Vail Resorts has unveiled its plan for the upcoming ski season in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, making it the first major ski resort operator to release definitive details about the 2020-21 season.
Last week, a five-page letter to Epic Pass holders by Vail Resorts CEO Robert Katz outlined the company’s plan for social distancing on ski lifts, gondolas and at on-mountain restaurants.
Katz stressed the 2020-21 ski season will be unlike any other. The need for safety is paramount this season, while also acknowledging that its plan is an “inconvenience” for visitors. He said the company’s 34 ski resorts in North America will all abide by local regulations. “That’s just where safety begins,” the letter said.
The letter said Vail Resorts has made a commitment to its stakeholders that it operates in a way that puts visitor well-being first. “This often means choosing to go above and beyond what is required,” the letter said.
Vail Resorts owns five Colorado ski resorts, including Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Keystone and Vail. (Keystone will open first, on Nov. 6, conditions permitting.)
Katz’s letter said limiting skiers and snowboarders on the mountain isn’t about decreasing overall traffic. It’s more about maintaining “pinch points” at a ski resort like lift lines, lifts, gondola cabins, restaurants, ski shops and restrooms where people can congregate.
The letter highlighted Vail Resort’s initiative to reduce seating and enable social distancing at full-service sit-down restaurants. This season, full-service bars will not be open, but packaged beer and wine will be available.
According to Katz’s letter, resort guests must wear face coverings on the mountain and at every area of the resort. This includes lift lines, ski lifts and in gondola cabins.
Only related parties (guests who ski or ride together) can be loaded together on lifts, but there are a few exceptions:
Vail Resorts has announced plans to implement a reservations system for the upcoming season. The system will prioritize Epic Pass holders while limiting the overall number of skiers and riders at the resort.
According to Katz’s letter, Epic Pass holders will need to make reservations before arriving at the resort. The number of lift tickets offered to the public will depend on pass holder reservations made for that day.
All public lift tickets will be sold online or through the Vail Resorts call center, the letter said.
Katz’s letter outlined a plan to limit access to Vail Resorts mountains to only Epic Pass holders through Dec. 7. Epic Pass holders receive priority reservation days and can get lift tickets before they go on sale to the public.
The letter said, for most days this season, “everyone who wants to get on our mountains will be able to.”
“We believe this approach will help ensure a safe experience for everyone, while prioritizing access for our pass holders,” it said.
Katz said, “Success for this season can only happen with close collaboration and partnership in each community. While we have designed our winter operating plan to comply with and at times exceed all known applicable laws, our operations will remain subject to the local regulations in each of our resort locations.”
The letter add that things can change at any time, either before or during the season. Vail Resorts plans to have a dedicated page on each of its websites that will provide up-to-date information about each resort.