Ski season has begun: Here’s how resorts are adapting to the pandemic

Nov 13, 2020

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The snow dances have (finally) worked, and multiple ski resorts in Colorado, California, Canada and beyond are now open.

Here in the U.S., A-Basin, Loveland, Keystone, Breckenridge, Wolf Creek, Mammoth and more have all fired up the lifts (or, at least, a few of their lifts), for early-season skiing and riding. But, as ski resorts now begin to open in earnest, there’s a lot to know in terms of how things will work this year.

Opening Day at Loveland (Photo courtesy of Colorado Ski Country)

While the 34 Vail owned and operated resorts that fall under the Epic Pass are all using an advance reservation system (including at Keystone, which I visited on opening day), the 15 resorts that fall under the unlimited skiing provision Ikon Pass are each taking their own approach to the season.

And then there are the additional partner resorts and smaller mountains that aren’t affiliated with any of the big pass programs that have also created their own new rules and safety protocols this ski season.

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Unlike the Vail-owned resorts on the Epic Pass, most of the North American mountain destinations belonging to the Ikon Pass program (such as Steamboat) will not require advance reservations for lift access at this time.

Some of the big exceptions in the Ikon Pass network, for now, are Taos, Jackson Hole, Aspen/Snowmass resorts, Arapahoe Basin, Big Sky, Loon and Brighton — all of which have announced that advance reservations will be required, at least for Ikon passholders.

Related: Planning a ski trip with points and miles

The mountains that do require reservations are bookable to Ikon passholders through the Ikon website or app. For example, Ikon Base Pass members have access to up to five ski days at Arapahoe Basin, so you can book those days in advance online now.

Screenshot courtesy of Ikon

Note that A-Basin will not be requiring its season passholders or those with a Mountain Collective pass to book ski days in advance. The resort’s website says it isn’t singling out Ikon passholders, but because the Ikon community is quite large, it may be necessary to prevent too many people from showing up at the same time.

Also, keep in mind that some mountain resorts, such as Colorado’s Copper Mountain and Eldora, will require advance parking reservations, even if they don’t require on-mountain ski reservations.

Photo of Eldora courtesy of Colorado Ski Country

Other mountains, such as Wolf Creek (also in Colorado), are taking a very bare-bones approach to keeping the ski season as safe as possible by only offering lifts and restrooms at this time. If you’re heading to Wolf Creek in the near future, the resort asks that you pack your own water and food to create an outdoor mid-day picnic. Other ski resorts have made it clear that there won’t be any lockers, so you’ll have to use your vehicle as your own personal locker and dressing room.

You can see a full chart of Ikon-affiliated resorts and their reopening plans online.

Just remember, the information for some ski resorts is still pending and procedures could, of course, change as we get deeper into the season. This is especially true as much of the country is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, which could affect the rules in the states and counties where these ski resorts operate.

Related: Which annual ski pass is best: Epic vs. Ikon vs. Mountain Collective

Bottom line

Regardless of where you plan to ski this season, you’re going to need to do more planning than normal.

Some lift, parking and even on-mountain lunch reservations will need to be made in advance — though less so with Ikon-affiliated resorts than with the Epic Pass resorts. Regardless of where you ski, you’ll need to book in advance; wear a face mask or cover while in lift lines, at ski lessons or indoors; plan to eat outside whenever possible; pack your own water; and potentially commit to an annual pass or buying lift tickets in advance, as same-day single-day lift tickets will be limited (or entirely unavailable) at many resorts.

Feature image of Steamboat courtesy of Colorado Ski Country

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