Who’s ready for some skiing? It seems like forever, but the ski season 2020-21 is here!
In the ever-changing world, it’s hard to tell what might be next. At the moment, North American ski resorts are currently open or are preparing to open for the ski season 2020-21 after spending the summer cleaning, sanitizing, organizing and adjusting to cope with the current pandemic that’s presently sweeping the globe. With snow already piling up in the high country and Thanksgiving less than week away, it looks like the season will kick off on schedule.
Currently, the state of Colorado is under a mask order issued by the governor, according to ColoradoSki.com. The mandate requires anyone over the age of 11 to wear a mask or other face covering over their nose and mouth while at any public space. The order also requires a mask be work while waiting to use public or non-personal transportation services such as a bus, train, taxi or rideshare.
In California, resorts are implementing safety precautions, too. Skiers riding the lift should only get on with those in their household and all riders must wear face coverings. Some ski areas have stopped accepting cash payments for items to curb the spread of germs at the resort. Some lodges and restaurants may restrict indoor occupancy and expect a lot of hand sanitizer and other sanitation areas sprinkled around the resort. There will also be plenty of social distancing around the resort and in lift lines.
Many East Coast ski resorts are already running for the 2020-21 season. In Vermont, Killington, Stowe and Smugglers’ Notch are already welcoming skiers for turns on the mountain. Stratton is slated to open the 25th.
In New Hampshire, Bretton Woods and Waterville are already open. Attitash is scheduled to open on Dec. 4.
Ski resorts may also have other requirements in place. Be sure to visit the ski area’s website or call ahead with any questions about specific policies. (See our full, updated list below.)
Some ski resorts – like Heavenly, NorthStar and Kirkwood in California – are requiring advanced reservations before hitting the slopes in 2020-21. Many ski areas will be requiring prepurchase of lift tickets, ski school reservations, rentals and other activities. You should check with the ski area you plan to visit before, and leading up to, your arrival.
Currently, the state of Colorado does not impose any specific limits on capacity at its ski area, but some resorts have imposed their own reservation limits to keep attendance numbers low. Keystone and Breckenridge began offering reservations in early November and has seen bookings fill up quickly over the past couple of weeks.
Vail Resorts destinations like Vail and Beaver Creek also require reservations in advance of skiing. (More on that below.) Wolf Creek, the first Colorado ski resort to open this season, imposed a restriction of 5,000 skiers on its trails, but attendance hasn’t reached that level yet.
In previous years, you might just purchase your lift ticket at the resort’s in-person ticket window, but that may not be an option in 2020-21. Many resorts are requiring skiers to pre-purchase lift tickets, lessons and rentals to avoid face-to-face transactions.
Alterra Mountain Company – parent company for 15 ski areas in North America – has completely done away with walk-up ticket sales for this season. Alterra owns Steamboat Ski Resort in Colorado, Deer Valley in Utah and Mont Tremblant in Canada, among others.
Vail Resorts, which runs 34 North American ski areas, has a new reservation system this year that prioritizes Epic Pass holders, giving them exclusive early-season access to the mountains through Dec. 7 (but requiring pass holders to make reservations for every day they plan to ski this year, another first). Advance-purchase lift tickets/reservations for non-Epic Pass holders will be available online beginning on Dec. 8.
If the virus has taught us anything, it’s to check – and double check – everything before you go. Some resorts have decided to not operate at all this season. If the pandemic sees another spike during the winter months, keep an eye on the news and check your resort’s website daily leading up to your ski vacation.
Limitations on the mountain may lead to other outdoor activities seeing a spike in attendance. If skiers can’t rip the downhill runs, they’re likely to seek snowy satisfaction on a pair of snowshoes, cross-country skis or a snowmobile. Dogsledding, sledding, ice skating and fat biking are all fun wintertime adventures worth a try if you are unable to score a lift ticket.
Ski resort hotels, condominiums, townhomes and private homes have stepped up their game in the wake of the pandemic, with enhanced cleaning regimens and extra steps to ensure guests’ safety. Many vacation rentals are promoting their accommodation as “pandemic pods” that help keep families safely isolated from other vacationers outside their group. The idea centers around limited interaction with peripheral guests, while thoroughly enjoying your vacation with friends and loved ones in your inner circle.
Most North American ski resorts are slated to open in the next 30 days. Some resorts – like Mammoth Mountain in California and Keystone and Breckenridge in Colorado – are already open. Here are the current opening dates, as reported by Snopak.com.
Closing dates for ski season 2020-21 are estimates and may be extended depending on snowfall conditions in the late spring. Also keep in mind that every ski resort in the United States must adhere to any restrictions implemented by their state. If a state mandates a closure or other restrictions that affect a ski resort, the resort is required by state law to adhere to the mandate.
*Information in this blog post is current at the time of publication. Please check with your ski resort for updated information before you head out!