As the coronavirus epidemic takes its toll on the outdoor industry, some ski areas and local business are already considering how to reopen. On Friday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced that the state-wide closure of downhill ski areas would be extended through May 23; however, just a day later, he cited the possibility of reopening these resorts with strict guidelines in late May or early June. In Colorado, it seems skiers can be hopeful that the state will allow skiing, potentially as soon as Memorial Day.
In Summit County, Colorado, representatives from Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, Keystone and Copper Mountain have been in touch directly with Polis’ staff, learning about vital next steps. Taking cues from the strict social guidelines implemented by golf courses, ski areas are considering ways they, too, can bring people back to the slopes. “Tee times” to ski at certain times, capping the number of skiers on the mountain and locals-only openings are three mitigation efforts being examined. But skiers on the mountain aren’t the governor’s biggest concern—its those people traveling from elsewhere to ski that are the biggest threat.
“It’s not so much the exposure on the slopes,” Polis said in a press conference last week. “That’s a real thing. But if you keep related parties to a chairlift, that could be minimized. It’s really about whether our communities that are a host to the ski areas are really ready to receive visitors and tourism. And that’s up to them. That’s not up to me. We are going to honor that. If they are ready and the health situation allows it, we’re ready.”
Wolf Creek Ski Area in southern Colorado had pitched a similar plan to state officials, but it was shot down by Governor Polis’ statewide closure. Aspen Snowmass was also touting the idea of reopening its famed Highlands Bowl to no success. “With the extension of the ski area closures by Governor Polis and the recent warm weather, we will move on from our plans to potentially reopen Aspen Highlands and concentrate on summer operations and construction projects,” Jeff Hanle, director of public relations for Aspen Ski Company, told The Aspen Times.
Ski areas with seasons scheduled to run through May and later are mre optimistic that, by following the necessary guidelines, chairlifts will spin and skiers will ride again this season. Katherine Fuller, a representative of Arapahoe Basin commented on this in an email sent last week: “We will continue our efforts to open as soon as it makes sense for our community,” “Because our season is scheduled to last until June 7… we believe we still have time.”
In California, Mt. Baldy did reopen and had two successful weekends of operations during the last weekend of April and the first few days of May. It seemed to go off without a hitch as the resort implemented social distancing guidelines and limited mountain-goers to season pass holders. The resort closed for the season on Sunday.
Skiers in Colorado can remain hopeful that the season isn’t quite finished, but reopening will take serious commitment from resort officials and skiers, alike. Alan Henceroth, A-Basin’s chief operating officer, said it best in a recent blog post on the resort’s website: “We all need to do the right things now if we want to get open again.”