SAM Magazine—May 18, 2020—Across the country, government officials are easing restrictions enacted to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, allowing many mountain resorts to resume operations. Some resorts are reopening with snow, while others are looking towardsummer. Almost everyone is restarting with modified schedules and special social distancing guidelines in place.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order last week allowing outdoor recreation activities in the state to reopen. As reported earlier, Timberline, Ore., resumed winter operations on May 15 with new social distancing guidelines.
Mt. Bachelor, Ore., also reopened for skiing and riding this weekend (May 16), but for season passholders only. The mountain plans to end its downhill season May 25, when it will switch to uphill travel only, and has put strict reservation, parking, and lift riding practices into place.
Arapahoe Basin, Colo., is still committed to reopening, according to communications manager Katherine Fuller. The ski area is waiting on Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. Polis reopened the state for camping last week and is expected to make a decision regarding ski areas on Memorial Day. A-Basin has had snowcat operators pushing snow to manage run-off and keep the surface viable in anticipation of reopening.
Sundance Mountain, Utah, opened for summer operations May 15, with precautions in place. The resort is welcoming guests for lodging, dining, spa services, scenic lift rides, mountain biking and zip tours by reservation only. Activities are running at limited capacities to ensure proper social distancing, and lodging has been limited in order to implement new cleaning practices and a 48-hour wait period before room re-occupancy.
Angel Fire, N.M., opened its bike park as scheduled on May 16. The activity will be available for season passholder and platinum members only through May 25, when operations will be re-evaluated. Curbside bike rental and repair services and new chairlift guidelines have been established. This past weekend, the resort also opened its golf course with new check-in measures and golf cart limitations, and it is offering takeout from its Par & Grill restaurant.
Mt. Baldy, Calif., which was the first ski area in the country to reopen for winter with experimental guidelines, has shifted to summer operations. The ski area started spinning lifts for scenic rides this weekend, giving visitors access to the newly reopened hiking trails in Angeles National Forest.
Tamarack Resort, Idaho, received approval from Central District Health for a phased reopening, starting May 16. The resort resumed lodging and dining operations and reopened its hiking and biking trails for complimentary use. Tamarack plans to open scenic lift rides May 21, boat rentals May 22, lift-served mountain biking May 28, and zip line tours June 6, snowmelt allowing.
“Our team has worked hard to reimagine every aspect of the Tamarack experience to ensure the health, safety, and comfort of everyone who will come and play at Tamarack’s mountain playground this summer,” said Tamarack president Scott Turlington. The resort is implementing practices like plexiglass dividers at POS locations, complimentary masks for guests, and single-use menus in dining establishments.
Snow King, Wyo., is planning to open as scheduled on May 23 for Memorial Day weekend, with new COVID precautions. “Our leadership team has been working diligently to develop a summer operations plan that follows state and local health guidelines as well as industry standards,” said GM Ryan Stanley.
The resort will open the Cowboy Coaster, Summit Scenic Lift, Mini Golf, and Amaze’n Maze for regular operating hours. The Treetop Adventure ropes course and zip lines will be open weekends only by reservation, with limited harnessing times and group sizes. Snow King aims to open this activity and others, such as the Alpine Slide, for daily operation June 13. It will also offer bike, SUP, and kayak rentals, guided hikes for small groups, and custom experiences for small groups with advanced reservation.
East and Midwest
Golf courses, which lend themselves well to social distancing measures, are resuming operations across the East and Midwest.
Crystal Mountain, Mich., opened both its Mountain Ridge and Betsie Valley golf courses on April 29. Tee times must be booked in advance, and are staggered about 15 minutes apart to increase space between groups. The resort is eyeing a May 29 opening for its hotel, and recently made a commitment to increased health and safety standards with its Crystal Clean initiative.
“The resort’s enhanced hotel cleaning practices, social interactions, and workplace behavior protocols will continue to evolve to meet the new health and safety challenges and expectations presented by COVID-19,” said COO John Melcher.
In New York, Windham Mountain reopened its golf course May 14 with modified operations. The ski area rolled out a new online booking system for tee times, making the process contactless. Windham pushed back the opening of its bike park and scenic Skyride beyond Memorial Day weekend.
Also in New York, all 18 holes of Holiday Valley’s Double Black Diamond Golf Course are now open, but the golf shop, food and beverage, and other course facilities remain closed. The resort hopes to start offering chairlift and Mountain Coaster rides in mid-June, and is aiming to open the Sky High Adventure Park around the same time. Staff are taking extra measures to decrease touch points, sanitize, and allow for proper social distancing.
Sugarbush Resort Golf Club in Vermont has been cleared to open on Saturday, May 23. The course will only be open to players currently residing in Vermont and will be following strict guidelines, including no touch points on the course, no indoor facilities, and self-serve golf carts. The resort anticipates resuming lodging operations after June 15.
Blue Mountain Resort, Pa., opened May 15 for camping and glamping. Following CDC guidelines, campers will be required to wear masks when entering lodges and will be expected to practice proper social distancing around the mountain. Blue has also implemented extra cleaning precautions around the lodges and other high-touch areas.
Mountain activities at the resort will be limited until June 5 or until Carbon County is moved into the yellow phase of Gov. Wolf’s plan to reopen Pennsylvania, at which time mountain biking and the Summit Adventure Park are scheduled to open.
Following the guidance of Tennessee Gov. Lee’s Economic Recovery Group, Ober Gatlinburg will reopen its Aerial Tramway and mountain activities on May 22. The tramway has been retrofitted with spacing barriers to encourage social distancing, hand sanitizer will be provided at high touch points, and food service and janitorial staff will be required to wear masks.
Mountain Bike Openings
Several mountain bike parks are opening; for a full list check out MTBParks.com. Suicide Six, Vt., opened its bike trails May 13 for pedal access only, with lift access still TBD. Sugar Mountain, N.C., is scheduled to open its lift-served biking for Memorial Day weekend. It will then close, with the intention to reopen regular weekend operations in July.
Highland Bike Park, N.H., postponed its opening day after Gov. Sununu extended the New Hampshire stay at home order until May 4. The park now plans to open May 27 for season passholders and May 28 for regular visitors in order to give staff time to prep the trails.
Due to the shutdowns, Little Switzerland, Wis., was able to jump into trail maintenance on its bike park early. The resort is set to open the park May 31, and will operate a total of 14 select days through the fall.
More to Come?
The biggest players, Alterra, Boyne, and Vail, have not yet rolled out plans to reopen their properties. But as governors across the country issue orders to reopen the economy, we can expect to see more resorts resuming operations with new precautions and practices.
To correct an error in the original publication of this report that included Powdr in the list of big players yet to roll out plans, Powdr properties are operating as conditions allow in their respective jurisdictions. In fact, Woodward Park City opened some facilities May 23, and Killington, Vt., opened for golf that same day. Woodward Park City plans to open for camps July 6, and Killington plans to open its mountain bike park June 6.
Report by Katie Brinton