Colorado governor orders closure of all ski resorts due to COVID-19 outbreak

A sign pictured Saturday, March 14, 2020 near the Breckenridge Ski Resort gondola outlines public health guidelines about social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19. Later in the day, Vail Resorts announced it would close all of its ski areas in North America through March 22, including Breckenridge and Keystone Resort in Summit County.
Liz Copan/Summit Daily News archive

FRISCO — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Saturday night issued an executive order to close the state’s nearly 30 ski areas for one week amid the new coronavirus outbreak.

“Never would I have believed that a global pandemic would force the temporary closure of our world-class ski resorts,” Polis wrote in an email announcing the news.

He went on to say that he and his family, like many others, were planning a spring break ski trip.

“Beyond being a major part of our way of life, skiing supports our workers and businesses,” Polis wrote, noting his concern for hourly employees who depend on their paychecks.

Polis called the decision “agonizing” and said he would “take solace in knowing that … we will be saving the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Coloradans in the days and weeks ahead.”

Earlier in the day Saturday, Vail Resorts was the first major ski area operator in the country to announce that it would close its resorts amid the outbreak.

Vail Resorts Chief Executive Officer Rob Katz announced in a statement Saturday afternoon that the company would close all of its North American mountain resorts — including Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort in Summit County — and retail stores through March 22. Katz added that Vail Resorts will use that time to reassess its approach for the rest of the season.

Arapahoe Basin and Loveland ski areas soon followed Vail’s lead, and Copper Mountain Resort finally announced its closure after 10 p.m. Saturday. All three ski areas initially committed to stay open but now will be closed through March 22.

“We have every intention of reopening,” A-Basin Chief Operating Officer Alan Henceroth wrote in his blog. “As soon as it makes sense to reopen, we will reopen. It is unclear when that will be.”

Of note, uphill access passholders at Loveland and A-Basin still will be allowed access during the closure.

Alterra Mountain Co. also announced Saturday that all of its North American ski resorts, including Winter Park and Steamboat in Colorado, would be closing, according to a statement from CEO Rusty Gregory, who said each resort would work with guests to cancel their visits.

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Among Vail-owned resorts, Katz said lodging and property management operations would remain open to serve guests on location or those with existing reservations. Katz said Epic Mountain Express, Vail’s Colorado shuttle service, also will continue operations to support the travel needs of guests.

For those who want to cancel their trips, Vail guests can find a list of FAQs about refunds, travel credits and more on the resorts’ websites. Loveland and Copper also said they would work to provide refunds for guests.

“Many things like ski school, lift tickets, equipment rentals and transportation can be fully refunded,” Katz wrote. “And we have new credit policies in place for our owned and operated lodging properties.”

Katz said season pass products and Epic Day Passes are nonrefundable and not transferable to another season; however, Vail Resorts will be reviewing those policies given the unprecedented nature of the outbreak.

Loveland officials also said the ski area would review its season pass policies.

Katz said Vail would close its corporate offices in Broomfield and urge employees to work from home. Katz also assured seasonal, frontline employees that they would continue to get paychecks during the closure.

“All our scheduled employees, both seasonal and year-round, will be paid during this upcoming eight-day period without needing to use any vacation or sick time,” Katz wrote in an email.

“This decision provides a pause for the entire ecosystem of our mountain resort communities,” Katz wrote. “It gives everyone the time to assess the situation, respond to ever-changing developments and evaluate the approach for the rest of season, if we believe it is advisable or feasible to reopen.”

Katz said Vail Resorts plans to provide an update about the remainder of the season by Friday, March 20.

Antonio Olivero and Sawyer D’Argonne contributed to this report.

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