Photography courtesy of Vail Resorts
This morning, Vail Resorts announced highly anticipated operating procedures for its 34 North American resorts and how they will function during the upcoming 2020-21 season. The majority of the guidelines are nothing unexpected for a population living in the COVID-19 era—face coverings, social distancing, etc.—but rumors of a daily reservation system have come true, as well as a handful of other notable changes.
In a letter to guests, Vail Resort’s CEO Rob Katz wrote: “It goes without saying that operations at our 34 North American resorts will abide by all local regulations, but for us, that’s just where safety begins. Since the beginning of this crisis, we have made a commitment to all of our stakeholders that we will operate in a way that puts safety first and uses the insights we have gleaned from operating so many resorts around the world. This often means choosing to go above and beyond what is required in order to do our very best to provide you peace of mind. Given how fluid and ever-changing the situation with COVID-19 is, it has also been our goal to design an approach that can remain in place for all of this season. We do not want to be caught off guard or find ourselves needing to make reactionary changes. Striving for consistency will provide our guests, employees and communities with as much predictability as possible this season, which we believe is worth the extra effort.”
First things first, nobody will be allowed on the mountain without a face covering. Employees will require that you wear a mask in the lift line, on lifts, in restaurants and during ski school lessons. Vail executives also “strongly recommend that guests wear face coverings in all indoor and outdoor public spaces throughout… resort towns.”
People skiing in the same party will be allowed to load the lift together and can fill the chair or gondola they are riding. However, in the event that your party doesn’t fill the chair or gondola cabin, new protocols will be implemented:
- Two singles on opposite sides of a four-person lift
- Two singles or two doubles on opposite sides of a six-person lift
- Two singles on opposite sides of larger gondola cabins
On-mountain dining will be open and operating in the same manner that many restaurants have adopted since re-opening in recent months; this primarily means limited seating for sit-down diners, to enable physical distancing. “Cafeteria-style” restaurants, in which guests had been able to choose between different stations or grab-and-go items, will be reconfigured. This season, there will be a single line that moves through these communal dining areas, ending at the cashier.
The biggest topic of conversation over recent months has been speculation of a reservation system and limiting skier capacity on the mountain. Vail will indeed implement a reservation system this season that will prioritize pass holders (over individual’s buying single-day lift tickets) and it will operate is as follows:
- Epic Pass holders can start making reservations online—beginning November 6, 2020—for the Core Season, December 8, 2020 to April 4, 2021.
- From November 6 through December 7, 2020, pass holders will have exclusive access to make reservations for the Core Season and will be able to reserve up to seven Priority Reservation Days, or the number of days available on their pass—up to seven days.
- Pass holders can make and maintain up to seven reservation days at a time. This means that once you use the first day, you can reserve another one, and so on, so that you always have seven days reserved on the calendar.
- For the Early Season—all days prior to December 8, 2020—Vail will release reservation inventory for the upcoming week based on conditions and terrain availability.
- Reservations can be made online at epicpass.com by logging in to “My Account,” on any of Vail’s resort websites, or over the phone.
- Individual, single-day lift tickets will go on sale December 8, 2020. When you purchase a lift ticket through Vail Resorts this season, it will come with a reservation for the specific resort and date that you choose.
These and other details can be found on the Epic Pass website. But one thing that remains unclear is exactly how many reservations will be available at each resort on a daily basis. In Katz’s letter, he indicates, on most days, the capacity limit won’t be reached, and that Vail Resorts may even do away with the system later in the season.
When asked about how decisions will be made regarding daily resort capacities, Director of Communications Ryan Huff said: “There are a variety of factors we will use to determine capacity across our 34 resorts, which are still being worked on internally and in discussions with our local communities. For the vast majority of days during the season, we should be able to accommodate everyone who wants to be on our mountains. However, we also need to acknowledge that there are still many unknowns about the upcoming season.”
With winter quickly approaching, it’s nice to see that Vail and other resort operators are taking the necessary steps to ensure a successful season. In other positive news, Vail also announced opening dates for all of its North American resorts today. Keystone, Colorado, opening first on November 6th, and other ski areas will start spinning lifts soon after.
To read Katz’s full letter here, click here.
Stay tuned to Freeskier.com for all resort news.