Record editorial: A ski season with COVID-19 changes beats no ski season at all
Get ready for the first socially distanced ski season.
Though the weather is still hot in Park City, and the mountainsides haven’t yet changed color, Parkites have been counting the days until winter ever since the resorts closed early last year as the coronavirus began to spread. One of the biggest uncertainties that has loomed in the ensuing months is what the on-mountain experience will look like amid the pandemic.
On Thursday, residents got an answer as Vail Resorts unveiled plans for the season at its ski areas, including Park City Mountain Resort. Skiers and snowboarders can expect to wear masks and remain apart from people from other groups on chairlifts and in gathering areas and — in the biggest revelation of all — they’ll need to make reservations before heading up to the mountain. It remains to be seen what sort of restrictions Deer Valley Resort owner Alterra Mountain Company will put in place but there will likely be many similarities.
There’s no getting around it: Some of the changes are going to be uncomfortable. The reservation requirement, particularly, will be challenging. It will force Parkites to plan well in advance and eliminates the cherished Park City tradition of taking a long lunch on a whim to get in some turns.
How will it play out in practice? We’ll find out in a few months.
But it’s clear Vail Resorts has taken a thoughtful approach to the question of how to operate a bustling ski resort during a pandemic.
In doing so, the company has recognized two things that are true for both itself and for Park City: One, we have to have a ski season. Our economy (and the company’s bottom line) depends on it. And two, the only way to have a ski season is to do so safely.
Of course, operations at the resorts are only one factor that will determine whether we can pull off a successful winter. We will also be at the mercy of national economic conditions and the health situation. If the virus is running rampant, the degree of difficulty will grow exponentially. That’s a big reason why the actions of Summit County health officials have been among the most aggressive in the state and why our leaders have pleaded with us to do what is necessary to slow the spread of the disease.
It’s not going to be a typical winter. The bumps along the way won’t be confined to the moguls on the mountain. But by putting strict measures in place, Vail Resorts has seemingly done its part to get the ski season out of the starting gates.
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Our view: The school year has so far been a success, but the coronavirus, more than the school district, may have the ultimate say about what the next chapter looks like.