By Caroline Johnston
Graphic By Jane Wilson
The days of drinking hot chocolate in the lodge and making friends with strangers on the lift are seemingly over for this snowboarding and skiing season. Nearly every aspect of life has been affected in some way by COVID-19, and snow sports such as skiing and snowboarding are not the exception. On a typical day at a ski resort, there may be hundreds, if not thousands, of people participating in a variety of activities ranging from sitting by a fireplace in the lodge, to taking continuous laps on their favorite runs. Now, due to the pandemic, things are looking different at the resorts due to a variety of different safety precautions. In March of 2020, resorts had to shut down prematurely due to the virus, but will remain open this winter. Thankfully, skiing and snowboarding are activities that can be executed quite well in terms of coronavirus safeness, since they occur outdoors and can follow social distancing guidelines with relative ease.
Since public health is the main concern of the resorts, there are many safety precautions that resorts are taking to protect everyone. One requirement is that everyone must wear a mask, or face covering, especially while near other people such as in lift lines, and when walking around the lodge. Some resorts, such as Boreal, are requiring everyone to wear gloves, which isn’t too much of an inconvenience since most people already wear gloves while skiing or snowboarding. Resorts such as Squaw Valley are also not grouping together parties on the chair lifts, so there will no longer be a “singles line,” where one can usually cut the long lines and join a random group on the lift. Other resorts, such as Boreal, are putting together singles on their four person chairs, with one person sitting on each end of the chair and both wearing masks.
In addition to enforcing safety precautions for the guests at the resorts, most resorts are also limiting the amount of people who can go ride each day and requiring visitors to buy their tickets online beforehand; this is the most inconvenient safety measure in place for many. In December, Squaw Valley is only allowing people to ride who are: lodging in the village, have a season pass, are renting equipment, or are taking a lesson. Other resorts are limiting the occupancy to a smaller percent or capping the amount of visitors each day at a certain number. Homewood employee, Billy Fletcher said that they are only allowing 1600 visitors each day, and that all tickets have to be bought beforehand and picked up at a kiosk at the resort. Other resorts such as Donner Ski Ranch are allowing season pass holders to go whenever they want, while people who are buying day tickets have to purchase them in advance. Junior Megan Lewis, who went to Mt. Rose over Thanksgiving break, said, “People are only allowed to do half days,” and, “They only had two lifts open so that made the lines really long.” Other resorts, such as Donner Ski Ranch, only had the lifts on the front side of their mountain open as well, during the month of December. People who have Epic Passes, (a combo season pass to over 20 resorts in North America, including Heavenly, Kirkwood, and North Star) can only make reservations for seven days in each new batch of released dates. With all of the reservation requirements that have been put in place this year, all trips must be planned in advance which leaves no room for spontaneity.
This will most certainly be the year where the diehard skiers and snowboarders will be weeded out from the people just there to hang in the lodge. At nearly all resorts, the lodges are not open for indoor seating. Boreal has defined one’s car as their “new lodge.” Fletcher said that at Homewood, one can order food online and pick it up at a kiosk, but there is no indoor dining. Senior skier Jakob Lapping said, “People that like nice restaurants, hotels, shopping, and clubs in ski resort villages will be disappointed this year.” Those who truly love the sports may not be that bothered by all the safety precautions, because in the end, they still get to ski and snowboard. Lapping said, “The sport of skiing and snowboarding felt essentially the same and was equally as fun as previous years.” Although things may not be the same as previous seasons, it’s really special that people can still go skiing and snowboarding at all, since so many other sports and activities have been completely shut down due to COVID-19.