approved locally, public health officials will submit the plan to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for the final thumbs up. 

County Manager Scott Vargo said the county and its ski areas got an early start on the process and that public health has received plans from all four Summit County ski areas. He said Arapahoe Basin Ski Area’s plan has been submitted to the state but that the state has requested additional information prior to approval. Copper Mountain Resort’s plan has been approved locally and is on its way to the state, Vargo said. 

While the county has received plans for Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort, they have not yet been submitted to the state because the county has requested additional information, Vargo said. After state guidance was released, Keystone and Breckenridge spokesperson Nicole Stull wrote in an email that the resorts will update their operating plans, including their approach to loading lifts, to align with state guidelines.

Over the past few weeks, local ski areas have discussed changes that will be made for the upcoming season regarding mask-wearing, reservations, protocols for lessons and physical distancing. However, the state guidance also asks ski areas to obtain regular community feedback on what is and isn’t working, to work with the community to provide isolation housing and to enforce health protocols. 

A-Basin spokesperson Katherine Fuller wrote in an email that the ski area plans to gather community feedback by keeping up with surveys as well as internally discussing the emails, calls and in-person and online comments the ski area receives. She added that A-Basin will continue to collaborate and communicate with Summit County public health officials.

Fuller said A-Basin will maintain isolation options in employee housing and noted that staff has and will continue to receive mandatory training on executive orders, county health orders and the ski area’s COVID-19 response plan.

To enforce health protocols, Fuller said people simply will have to leave the ski area if they don’t follow A-Basin’s requirements. 

“As we saw in the spring when we reopened, we didn’t have any problems with people abiding by the rules, and we don’t anticipate any issues this fall,” Fuller wrote. “We believe people are excited to ski and ride and will help us out by doing what they need to do to keep the season going.”

Copper spokesperson Taylor Prather wrote in an email that the resort will continue to seek guidance and input from local officials and community business leaders throughout the season and will review daily input from guests through existing feedback methods.

“Our goal is to maintain consistent and clear communication on our website … in our guest services divisions and with respect to in-resort signage,” Prather wrote. “We believe there is a shared responsibility and hope that guests spend time familiarizing themselves with our local protocols.”

The state guidance also asks ski areas to include in their plans how they will address cancellations and postponements so that guests do not feel pressured to travel while experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Stull said Vail Resorts properties have relaxed their lodging booking and cancellation policies in addition to creating Epic Coverage, which provides refunds on passes for things like illness or other personal events and in the case of closures at certain resorts. 

According to Breckenridge’s website, cancellation policies depend on arrival date. For arrivals through Dec. 17, no deposit is required and full payment must be made 48 hours in advance of the reservation, at which time the payment is not refundable. For reservations from Dec. 18 to Jan. 2, a 10% deposit is required and full payment must be made 45 days in advance, at which time the payment (less the deposit if cancelled by Nov. 9) is nonrefundable.

It’s unclear whether Vail Resort’s cancellation policy will meet the state’s standard to discourage visitors from traveling while symptomatic.

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