Ski season ends early at many mountains due to coronavirus
It's no secret that coronavirus (COVID-19) has essentially brought the travel industry to a temporary halt. The calendar says we are approaching what was planned to be peak spring break travel time for many. But now, the reality is that the local grocery store is about as far as most of us are traveling.
When it comes to ski resorts, the solitude of an almost empty run sounds like a perfect socially distanced activity, but there's more to the story. The lifts, gondolas, rental shops, ticket offices, lunch breaks, apres ski and more still bring people together in groups larger than the currently recommended numbers.
So while ski resorts first tried to integrate new distancing and cleaning recommendations in light of coronavirus, that was quickly followed by a temporary pause in operations. Now, many major ski resorts have called it quits on the 2019–2020 ski season.
Here’s a look at what's happening at ski resorts around the country and a peek at how this may impact those ski passes that you weren't quite done using.
Complete guide to traveling during the deadly coronavirus outbreak
The operator of 37 ski resorts around the world (including Vail, Park City, Heavenly, Whistler and more) and the creator of the Epic Pass, Vail Resorts stated as of Tuesday that all North American ski resorts will remain closed for the 2019–2020 ski season, due to the fast-moving situation involving COVID-19.
However, Vail also stated it would consider reopening Breckenridge, Whistler Blackcomb and Heavenly in late April/early May, dependent on the situation with COVID-19, as well as weather conditions. Last season, many ski resorts operated until late May -- with some going all the way until the Fourth of July weekend.
You can request refunds on certain prepaid Vail Resorts expenses online, however, thus far that does not extend to Epic Pass products. Eligible refund requests include:
- Lift Tickets
- Ski & Ride School
- Lodging and Vacation Packages
- Winter Activities
- Childcare Bookings
- Equipment Rentals (booked on RentSkis.com or SkiRentals.com)
Can I cancel or change a ticket booked through the Amex or Chase Travel Portal due to coronavirus?
Alterra Mountain Company
Alterra is the owner/operator of 15 North American mountain destinations, including Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Stratton and Sugarbush Resort in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Tremblant in Quebec, Blue Mountain in Ontario; Crystal Mountain in Washington; Deer Valley Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah; and CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures in British Columbia.
Alterra resorts are included on the Ikon Pass and the group decided to close starting the morning of Sunday, March 15, until further notice citing the best interest of "guests, employees and local communities." (CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures will continue to operate through Tuesday, March 21.)
In terms of refunds, CEO Rusty Gregory said that "Each resort will work directly with guests in canceling their visit and will provide refunds to those who have hotel and other bookings during this closure period." He added that heavy call volume is anticipated over the next several days, and that "guests’ patience as we work hard to respond to all inquiries" is appreciated.
While there is talk of some of these mountains calling it quits on the season, others have said they will reevaluate late-season operations at a future date.
Aspen Snowmass has closed "by the order of the Governor of Colorado." They have not yet committed to remaining closed for the season and state that, "the plan is to conduct some limited on-mountain maintenance to potentially have a limited late-season opening if circumstances allow."
In terms of refunds, lift tickets, Ski & Snowboard School lessons, Four Mountain Sports equipment rentals and activities reservations are fully refundable. To process your refund, you have until April 30, 2020, to call 1-800-525-6200 and have your order confirmation number available.
For season passes, Aspen Snowmass states: "We will have answers to season pass refund requests once we know if we are reopening or not."
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Like so many of the others, the iconic Jackson Hole Mountain Resort closed for the remainder of the season effective March 15. Its decision to close the resort follows a Health Order directed by the Wyoming State Health Officer and issued by the Teton District Health Officer.
The resort will work with guests and passholders to "provide recovery assistance regarding refunds or future credits."
Epic, Ikon and Mountain Collective passholders
Usually, holding a ski season pass is a good thing. However, in this case, passholders are still in limbo whether they've used the pass 20 times or zero times, while holders of unused lift tickets can largely request refunds.
On the one hand, the majority of the ski season was behind us at most resorts when the unexpected closures happened. On the other hand, spring break skiing is a big factor when choosing a ski pass, so many ski passholders had planned skiing yet to occur.
Technically, ski passes are nonrefundable and nontransferable. In fact, one goal of a pass is to level out income in the event it's a bad snow year or similar. However, poor snow is one thing, but no one really could have predicted a global pandemic shutting down basically every ski resort in the country.
At this point, there has been no communication from the major pass programs on potential refunds or future discounts. However, there are clues for what may be done on their respective social media accounts.
Ikon's Facebook page responses state that "We are working through new policies and protocols and will post new information as it becomes available." That reads to me that some discounts or credits haven't been ruled out.
Mountain Collective's response on social media reads, "We will be reviewing refund and credit policies and providing any updated guidance in the coming weeks. We very much appreciate your patience as the fast-moving situation evolves."
Epic's response to date on social media has been, "Pursuant to the terms of all season pass and Epic Day Pass products, they are nonrefundable and nontransferable to another season. We will be reviewing these policies and providing any updated guidance in the coming weeks. We appreciate your patience during this unprecedented time."
Visit our hub here for full coronavirus travel coverage.
Now is not the time to travel but it is, of course, unfortunate that even outdoor ski resorts cannot safely operate for the time being. In fact, some of the major Colorado ski country counties are COVID-19 outbreak hot spots.
Right now, some mountains are expressly prohibiting even uphill skiing (where you climb up yourself), while others are allowing that process at your own risk.
Additional reporting by Katie Coakley