A skier carving on a groomed run.
SKIING

With the pandemic still looming, will there be a ski season this year?

The snow is starting to fall in North America and meteorologists have teased a possible La Niña in the forecast—but coronavirus still looms large. Will ski resorts open? What will social distancing look like? Here’s what you need to know about winter 2020/21.
At a glance
  • Ski resorts will open but with social distancing protocols
  • There are discounts designed to incentivize you to buy a pass
  • If you decide to hit the slopes, it’s possible to have fun responsibly
  • Be sure to follow the recommendations of the CDC and local health authorities
  • Snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and tubing also make great alternatives
  • After a one-of-a-kind year that seemed at times to never end, it’s suddenly November and there’s snow falling in the mountains. In some places, it’s even coming down in the city, and if you’re a skier or snowboarder, you’ve probably started chomping at the bit.

    Under normal circumstances (e.g., ones that don't involve a potential apocalypse), this is when you start checking The Weather Channel obsessively and waxing all your gear.

    This year, however, instead of trying to figure out what day the ski resorts will open, you’re asking if they will even open at all.

    The good news is that the answer is yes. Ski resorts are definitely going to be open this year, pandemic or not. With just a few exceptions, most of the major ski areas have announced they will indeed have their chairlifts running this winter. That said, it’s going to look different than it has in years past.
    A skier doing a flip on a bluebird day.

    Is it safe to ski during the pandemic?

    In the best of times, skiing can be a risky sport. Between icy moguls, tree wells, avalanches, and terrain parks, there are plenty of ways to get hurt on the mountain. That said, the act of skiing down the hill itself is not one of the higher-risk activities when it comes to exposure to coronavirus. It takes place outdoors, it’s mostly solitary, and you’re often wearing a face mask and goggles anyway.

    The part of skiing that health experts have expressed concern about is the other stuff you do throughout the day—riding chairlifts, waiting in lift lines, sitting on shuttle buses, eating in lodges, drinking at bars, congregating in the parking lot. These are the types of things that can pose a risk of exposure to the coronavirus when you’re at the ski resort.

    In response to these potential hazards, each ski resort has come up with its own set of COVID-19 protocols. Many are similar to measures you’ve probably already grown accustomed to—things like mask requirements, 6-foot rules, and hand sanitizer stations. Some ski areas are limiting numbers on the mountain with reservation systems and online booking platforms. Employee health screenings have been ramped up and disinfection procedures have been put into place. Many ski areas are encouraging guests to plan trips with family only and not ski with people outside their group.
    Two skiers standing on top of a high mountain cliff.

    So what will ski resorts look like this year?

    We know things are going to be different this year, but it’s hard to say exactly how until the season actually begins. Social distancing will be in place pretty much everywhere so you definitely won’t be sharing nachos in the lodge or clinking glasses over après beverages. Some of the sport’s most beloved rituals will be on pause.

    That said, there may be some unexpected perks to pandemic-era skiing, too. For example, the combination of international travel bans and decreased domestic tourism (along with some locals opting out of season passes) may result in more space on the hill. That could mean more powder stashes and fresher lines. Then again, with all of the social distancing that will be necessary on chairlifts and in lift lines, it may feel slower and more crowded than ever. The only way to know is to put on our boots and head up the hill.

    Here are some of the common COVID-19 safety measures you can expect:
    A man getting in the car to head to the mountain.

    BEFORE YOU GO

  • Passholders may need to use a reservation system, especially on peak days. Some resorts have set these up to reduce numbers on holidays, weekends, and other high-traffic times.
  • If you’re purchasing a day ticket, you may need to do it online. Many resorts have closed their walk-up ticket booths.
  • A number of ski areas have created incentives for guests to plan trips on non-peak days, along with new pass structures aimed at spreading people out.
  • Arrival times for parking may have to be made online or in advance. Once you get there, the cars may be spaced out.
  • Day-ticket sales may be delayed until December in favor of season passholders.
  • As weather conditions change, some resorts may decide whether to open the night before (instead of making calls throughout the day). The goal is to minimize people milling around while they wait for chairlifts to open.
  • Two snowboarders in Columbia gear at a mountain resort.

    ON THE HILL

  • There will be increased signage and reminders for guests about the rules.
  • Mandatory face coverings will be almost everywhere, especially in lodges and in the lift lines.
  • Ski schools may have limited class sizes. Some will be closed completely or offering private lessons only.
  • You will likely see expanded outdoor seating. There may be new tents with heaters or other covered spaces outside to eat.
  • Some resorts will have bans on tailgating or be discouraging folks from congregating in the parking lot.
  • A family of four on the chairlift with a mountain in the background.

    AT THE CHAIRLIFT

  • Chairlift lines will be significantly spaced out.
  • Seating on chairlifts will likely be limited to your own group. Combining groups of strangers will be rare.
  • The singles' line will no longer get paired with groups at most resorts. Instead, two singles will be placed on opposite sides of a quad or in another configuration.
  • When possible, many resorts will be running their chairlifts and gondolas at faster speeds to make the ride up shorter.
  • A man and woman relaxing at the lodge.

    AROUND THE LODGE

  • You’ll see plexiglass dividers throughout indoor spaces.
  • There will be spaced-out lines inside restaurants and bars.
  • Most resorts will have new takeout and grab-n-go options at some of their restaurants. Sit-down options will be limited or non-existent. Some will offer reservation-only seating and the tables will be spaced out.
  • Some equipment rentals may be closed for the season.
  • You may see some bars eliminating spirits, offering beer and wine only.
  • There will be increased use of RFID scannable tickets, touchless pay options, mobile apps, and other COVID-friendly technology.
  • A skier making a turn in fresh powder.
    To help you navigate the new world of skiing in the time of coronavirus, here’s a list of COVID-19 information, opening dates, and other updates for some of your favorite ski resorts in the U.S. and Canada.

    TOP 20 SKI RESORTS OPENING DATES
    AND COVID-19 INFO

    *Be sure to visit each ski resort’s individual website for the most up-to-date information

    WEST

    Whistler Blackcomb, B.C.
    www.whistler.com
    (800) 944-7853
    Opening Day: Nov. 26 (passholders only); Day tickets Dec. 8
    Passholder Reservations: Yes (Details here)
    Lift Tickets: Online only
    Ski School: Partially open. Max lesson size 6. No walk-ups. Must reserve in advance (Details here)
    Equipment Rentals: Yes
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Whistler Blackcomb COVID-19 Info
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: British Columbia’s Restart Plan
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowmobiling, snowshoeing, winter ziplining, XC Skiing, tube park, winter bungee jumping, ice fishing, ice cave tours, snowcat tours, winter sleigh rides, dog sledding
    Crystal Mountain, WA
    www.crystalmountainresort.com
    (360) 663-3050
    Opening Day: TBD
    Passholder Reservations: No
    Lift Tickets: Online only
    Ski School: Open
    Equipment Rentals: Yes
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Crystal Mountain COVID-19 Info
    Local Covid-19 Mandates: Washington State Coronavirus Response
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowmobiling, snowshoeing, tubing, winter camping, XC skiing
    Mt. Baker Ski Area, WA
    www.mtbaker.us
    (360) 743-6771
    Opening Day: TBD
    Passholder Reservations: Not as of now, possibly later (Details here)
    Lift Tickets: TBD
    Ski School: Open (reduced capacity)
    Ski Rentals: Info not available
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Mt. Baker COVID-19 Info
    Local Covid-19 Mandates: Washington State Coronavirus Response
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowmobiling, snowshoeing, XC skiing, winter hiking
    Mt. Hood Meadows, OR
    www.skihood.com
    (503) 337-2222
    Opening Day: TBD
    Passholder Reservations: No
    Lift Tickets: Online only
    Ski School: Partially, may need to reserve in advance (Details here)
    Ski Rentals: Yes but may need to reserve in advance
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Mt. Hood Meadows COVID-19 Info
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: Oregon Health Authority COVID-19 Info
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling, winter tubing, ice caves, winter camping, XC Skiing
    Mt. Bachelor, OR
    www.mtbachelor.com
    (541) 382-1709
    Opening Day: Dec. 7
    Passholder Reservations: Info not available
    Lift Tickets: Online only
    Ski School: Partially open. No daily group lessons, no ‘Under 6’ lessons, no daily childcare (Details here)
    Ski Rentals: Yes
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Mt. Bachelor COVID-19 Updates
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: Oregon Health Authority COVID-19 Info
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling, winter camping, XC skiing, winter dog sledding
    Mammoth Mountain, CA
    www.mammothmountain.com
    (800) 626-6684
    Opening Day: Nov. 14
    Passholder Reservations: Not as of now (Details here)
    Lift Tickets: Online only
    Ski School: Open
    Ski Rentals: Yes
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Mammoth Mountain COVID-19 Info
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: State of California COVID-19 Info
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowmobiling, snowshoeing, winter tubing, snowcat tours, XC skiing
    Heavenly Ski Resort, CA
    www.skiheavenly.com
    (775) 586-7000
    Opening Day: Nov. 20 (passholders only); Day tickets Dec. 8
    Passholder Reservations: Yes (Details here)
    Lift Tickets: Online only
    Ski School: Partially open. Max lesson size 6. No walk-ups. Must reserve in advance (Details here)
    Ski Rentals: Yes
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Vail Resorts 2020/21 Operating Plan
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: State of California COVID-19 Info
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Ski resort winter activities closed for 2020/21. Nearby activities include snowmobiling, snowshoeing, winter camping, ice skating
    Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, CA
    www.squawalpine.com
    (530) 452-4331
    Opening Day: Nov. 25
    Passholder Reservations: No
    Lift Tickets: Online only
    Ski School: Open (Details here)
    Ski Rentals: Yes but details TBD
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Squaw Valley 2020/21 Winter Experience
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: State of California COVID-19 Info
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowmobiling, snowshoeing, winter camping, XC skiing

    ROCKY MOUNTAINS

    Aspen Snowmass, CO
    www.aspensnowmass.com
    (970) 923-1227
    Opening Day: Nov. 26
    Passholder Reservations: Yes (Details here)
    Lift Tickets: Yes
    Ski School: Open
    Ski Rentals: Yes
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Aspen Snowmass COVID-19 Operating Procedures
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: Colorado Dept. of Public Health COVID-19 Info
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: XC skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, winter camping, alpine roller coaster, ice skating, tubing, snowcat dinners, guided winter photography tours
    Steamboat, CO
    www.steamboat.com
    (970) 879-6111
    Opening Day: Nov. 21
    Passholder Reservations: Not anticipated
    Lift Tickets: No. Ticket booths closed, daily tickets not available (Details here)
    Ski School: Partially open. No group classes (Details here)
    Ski Rentals: Yes but need reservation. No walk-in rentals
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Steamboat’s The Trail Forward
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: Colorado Dept. of Public Health COVID-19 Info
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling, sleigh rides, alpine roller coaster, ice skating, winter photography tours, tubing, ice climbing
    Vail, CO
    www.vail.com
    (970) 754-0005
    Opening Day: Nov. 20 (passholders only); Day tickets Dec. 8
    Passholder Reservations: Yes (Details here)
    Lift Tickets: Online only
    Ski School: Partially open. Max lesson size 6. No walk-ups. Must reserve in advance (Details here)
    Ski Rentals: Yes
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Vail Resorts 2020/21 Operating Plan
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: Colorado Dept. of Public Health COVID-19 Info
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowmobiling, snowshoeing, alpine roller coaster, tubing, XC skiing
    Breckenridge, CO
    www.breckenridge.com
    (970) 453-5000
    Opening Day: Nov. 13 (passholders only); Day tickets Dec. 8
    Passholder Reservations: Yes (Details here)
    Lift Tickets: Online only
    Ski School: Partially open. Max lesson size 6. No walk-ups. Must reserve in advance (Details here)
    Ski Rentals: Yes
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Vail Resorts 2020/21 Operating Plan
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: Colorado Dept. of Public Health COVID-19 Info
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowmobiling, snowshoeing, XC skiing, alpine roller coaster
    Sun Valley, ID
    www.sunvalley.com
    (208) 622-4111
    Opening Day: Nov. 26 (Bald Mountain); Dec. 12 (Dollar Mountain)
    Passholder Reservations: No
    Lift Tickets: Info not available. Call Lift Ticketing office at (888) 490-5950
    Ski School: Partially open. Private lessons and limited group sizes (Details here)
    Ski Rentals: Yes but online reservations only
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Sun Valley COVID-19 Health and Safety
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: State of Idaho Coronavirus Updates
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowmobiling, snowshoeing, winter camping, XC skiing
    Snowbird, ID
    www.snowbird.com
    (800) 232-9542
    Opening Day: Nov. 30
    Passholder Reservations: Not as of now
    Lift Tickets: Online only
    Ski School: Private lessons only to start. Other lessons may be added throughout the season (Details here)
    Ski Rentals: Yes but reservations required.
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Snowbird 2020/21 Winter Experience
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: State of Utah Coronavirus Info
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling, winter camping, XC skiing
    Big Sky, MT
    www.bigskyresort.com
    (800) 548-4486
    Opening Day: Nov. 26
    Passholder Reservations: Not for Big Sky season passholders; Yes for Ikon passes (Details here)
    Lift Tickets: Yes. Ticket windows open. Limited capacity so online booking recommended
    Ski School: Open
    Ski Rentals: Yes
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Big Sky Ski Resort - What To Expect
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: Montana Coronavirus Taskforce
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Winter hiking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, winter camping, winter zipline, dog sledding, sleigh rides, Yellowstone National Park
    Whitefish, MT
    www.skiwhitefish.com
    (406) 862-2900
    Opening Day: Dec. 10
    Passholder Reservations: No
    Lift Tickets: Yes
    Ski School: Open
    Ski Rentals: Yes
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Whitefish COVID-19 Update
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: Montana Coronavirus Taskforce
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling, winter camping, fat tire biking, XC skiing, Glacier National Park
    Jackson Hole, WY
    www.jacksonhole.com
    (307) 733-2292
    Opening Day: Nov. 26
    Passholder Reservations: No
    Lift Tickets: Yes, incentives for online booking
    Ski School: Open with smaller sizes, reservations only
    Ski Rentals: Yes, incentives to book online
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Jackson Hole COVID-19 Update
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: State of Wyoming COVID-19 Info
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling, alpine roller coaster, winter camping, fat tire biking, XC skiing, Yellowstone National Park

    NORTHEAST

    Killington Ski Resort, VT
    www.killington.com
    (800) 734-9435
    Opening Day: Nov. 14. (Passholders only. Intermediate and advanced-only terrain to begin. Day tickets and beginner terrain dates TBD)
    Passholder Reservations: Yes. Details TBD.
    Lift Tickets: Online only
    Ski School: Partially open starting mid to late-Dec. Private lessons only. Reservations required
    Ski Rentals: Yes but reservations required
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Killington’s COVID-19 Info
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: Vermont travel restrictions may still be in place. Check Vermont’s Cross-State Travel info to see if you’re eligible to travel from out of state. For general information on Vermont’s COVID-19 restrictions, check the COVID-19 Recovery Resource Center
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling, winter tubing, sleigh rides, alpine roller coaster, XC skiing
    Stowe Mountain Resort, VT
    www.stowe.com
    (802) 253-3000
    Opening Day: Nov. 20 (passholders only); Day tickets Dec. 8
    Passholder Reservations: Yes (Details here)
    Lift Tickets: Online only. Limited numbers (Details here)
    Ski School: Yes with class size limits and some changes (Details here)
    Ski Rentals: Yes
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Stowe Winter Experience 2020/21
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: Vermont travel restrictions may still be in place. Check Vermont’s Cross-State Travel info to see if you’re eligible to travel from out of state. For general info on Vermont’s COVID-19 restrictions, check the COVID-19 Recovery Resource Center
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling, XC skiing, ice skating, dog sledding, sleigh rides
    Hunter Mountain, NY
    www.huntermtn.com
    (800) 486-8376
    Opening Day: Nov. 20 (passholders only); Day tickets Dec. 8
    Passholder Reservations: Yes (Details here)
    Lift Tickets: Online only. Limited numbers (Details here)
    Ski School: Yes with class size limits and some changes (Details here)
    Ski Rentals: Yes
    Ski Resort COVID-19 Information: Hunter Mountain Winter Experience 2020/21
    Local COVID-19 Mandates: New York COVID-19 Travel Advisory
    Nearby Skiing/Snowboarding Alternatives: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice skating, winter ziplining, winter tubing, winter hiking, XC skiing
    Page generated at: Thu Nov 26 2020 20:46:04 GMT-0000 (GMT)