What is the Deal with Ski Season 20/21 in Colorado?
By Emily Krempholtz
We’ve put a lot of things we love on hold this year, but ski season is not going to be one of them. Life on the slopes might look a bit different this season due to COVID restrictions and precautions, but resorts will be open in 2020-2021. Here’s what ski season is going to look like:
Colorado Ski Resort Opening Dates 2020
Opening dates shouldn’t look too different this year compared to other years. Resorts like A-Basin, which is typically among the first resorts open each year, are already planning on a mid-October start. Other projected opening dates for Colorado ski resorts include:
Loveland - Mid-late October
Keystone - November 6
Breckenridge - November 8
Winter Park - November 18
Vail - November 20
Purgatory - November 21
Steamboat - November 21
Eldora - November 23
Beaver Creek - November 25
Aspen Mountain & Snowmass - November 26
Telluride - November 26
Copper Mountain - November 30
Aspen Highlands - December 12
Buttermilk - December 18
Silverton - December 26
Monarch - TBD
Powderhorn - TBD
Ski Cooper - TBD
One of the big rules you’re going to see at every major resort in Colorado is a mask or face covering mandate. Both staff and guests at virtually every ski resort in Colorado will be required to wear a face covering over their mouths and noses, whether you’re in line for the lifts, entering the lodge, or riding a shuttle bus. Some, like Copper Mountain, require face coverings in any indoor area, while others, like Breckenridge, recommend or require them at all times except while actively skiing and snowboarding.
When not being worn, face coverings should be kept somewhere very easily on hand, and should cover both your mouth and your nose.
Lifts and gondolas at most resorts will only be seating related parties together, and leaving plenty of space between singles or doubles by spacing them out. At Breckenridge, for example, two single riders can be seated at opposite ends of a four-person chairlift, or on opposite sides of a larger gondola, and two doubles will be allowed on a six-person chairlift, but that’s about as close as you’ll get to someone who isn’t part of your group. At Copper Mountain, they’ve extended the maze for the queues, and no one will be required to ride the lift with someone they don’t know, except for in cases of high-capacity lifts and gondolas, which will still operate at reduced capacity and be spaced appropriately.
Most resorts are also instituting a lower capacity limit this season, meaning there will be fewer people on the slopes, in the facilities, and on the lifts, making it easier for you to maintain social distancing from other patrons. In places where avoiding other people isn’t always possible, or in high-traffic areas like locker rooms, lifts, and bathrooms, resort staff will be working hard to make sure the areas are sanitized often throughout the day.
Some resorts, like Aspen Snowmass, haven’t released their plan for the season yet, in part because they would like to avoid a reservation system. As of yet there’s been no word as to whether you’ll have to plan ahead for your Aspen trips, but if all goes well, there’s a chance that not all resorts will require you to make a reservation. Other resorts that won’t require a reservation this year include Ski Cooper
Lessons, Group Tours, & Rentals
This is another one of those case-by-case basis deals, but most resorts are hoping to operate with lessons and tours as usual, albeit at a reduced capacity. When it comes to renting equipment, resorts are still doing their best to make sure you have access to everything you need, which means increased sanitation regulations as well as asking both staff and guests to wear face coverings at all times during their interactions.
For many, uphilling is an essential part of ski season, and some resorts aren’t quite sure how they’re going to handle it yet, since it limits their control when it comes to capacity. Some, like Aspen Snowmass, are planning on allowing it, but ask that those seeking uphill access stick to designated routes, which may be closed at will to meet capacity restrictions.
Contactless dining and transactions are going to be the name of the game this season. At most resorts, expect to wear a face covering unless you’re actively eating, and anticipate limited capacity (including on days when the weather outside isn’t exactly picnic-worthy!), grab-and-go options so you can avoid seated dining, limited menus, contactless payments, and in many cases, the closure of full-service bars for the season.
What Do These Changes Mean?
If you’re a local, then these COVID-19 changes to the upcoming season might actually work in your favor. Reservation systems and capacity restrictions mean you’ll probably experience fewer crowds than usual, which means a lot more time on the slopes for you. There will probably be a lower volume of people coming from out of state this year, since the travel industry is still not back on its feet yet, so the people you do encounter out on the slopes are more likely to be locals or day trippers from in-state as well.
The restrictions do mean that you might have to plan ahead a bit more for your ski trip. Check and see whether you’ll require reservations before you go, so you don’t run into any trouble on the day of. Again, these reservations might actually work in your favor, as many resorts—even the big ones—are making changes to accommodate locals this year, since they’re anticipating less of a tourism boom. Aspen Snowmass is offering the discounted Valley Pass for residents of the Roaring Fork Valley (with valid ID and proof of address), and Winter Park is prioritizing access for passholders above all others this year.
The “What If” Factor
No one expected last year’s ski season to end the way it did. COVID-19 threw a wrench in everyone’s ski plans last spring (among other things!), and even with the slew of new restrictions and precautions, there’s no way to guarantee there won’t be another lockdown. Before you buy your passes this year, check to see if there are any policies or precautions in place. Loveland is offering discounted passes for those who weren’t able to use theirs last year, and if they are forced to shut down again, they will prorate their passes for the 2021/22 season. Ski Cooper is also offering to transfer pass value to the following season if they are forced to cease operations due to COVID-19, and anyone who purchases a pass for Winter Park (Ikon or Local Pass) is automatically covers under the Adventure Assurance plan, which ensures you’re protected if resorts are forced to close. Others are offering cancellation policies for a 100% refund if your plans are forced to change, so do your research before buying your passes this year in order to get the best bang for your buck, as well as the best peace of mind in these confusing and scary times.
For more information, check out the CDPHE website.
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