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Safety on the Slopes

Posted 11/30/2020 by Addison Smith

People with skis told to stand 6ft apart. photo courtesy of David Zalubowski / AP / Shutterstock

The 2020-2021 ski season will look very different with COVID-19.

As we come closer to the end of the year, winter is upon us once again. With this comes the highly anticipated ski season for those who enjoy the snow and flying down the slopes. Although this year will be quite different with COVID-19 still being very prominent today, all resorts have the same ideas when it comes to safety on the slopes: keeping a limited number of people on the mountain, requiring masks everywhere throughout the resort, and closing resorts accordingly. Every resort is looking out for its customers. In order to keep the amount of people on the mountain at an appropriate quantity, the resorts are limiting daily lift passes or are not selling them at all as a way to continue the social distancing procedures put in place in Colorado. This way, the amount of people in lift lines, parking lots, and restaurants and cafeterias are cut down as small as possible at all resorts. The many resorts offered by the two main passes, Epic and Ikon, for mountains all over the Rockies (and more) have small differences in their procedures for this season. The Ikon and Epic Passes are both limiting people on the slopes, but doing it in different ways. Not only are customers getting different mountains to experience, but depending on how comfortable they are with the procedures applied, they may prefer one pass over the other. 

The Epic Pass, consisting of many mountains such as Vail, Keystone, Crested Butte, and Breckinridge, does things a little differently from Ikon. This season, due to COVID-19, all mountains and resorts that fall under this pass require that participants must make a reservation for the day that they want to enjoy the snow. The reservations are a safe and smart way to separate traveling groups from one another. These reservations also allow for people who do not have the Epic Pass and usually buy daily passes to be able to access the mountains. However, although eager athletes are already saving dates for their next day on the slopes, there is not a guarantee that mountains will stay open the entire season. With the virus, resorts are at risk of shutting down at any point throughout the winter. Due to this, Epic Coverage, which is provided with the pass, will refund customers who had reservations for a specific resort. If returning customers of the Epic Pass this year had it last season when it came short due to the beginning of the virus, then they could put money from the lost season towards this season’s pass. 

Ikon has a similar refunding system that is outlined for this season. If resorts shut down that are under this pass, customers will get refunded for that resort and can choose to put the money towards the 2021-2022 winter season. Although this is a long time away, if resorts do close, it is reassuring that the pass will not be at full price. Now depending on the resort, athletes may or may not have to reserve a day to ski. The mountains that require reservations are mostly all outside of Colorado other than Aspen/Snowmass. Other than that, Ikon mountain resorts do not require reservations. Due to the lack of reservations, Ikon mountains are eliminating walk ups and daily tickets. This way, the resorts can monitor the amount of people on the slopes, and limit how many come. The CEO of Alterra Mountain Resorts, which owns many of the resorts that are part of the Ikon Pass, Rusty Gregory announced, “We need to make sure that on the peak days that we’re not as crowded as we are in a normal season, and every resort is dealing with this in its own way.” Though these procedures are different from Epic Pass, Ikon follows the same social distancing guidelines with traveling parties on lifts and around the resort. Although this is very different from the normal ski season, the best way to enjoy this season is by following all the rules and regulations to keep the mountains up and running for the whole season.