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Tag: social distancing

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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Social isolation – oxymoron?!

I love to travel, to ski, and I am a very social person ( I hear some of you chuckling- understatement)… therefore “social isolation”, travel bans and ski resorts closing for the season in mid-March have me in quite a quandary (okay – totally bummed out)! Did I mention that late March early April is my favorite time to spring ski and travel to fun events like Taste of Vail in the snowy sunny mountains? I love Sunrise Service via chairlift and skiing with my family on Easter. Cancelled…all of it.

Returning safely from our recent  “epic” ski trip to Canada, I am so exhilarated.  Epic – since it included Epic Pass partner resorts Fernie, Kimberly and Kicking Horse, and Ikon-ic Sunshine Village and Norquay in Banff.

I love traveling, but I am always equally grateful to come home. This return trip, passing through ghostly vacant airports with passengers donned in facemasks and gloves – avoiding even eye contact with each other, I felt the pandemic, panic, paranoia and our ominous new reality. … We are as fragile and susceptible as we are free and strong.

Seeing our big U.S. flag as I crossed the border, I was teary eyed, thinking of my love of home. Turns out I’ll be spending a lot of time – literally “at home.” Fortunately I can walk to a beautiful beach and breathe fresh air by the sea in my special town of Kennebunkport – I am blessed. We should never take for granted our independence, our opportunities to explore, and also our responsibilities as American citizens to respect one another and do the right thing for everyone’s benefit – not just our own.

So I will self-quarantine, with my ski partner and husband Greg. I don’t like it, but it’s the socially responsible thing to do. I miss my friends already (Day 36) …. But studies show this is the best way to reduce the spread of this powerful Covid. By the way, I don’t care for Corona, but can we please stop using that nomenclature? It’s not fair to the fun beer company best with lime!

Let’s be mindful of others – students who may not get to graduate with their class, of elders denied visits from their families, of medical personnel at risk caring for others who will be more overwhelmed if we don’t practice social distancing, of those who are ill. The sooner we do it, the sooner its done!

My spring ski trip to Vail seems trivial… still disappointed though 😉 I won’t achieve my goal ski days – just sayin’. Only 40 ski days this season, versus 60 last…

I respect ski resorts’ decisions to close for the safety of their people, both staff and guests. Businesses will feel the pinch, we all will in respective ways – except Charmin apparently – who’s hoarding all the TP?!

“Social distancing” saddens me, just typing the oxymoron feels wrong, as I like nothing more than to see friends and family following a travel adventure. Not this time… because I love them – I will not socialize with them right now. I’ll be posting travel stories – we are all armchair travelers for the time being. I may even post some amazing ski pictures – not to be annoying (lol), but as a promise of future adventures.

Airlines and most travel companies have been generous with their cancellation policies, so that we may all resume travel when it is deemed safe.

I look forward to emerging from isolation/quarantine and seeing you all – healthy, happy. We will all look back on 2020 with 20/20 and a renewed appreciation of our health, our opportunities, and each other. Until then virtual hug and love to your & yours,

Heather –  Travel Writer, Friend, Grown-up

Copyright and photos property of Family Ski Trips.com and our sister site The Luxury Vacation Guide
  Follow @FamilySkitrips  

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