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What Skiing in the U.S. Will Look Like During Covid

Planning a ski trip in 2020 or early 2021? This season there will be some key changes as resorts across the United States establish new protocols surrounding Covid-19. Those looking to prioritize the après-ski scene over the skiing itself may find it considerably restricted compared to previous years. But for anyone who loves the adrenaline rush of whooshing down a mountain and enjoying the great outdoors in their snow-covered beauty, it could be a fantastic season.

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer for more information on coronavirus travel safety, including the destinations that are open to travel, new Covid-19 hotel policies, the safest routes or transportation options available, future trip-planning advice, inspiration and ideas.

Before You Get There

Advanced online reservations for ski lift tickets will be the norm this year, as operators look to regulate (and predict) the total number of people on the slopes per day. At most mountains, season pass holders—including Epic and Ikon members—will have priority booking opportunities. Epic, whose pass gives access to 34 ski areas including Vail, Park City, Stowe, Crested Butte and Whistler, is letting its members reserve peak-season days a full month before non-pass holders. Ikon has also moved to advanced reservations at its 44 partner resorts. At Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Big Sky and Taos, all skiers, including Ikon members, will need to reserve their spots in advance. Meanwhile, other Ikon mountains, including Deer Valley, Mammoth, Stratton and Killington, aren’t foreseeing crowding issues, and are letting Ikon holders bypass advanced reservations. Independently-operated Whiteface Mountain doesn’t predict overcrowding either, even as it complies with New York’s mandated 50-percent capacity reductions, and won’t be requiring advanced tickets. Additionally, equipment rentals will need to be reserved in advance, as well, at most resorts.

Related: Best Winter Vacation Ideas for 2020

On the Slopes

Thankfully, this year’s changes shouldn’t impact skiers’ time on the mountains much at all, with a few exceptions. One difference, albeit with a silver lining: in most places, resorts will only be filling up ski-lifts and gondolas in instances where everyone is from a related party. Otherwise, most mountains will limit seating to allow for social distancing on the way up. The negative: a potential for slower, longer lift lines. The plus: fewer people going uphill at a time means fewer people swishing downhill, too, making for a more relaxed experience, even in states that haven’t mandated capacity cuts.

Another difference: for the most part, face coverings will be required at various on-piste touch points, including the duration of ski lift rides and during classes. And with many borders still shut, resorts and ski schools won’t be able to hire back most of the usual instructors from Latin America, who come up to the Northern Hemisphere during the Andean summer. Instead, mountains will rely on local talent. Group classes will be smaller across the board, with five guests per instructor at Aspen/Snowmass and only three guests at Jackson Hole.

Off the Slopes

While skiing and snowboarding will remain largely the same this year, ancillary activities will see bigger shifts, from après-ski and locker storage, to how you pay for purchases. Face coverings will be a given at any indoor venue.

Dining

At mountain areas across the country, expect more grab-and-go food options, coupled with increased—and spaced apart—outdoor seating. Resorts will be complying with local state regulations regarding indoor dining, operating with reduced seating, and staff monitoring the total number of people inside each restaurant at a given time.

Après Ski

This year, après-ski will be decidedly toned down at U.S. ski resorts during Covid. At mountains including Park City, Vail, Big Sky, Stratton and Deer Valley, bar service as a whole will be replaced by reservations-required, sit-down service or beer and wine to-go, without the usual concerts or entertainment. Taos is discouraging any après-ski gatherings at all. And in Aspen, where the après-ski scene may be just as much a draw as the skiing itself, the iconic Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro will only be open for a “relaxed” lunch, leaving its Champagne-soaked slope-side parties for another year.

Lockers & Bag Storage

Many resorts, including Stratton, Deer Valley, Woodstock Inn’s Suicide Six, skiers will need to leave unused gear and belongings inside their cars or at the hotel, with locker storage closed for the season. In Aspen, Park City and Vail, though, lockers will be open, but social distance requirements will only allow limited access.

Cash-Free Zones

To minimize unnecessary touch points, most ski resorts have gone cashless this year, expecting guests to use their smartphones or credit and debit cards instead. This is true at mountains such as Park City, Stratton, Taos and Vail.

Childcare

Childcare will not be offered at many mountain resorts, including Stratton, Aspen, Jackson Hole and Vail. (Kids’ ski schools will still be available at most mountains, with reduced class sizes.)

If Things Go Wrong

Should someone—staff or guest—test positive for Covid-19 at any point this season, resorts have committed to following local medical expert guidelines. Rigorous contact-tracing will make it easy to inform relevant parties. Should a mountain need to close—or an individual traveler need to cancel a reservation due to illness—both Ikon and Epic passes have included new insurance policies that guarantee refunds, with Ikon Adventure Assurance and Epic Coverage.

Related: The 9 Best Places to Ski in the U.S.: Indagare Matchmaker

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer for more information on coronavirus travel safety, including the destinations that are open to travel, new Covid-19 hotel policies, the safest routes or transportation options available, future trip-planning advice, inspiration and ideas.

– Peter Schlesinger on October 28, 2020

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While skiing and snowboarding will remain largely the same this year, ancillary activities will see bigger shifts, from après-ski and locker storage, to how you pay for purchases.

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