Coloradans excited to hit the slopes with fewer COVID-19 protocols on opening day at Keystone Resort
When Keystone Resort announced Thursday, Oct. 21, that its opening day would be Friday, Oct. 22, Coloradans near and far scrambled to be part of the celebration. Some drove hours from around the state hoping to make it on one of the first cars sent up River Run Gondola.
One such enthusiast was Caleb Lane from Colorado Springs. This year’s opening day marked the first time he got to participate in early-season festivities.
“I got up at 5:30 a.m.,” Lane said. “… It’s a long drive from (Colorado) Springs to make it here.”
He texted a friend a few hours after Keystone’s announcement, and they decided to make the trip. Each of them have skied only a handful of years and were eager to test their skills on the opening day runs.
When the resort made its announcement late Thursday afternoon, Lane said he’d hoped there wouldn’t be as many crowds as there were at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, which opened earlier in the week on Sunday, Oct. 17. The two got the 25th gondola car of the day and were pleased that there wasn’t much of a line.
Even still, Lane noted that he was disappointed by some of the resort’s COVID-19 protocols. Last year, he said he thought all the measures were appropriate, but this year, he said he feels differently.
“I feel like they handled it really well last year because they realized we were all social distancing on the mountain anyway while you’re riding,” Lane said. “It was really just masking up on the lift. I didn’t think it was too cumbersome.”
But this year, he’s not happy to see that reservations are still required for some indoor dining experiences. He also didn’t approve of Vail Resorts’ rule that all employees had to be vaccinated, which he said is a violation of someone’s personal rights.
As for Broomfield resident Chris Wilkes, he had a differing opinion. Wilkes said he was glad that mask restrictions were eliminated in lift lines and on lifts, and he appreciated that the resort decided to keep mask measures in place for indoor dining areas.
“I feel like I can breathe easier,” Wilkes said about being mask-less outdoors. “It’s hard to breathe on the mountain when you’re always covered up.”
According to Vail Resorts spokesperson Sara Lococo, the company was strategic in how it thought about its COVID-19 protocols, noting that it was important to keep some measures for the time being while loosening or removing others altogether.
“This year, our COVID protocols are really focused primarily on indoor areas, and we’re fortunate that the ski and ride experience is outdoors and in these open settings,” Lococo said.
Lococo said the outdoor mask rules and lift ticket reservation system were taken away to make recreating a little easier this season compared to last.
After the COVID-19 protocols were sorted out, crews shifted their focus to readying the resort for the winter season. On Thursday afternoon, the Keystone team felt like it was ready to open.
“Last year was obviously a different scenario with COVID, but before we opened in October, it was our goal to open as early as possible coming off the investment we made in our snowmaking system here,” Lococo said. “… So it gave us a lot more power and productivity with our snowmaking in the early season, so we shifted our focus to open early that year.”
Summit County still has two more opening days on the schedule: Breckenridge Ski Resort will open Nov. 12, and Copper Mountain Resort will kick off the season Nov. 22.
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