Nov 21, 2020 - Health

Some ski resorts resume operations under new COVID-19 guidelines

Picture of a ski chairlift

Photo: George Rose/Getty Images

A collection of resorts across the U.S. are beginning to reopen their mountains to skiers by implementing fresh rules to prevent the coronavirus from spreading this winter season.

Why it matters: The ski industry, as many other service and recreation-based businesses, suffered from shutdowns at the start of the pandemic. Winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding, involve "an element of risky behavior when it comes to viral infection, such as the closeness of riding lifts and trams," the Wall Street Journal writes.

  • Vail Resorts, the largest resort operator in North America, lost around $200 million in for the fiscal year that ended in July, per The Colorado Sun. The company reported $503.3 million in earnings for its fiscal year 2020, but last year told investors it expected earnings between $778 million and $818 million.

The big picture: Resorts throughout the U.S. will require guests to wear masks in lift lines, inside lodges and other buildings. Social distancing will be enforced as much as possible, WSJ notes.

  • In Colorado, visitors are required to wear masks in all indoor and outdoor spaces, per USA Today.
    • Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort, for example, requires masks "while inside and in congested spaces," and is urging visitors not to visit if they feel sick.
  • There will be fewer on-mountain indoor restaurants and instead an emphasis on outdoor dining.
  • Some mountains are eliminating group lessons and requiring advanced ticket purchases and reservations.
  • Season pass-holders are advised to check with resorts for specific requirements.
    • Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort, located in California, is prioritizing lift access to pass-holders and will control crowd levels by regulating the number of daily passes allotted, which are for advance purchase only.
    • Some resorts, like Michigan's Boyne Mountain Resort, are encouraging people to look at state or county-specific guidelines for handling the virus.

In Europe, each country is handling the sport differently.

  • France, Italy, Austria and Germany have all ordered that high-altitude lifts remain closed so resorts can operate at peak-season once the infection rate slows, according to Reuters.
  • Switzerland, which has approximately 290,000 confirmed cases, is counting on social distancing, masks and social-gathering limits so that tourism, one of the country's biggest sectors, can continue without fueling the pandemic.
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