Vail Resorts announces opening dates for 2020-21 season, plans reservation system
DILLON — After months of anticipation about the upcoming ski season, Vail Resorts announced Thursday its operating plan, including a reservation system and opening days.
It looks like there won’t be the usual race to open this year between Keystone Resort and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area as Vail Resorts already has set Keystone’s opening date for Nov. 6 — weather permitting. Breckenridge Ski Resort is expected to open Nov. 13. In nearby Eagle County, Vail is scheduled to open Nov. 20 and Beaver Creek is planning for Nov. 25.
Reservations will be required to access Vail-owned mountains, and the company said in a news release that it intends to limit lift tickets and prioritize passholders. According to the website for the Epic Pass, Vail Resorts’ pass system, the company anticipates being able to accommodate everyone who wants to ski or ride for the “vast majority of days.” The site also notes that the reservation system was designed to make people feel safe.
Passholders will be able to make reservations at EpicPass.com, on each ski resort’s website or over the phone. Additional information on the reservation system is expected to be provided by early November. Beginning Nov. 6, passholders can start making reservations online for Dec. 8 to April 4. Passholders will be offered seven priority reservation days during that period.
Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz noted in a letter published Thursday, Aug. 27, that passholders will be able to make as many week-of reservations as their pass type and availability allow throughout the season.
Those looking to ski 100 days will need to get in the habit of reserving a new day every day, but those with goals to have a big ski year should be able to do so, resort officials said.
“It is possible that at some point in the season, as we evaluate the dynamics of our operations, we may decide that we no longer need the reservation system at certain resorts,” Katz wrote. “However, with so many uncertainties, we believe it is only prudent to have this system in place now.”
Single-day lift tickets will go on sale Dec. 8, leaving the early season to passholders, according to the release. Walk-up tickets will no longer be available for purchase at the window, but day-of guests can purchase tickets from their mobile devices and pick them up at the window.
Estimated opening and closing dates for Vail Resorts ski areas in Colorado:
- Keystone Resort: Nov. 6, 2020, to April 4, 2021
- Breckenridge Ski Resort: Nov. 13, 2020, to May 31, 2021
- Vail Mountain: Nov. 20, 2020, to April 11, 2021
- Beaver Creek Resort: Nov. 25, 2020, to April 4, 2021
- Crested Butte Mountain Resort: Nov. 25, 2020, to April 4, 2021
Source: Vail Resorts
At a Breckenridge Town Council work session Tuesday, Aug. 25, Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula shared details from a meeting he took part in with Vail Resorts leaders, including Katz. Mamula noted that the company seemed to be concerned the state would place capacity limits on all resorts without taking their differences into consideration. Mamula drew a comparison to when indoor restaurant spaces were capped at 50 people, which felt overly restrictive to larger restaurants. The state later amended its capacity limits for restaurants with more than 7,200 square feet.
The state has not publicly issued guidance for ski areas.
When asked whether the plan was developed with guidance from the state, Breckenridge Ski Resort spokesperson Sara Lococo explained via email that the plan was designed to comply with, and in some areas exceed, “all known applicable laws.”
That includes requiring face coverings and implementing physical distancing protocols.
Face coverings will be required to access the mountain and must remain on in “all parts of resort operations,” including when loading and riding chairlifts and gondolas, when inside buildings and during ski and snowboard lessons, according to the release. On chairlifts and gondolas, related groups can ride together or people from different groups can ride together while maintaining the required distance. That means two single skiers or riders can ride on opposite sides of a four-person or larger chairlift or in large gondola cabins. On a six-person lift, two doubles can ride on opposite sides of the seat.
Lessons and on-mountain dining also will be available with some changes. Full-service, sit-down restaurants will operate with reduced seating according to existing state guidelines. Quick-service restaurants will have a cafeteria-style approach, with guests moving through a single-file line and selecting ready-to-go hot and cold food options before moving to the cashier.
For ski and snowboard lessons, instructors will undergo health screenings, and participants are required to confirm an online self-health screening prior to their lesson. Class sizes will be limited to six people, and lessons must be purchased in advance, according to the release.
In preparation for the season, Lococo said the resorts are actively hiring for seasonal and year-round positions. The federal suspension of foreign-worker visas through the end of the year prevents the resorts from hiring international employees using J-1 or H-2B visas, but Lococo said the resorts have a base of seasonal employees and have “additional strategies in place to help staff our resorts appropriately for winter.” Lococo added that employee housing will be offered with safety protocols in place.
The company’s traditional Labor Day Epic Pass deadline, including the deadline to use credits from last season, has been extended to Sept. 17.
The Vail Daily’s John LaConte contributed to this report.
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