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July 2020

Mountain Spy :: July 2020

“I hear you’re open for summer activities. Anything I need to know before coming?”

Written by Dave Meeker | 0 comment

The Question: “I hear you’re open for summer activities and I’m interested in visiting. Is there anything I need to know before coming?”

Several discussions during the SAM Huddles—a weekly gathering of industry folks on Zoom to talk about COVID-related issues—have covered what resort operators can do to offer a reasonably safe environment for employees and visitors as resorts start to open for the summer. It’s an important topic, and leaders seem to have their plans well thought out.

So, the Spy called resorts around North America (not necessarily those that have joined Huddles) that were either open or planned to open soon for summer activities to see if the details of any safety protocols in response to the coronavirus trickled down to the front lines. Also, the question was purposefully open-ended, to see if the pandemic was still front-of-mind.

Calls were made in mid-June, when COVID-19 cases were spiking in several states. Yet a majority of the areas the Spy called didn’t seem fussed about the pandemic. See our notes at the end for some general observations about this Spy Mission.

Have a question Mountain Spy should ask? Email it to and if we use your question, your resort is immune for that issue!


Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Female
SAM: Stated question
Staff: Well, right now all we have is our (open activity). We don't have anything else open yet. Yeah. So, um, what were you actually really interested in doing?
SAM: We were interested in that.
Staff: OK. I mean, that's definitely open.
SAM: OK. And is there anything that we need to know before we come or do we just show up?
Staff: Well, you would have to purchase a day ticket online.
Staff: OK. That would be your lift ticket. Um, we are open (open hours). Uh, and you are required to (a safety precaution specific to the activity.)
SAM: Got it.
Staff: Um, and there are limited tickets online. So, if you definitely know you are coming, then I would purchase those tickets as soon as you can. We have been selling out.
SAM: Alrighty. Thanks a lot.
Okay. You're welcome and have fun.
SAM: Thanks. Bye.

Score: 3
Comment: Aside from not addressing any of the various COVID protocols listed on the website, what if I said goodbye after she told me it was “definitely open” and we just showed up, sans pre-purchased ticket and unprepared for the new COVID rules? That would be ugly.


Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose open activity.
Automated response: That mailbox is full.

Score: 1
Comment: Tried several extensions to find a human to talk to, but they all directed me to answering machines. The selection for the only open activity sent me to a full mailbox. I get you’re short-staffed and it’s hard to field all the calls, but at least have an informative outgoing message, or direct me to the website for more information.


First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Um, well (explains what is open and when)
SAM: OK. And then is there anything we need to do prior to coming?
Staff: Not for XX, but for (some activities) you'd have to come into the base lodge. Everyone has to fill out a waiver and then you would need to pay $X per person per activity and (explains the normal requirements for the activities).
SAM: OK. And you're not requiring masks or anything like that?
Staff: We're not requiring masks. Um, but (outlines other non-COVID safety protocols).
SAM: OK. Thanks a lot.
Staff: You bet. Bye.

Score: 3
Comment: Business as usual at this place! And not the friendliest call, but she did offer a lot of information about the activities, which would have been excellent if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic.


Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Yeah. Um, there are some different kind of age and weight requirements. (outlines what is open and the requirements for the activities) And that is all included in the ticket.
SAM: And we can just get that pass when we arrive?
Staff: Sure. Yup. (Explains more about the activities, etc.)
SAM: And do we need to bring masks or anything?
Staff: Um, yeah, so all of our employees will be wearing masks, and we are requiring, if you're in any of our buildings, that you have a mask. We are selling them for a dollar if you don't have one. Um, but if you're in the building, you need one. Outside on the activities, it's up to your discretion. Um, and then the other big one is make sure everyone that's coming to do an activity has closed toed shoes on.
SAM: OK. Thanks so much.
Staff: Yeah, you're welcome. Bye.

Score: 7
Comment: Very friendly customer service, and I got an idea of how they are keeping staff and guests safe, albeit after a little prying. Overall, though, a very comforting and helpful conversation.


Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: When are you thinking about coming up?
SAM: Either late this week or the weekend, depending on my work schedule.
Staff: During the weekend, we have an event going on, so the (X activity) will be closed. (Explains the event, and what’s available on the weekend and weekdays.)
SAM: OK. And there's nothing I need to do beforehand before I come up?
Staff: Um, if you want to do certain activities, you have to book that beforehand. Um, but other than that… are you a season pass holder with us?
SAM: I am not.
Staff: OK. Um, so yeah, everything's good to go. You should be totally fine with everything. Plus, it's supposed to be nice and warm this weekend.
SAM: Cool. And I don't need to take precautions like wear any masks or anything like that?
Staff: No. (Laughs)
SAM: Gotcha.
Staff: Alright. Is that everything or do you have any other questions?
SAM: No, that's it. Thanks.
Staff: Yeah, no problem.

Score: 4
Comment: Friendly, informative conversation—but never, ever alienate your guests by laughing at a question about COVID precautions. That didn’t make me feel very safe at all.


Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: What activities are you thinking about participating in?
SAM: I'm looking at (names activities).
Staff: OK. Um, so none of those things require advanced reservations, but it will make it faster for you when you get here if you want to purchase ahead of time online. Um, but otherwise you can, you're certainly welcome to purchase those when you come up. Um, but if you decide that you might be interested in (other activities), we do need advance reservations for those activities. OK?
SAM: OK. Is there anything else we need to know? Any precautions we need to take? Are you requiring masks or anything like that?
Staff: We are strongly encouraging them, but they are not required. We are asking people, of course, to maintain social distancing inside of our base lodge areas, and to stay apart if you're outside, and to wear a mask if you're going to be within six feet of another group.
SAM: Thanks. I appreciate it.
Staff: Yeah, we look forward to seeing you this weekend.
Staff: Take care. Bye.

Score: 7
Comment: Very helpful, but it took some prying to get safety information. Don’t assume I’d know to social distance when I got there, nor that the resort is encouraging masks.


Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Um, well, I don't know if you've looked on (website). We have a limited amount of rides available. We haven't got the okay from the governor, so we can't book them all yet. (Explains what was opening, when, how to book each one, and requirements for the activities.)
SAM: OK. And are there any precautions that we need to take? Do we need to bring masks, things like that?
Staff: Yes. We have mask zones that you'd have to wear masks. We have hand sanitizer placed all over the mountain in areas that people will be. (Shares the food & beverage options and restrictions.) They are limiting how many people are on the mountain at the time, so we're at half capacity. So, everything's pretty much a time block, kind of not hanging around all day long.
SAM: And you said that we can just check out the website for selecting those times?
Staff: Absolutely. Absolutely.
SAM: OK. I appreciate that. Thanks a lot.
Staff: Alright. You're very welcome. Have a great day.
SAM: You too. Bye.

Score: 8
Comment: Super friendly call and received all the information I needed. Still needed to pry for COVID information, though.


Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: No, not necessarily.
SAM: OK, so we can just come up and (do open activity).
Staff: Yep.
SAM: OK. We don't need to take any precautions?
Staff: No, you do not.
SAM: Okie dokie.
Staff: Have a good day.

Score: 1
thumbs downComment: She gets one point for answering the phone, because that’s really all she did. And she sounded quite annoyed to even have to do that.

Mountain 9, CO (Thumbs up)

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Quite a few things. Number one, bring your masks.
SAM: Sounds good.
Staff: In general, we take masks and social distancing very seriously. A lot of other places aren't, but you'll see everyone who lives here with a mask on. Number two (explains in detail what was open and closed, and why, from activities to food & beverage. For example, one activity wasn’t open because the resort couldn’t adhere to social distancing or clean equipment fast enough. He also outlined other safety requirements for the open activities).
SAM: OK, great. Thank you. I appreciate all that information.
Staff: You are welcome.

Score: 10
thumbs upComments: Addressed the elephant in the room while being professional, prepared, and friendly. Not much more you can ask for. Bonus points for explaining why they are taking precautions and for asking my name and using it throughout the call. Well done!
Identity revealed: Aspen Snowmass


• In their automated answer, most resorts suggested people head online for more information, but few actual customer service reps suggested that on the call.
• Most websites showcase COVID guidelines for the resort. Why aren’t these being shared voluntarily by customer service reps?
• No one addressed safety concerns right off the bat, except the winner. And no one offered information about how they were cleaning or disinfecting anything.
• Several resorts on our call list are in states that have had relatively few cases of COVID-19, which may partly explain the lackadaisical approach to health-related mitigations. Still, with coronavirus cases spiking in some of those states, and with some restrictions and recommendations still in place in most states, the absence of upfront discussion of the resorts' mitigations was glaring.