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Tag: Covid

Reasons to Ski in a Pandemic

Friends ask, “Are you really going to ski this season?” and “Is skiing safe with Covid?” I can think of no better activity for your health and well-being than skiing.

“Stay at home,” “quarantine,” “social distance” are all expressions that make me sad. Being outdoors, skiing, breathing fresh air – all things that make me glad. Here are reasons you should go skiing…

Skiing is an inherently outdoor sport. Don’t we all need some nature to nurture our souls right now? Wear your mask, no big hardship – in fact it’s a pretty typical essential in any skier’s gear bag. Enjoy the fresh air, the spectacular mountain scenery, and the much-needed exercise of carving turns on snow. 

It’s safe…Ski resorts have adopted stringent new policies to keep you, and their crew, safe. “Mask up”, and “arrive with your party, ride with your party”, these are clever new colloquialisms ski areas have introduced for everyone’s safety. You can share a chair with your family/friends, or if it’s a quad or six-pack, you can achieve safe distance by seating on opposite ends of the lift. Ski resorts have in place good spacing parameters. Hats off, masks up to Vail Resorts, and their Epic Pass reservation system. Sure you’ll likely encounter longer lift lines, when chairs and gondis aren’t filled to capacity, but it does not translate to more or less people on the hill or the trails. Side note: Don’t make the liftees have to remind you to cover your face, CYA – cover your own ___, they’re lift attendants not Covid patrol.

Make your Resies…Yes, you can and often must reserve your ski days…(true, our elitist sport has become more so, for now). Read up online as to what your ski resort requires of you, reserving your season pass days and/or lift ticket in advance online. Sorry you can’t just show on a snow day, or when you feel like it… but this is the way we have to play till we’re all safe to roam about the world again. Some resorts are requiring parking reservations too, Bachelor, Snowbird, Copper, Killington to name a few. You may find restricted base lodge access, so know before you go. Vail Resorts has “idiot proof” signage (well, almost…) just go with the flow, single entry, single exit points to minimize contact. Pack a lunch in your pocket, or reserve a socially-distant table for dining indoor or out. Be sure your QR code app is up to date – that’s the new touchless way to reserve, view the menu and order. Credit cards are the way to pay, not cash. Our visit to Breckenridge, Vail and Keystone, we were impressed to find big distances between tables, strict signage managing traffic in and out of the lines and lodges, and police-like protocols to keep everyone apart, very safe. It’s still a privilege to ski. Also now to use a restroom – wait your turn (often outside), follow signage, and wash your damned hands!

Boot Up at your Car or Condo… I grew up booting-up in my ski boots in the parking lot so its no big deal to me, in fact its super convenient, just don’t dip you sock in the cold snow (balance). Carrying your bags in to the lodge is a luxury not afforded this season, in fact lodge access is very limited so no more lunch table squatters (silver lining?). Streamline your process and pack accordingly.

Book slopeside lodging – for your own refuge, restroom and dining, just off the slopes, perfect for warm ups, a hot cocoa (for under $3!!), lunch break, and après ski with your posse… you kinda need to BYOB: bring your own beer, breakfast, etc. Or ski locally, go bang out some heart-thumping runs at your nearby hill for a few hours, then go home for lunch, no lodge stop or indoor resort time required. Be resourceful, but don’t be sidelined this season.

Tailgate, party in the parking lot, with your party. This is a refreshing twist on a fun ritual that had been curbed and curtailed for years by ski resort security. Now you are encouraged to picnic and have aprés ski outside by your car. Think of the drink-tab savings! Just don’t over-imbibe before you hit the road, and keep that distance from folks you don’t know. Yes, we will all appreciate good ole fashioned aprés ski at a bar with a band when we resume that ski lifestyle, which may look different. Shot skis only for those who’ve had the shot?!

Skiing hasn’t changed. Once you are gliding down a snowy trail, feeling the slippery snow beneath your boards, looking at the spectacular mountains, you will feel the joy of skiing. Nothing is quite like it, and you can do it safely, and I promise you it will refuel you after all these months of fear, and isolation, and frustration.  Get out, get fresh, ski, support your favorite resort, you’ll be glad you did… I see your smile under your ski mask 😉

Fact is we are way better off than skiing in Europe, where ski resorts across France, Spain, Switzerland and Austria are heavily restricted in their access, Italy is closed indefinitely. Canadian ski resorts are closed to  foreigners as well.

The Future of Skiing

We are all eager to ski again, especially since our 2019-20 ski season ended abruptly with Covid closures mid-March. All Corona puns aside, our ski experience will change for the foreseeable future. What will never change is the joy of skiing, the freedom on being outside on a glorious snow-covered mountainside, the rush of flying downhill, the pull of gravity and the g-force of well-arced turn. Arriving at your ski resort next season though… will feel different…

So what does skiing look like next season? Some thoughts on crushing cord and cruising pow in pandemic times.

PPE? Skiers and snowboarders are already pretty accustomed to wearing goggles, gloves, facemasks, so that’s not a big shift for skiers. We can adapt our alpine ensembles accordingly.

“Ride with your party” may well be the new protocol. No that’s not party as in “hey nice to meet you, let’s party!” conversations on the chairlift. New social distancing while skiing could mean you only ride the chair or load the gondola with your family members that you arrived with. I loved (yes past tense) meeting new peeps on the chairlift, a behavior that is likely benched for now. I suppose Six and Eight passenger chairs might be able to allow two singles or two couples seated on opposite ends. Is that 6’ of separation (liftees please chime in)? Do you put the Big Sky or Okemo bubble down during your ascent or keep the air flowing? I do love the bubble on cold, windy, wet snow days, but I am willing to make concessions – fresh air for freshies.

Singles line! No more. This one makes me sad, as it’s a great way to meet peeps when you’re skiing alone, with the added benefit of circumventing a potentially long lift line.

Ski-Times” like golf Tee-Times are being considered for gondolas, even trams. Imagine reserving your Gondi or Tram time. Your 9:15am car is ready and sanitized for you, and you are instructed to “please proceed and ride only with your party.”

Trams are admittedly a tricky situation.  I am picturing last season’s Snowbird and Jackson Hole’s tram lines and tram cars absolutely packed on a powder morning. A thing of the past?  Ski resorts may have to configure capacity with appropriate distancing and only load that number of skiers and riders, with X marks where you are to stand on the tram floor. I do love the window spot… will there be a premium for that? Kidding, I hope. Maybe trams are on hold for next season, or by reservation only. You may have to work harder to get that big vert at the ‘Bird then. Stay tuned.

Pomas can make a strong come back, naturally distanced and isolated with a disc between your legs – oh the retro fun! Mad River Glen should thrive with their Single Chair, naturally quarantined on your one-seater for your long lonesome ride up!

T-Bars you’ll be paired only with your partner, otherwise you ride solo and do the balancing act with an L under your butt. Skilled snowboarders have been mastering this for years.

Speaking of lift lines, will corrals need to be bigger to keep skiers and riders 6 feet apart in the queue? I’m pondering a few resort that already have limited space for their lift line corrals without interrupting skier flow out onto the trail or into the resort base space.

Limited Skier Visits? Will ski resorts need to limit the number of skiers on the mountain for the day to avoid long lines and over-crowding? Powder Mountain in Utah has been limiting to 1,500 ski tickets sold each day for years, making for a genuinely unique experience on their vast 7,000+ acres. Deer Valley limits ticket sales to assure everyone has a seat at lunch, they’ll have to reduce and reconfigure that seating now.

Mountain Lodges serving food, and ski area restrooms, will have to mandate greater spacing and more strict cleaning policies (well, I’m sure I’m not alone in welcoming that at certain ski area bathrooms – lol). Buffets are likely bye-bye. I did enjoy Vail’s Two Elk salad bar, The Summit at Snowbird’s central self-serve too. As a safer template, Snowbasin has a well-designed “Servery” in the palatial Earl’s Lodge at the base of the slopes with an excellent cafeteria style service . Thinking about Snowbasin’s Turkey Pot Pie right now! Mmmm.

As for Passes, many ski resorts are offering very forgiving season pass promises  to encourage you to commit to next season. Vail’s Epic Pass has Epic Coverage – offering 2020-21 pass purchasers free insurance with refunds available in the event of resort closures (e.g. COVID-19), job loss, illness, even injury, a full or prorated refund. Also EpicPass buyers this past season can receive a credit on next year’s purchase of 20 to 80% depending upon their usage last winter. Since Vail Resorts tracks your every move on their mountains, they are able to calculate your usage, and contact you directly with their tabulation. So all those metrics and data collected can help you – or hurt you – if you hit big mountain milestones on Vail Resort’s EpicMix leaderboard – they know.

IKON pass holders are offered a $200 credit ($100 for the IKON Base Pass) toward next season’s pass, and IKON has added Adventure Assurance giving the flexibility to defer your pass to 2021-22. So there’s some compensation from IKON Pass at their 43 ski resorts combined on one pass.

Uphill skiing has already been trending upwards in recent years. This no-lift ski approach to alpine should continue to thrive as skiers seek out back-country experiences and true distancing. Hopefully uphill skiers will access remote terrain with appropriate snow safety and avalanche awareness, versus just skinning up groomed slopes and skiing down resort trails (poaching) without paying their share by buying lift tickets or a pass, or paying only $10 bucks. Ok, its a pet peeve of mine.

Après Ski? Say goodbye for now to the packed party scene at the Matterhorn, Foggy Goggle, Red Lion, Trap Bar, Grizzly… all of our favorite après ski bars …the list goes on…  Some ski regions were hot spots for “sharing” the virus last ski season. Après ski at Ischgl come to mind. We’ve skied this Austrian resort and can report the Alps-style après ski is huge, lots of hugging, and chugging, dancing, sharing drinks and super close contact included! Yeah, that’s no longer the scene ski friends (insert sad face here).

Ok, so we have more questions than answers about next season’s ski experience. Travel to the Alps, I doubt it? Japan, um no. Big events, probably not? It’s a curious time, unprecedented.

But if there is a will, there is a way. I know the ski industry and our community of skiers are resourceful passionate people and there will be a plan to SKI! I will not even contemplate ski resorts NOT opening next winter, call me naïve, I prefer optimistic and hopeful …

Stay well, stay safe, stay in ski shape –  winter is coming!

Heather –  Travel Writer, Skier since 1969

Copyright and photos by Greg Burke property of Family Ski Trips.com and our sister site The Luxury Vacation Guide
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