As we say goodbye to summer and skiers and snowboarders start tuning up their gear ahead of the 2020-21 season, a clearer picture is beginning to emerge of what ski resort recreation will look like during the pandemic: how season passes, capacity, lifts, gondolas, lodges and trails will be impacted.
The ski industry suffered a brutal hit in March, the second highest-revenue generating month of the season after December, when resorts had to close early due to Covid-19.
Most of the 460 U.S. ski areas in 37 states were under some kind of shutdown as the novel coronavirus continued to spread, with most unable to reopen. The ones that did try weren’t always in accordance with their states’ directives.
Alterra Mountain Company, which operates 15 North American resorts including Steamboat, Mammoth Mountain, and Sugarbush Resort and sells the Ikon Pass, announced a series of measures it plans to undertake to provide a positive and safe guest experience for ’20-21—most notably, “enforcement of face coverings, social distancing and crowd management on and off the mountain.”
To avoid overcrowding, Alterra Mountain Company resorts will control visitation levels, prioritizing access for season pass holders and regulating the number of daily lift tickets that will be available. Such tickets must be purchased in advance; walk-up window sales will be eliminated for this season. Until further notice, the properties will also discontinue the sale of most undated lift ticket products.
“Alterra Mountain Company and our destinations are committed to staying on top of the inevitable changes to come as best practices and health regulations throughout the two countries, six states, three Canadian provinces and 15 mountain communities in which we operate rapidly evolve,” CEO Rusty Gregory said in a statement. “Our teams will communicate these changes to you as soon as possible so we can all adjust and plan accordingly.”
The Ikon Pass and its major competitors, Epic and Mountain Collective, faced the collective ire of members earlier this spring when resorts closed early without offering partial refunds on season passes. Alterra, in lieu of refunds (all passes state they are non-refundable at the point of purchase) doubled renewal discounts for ’20-21 season passes and extended the deadline for early renewals and the payment plan deadline for those passes.
In a statement, Ikon Pass said that it does not currently plan to require reservations for lift access at its 38 North American resorts, but that the “rapidly evolving circumstances may cause plans to change without notice.”
However, Epic Pass will implement a reservation system at its 37 destinations. Pass holders will receive priority access. “For the vast majority of days, we anticipate our mountains will be able to accommodate everyone who wants to ski or ride at our resorts,” its website states.
If buying an Epic Pass online, don’t be surprised to enter a queue before being redirected to the website, as shown in the below screenshot:
Epic Pass holders also receive early season access to the mountain through Dec. 7, with lift ticket sales beginning on Dec. 8. The reservation window opens Nov. 6.
Pass holders can make as many week-of reservations during the season as their pass type and availability allow, holding up to seven Priority Reservation Days (or as many as their pass allows) at a time.
Most of the 23 destinations on the Mountain Collective pass, including Aspen Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Sugarloaf, and others, do not require reservations at this time. The Mountain Collective pass is a lift ticket that includes two days at each resort plus 50 percent off additional days.
Given the rapidly changing nature of regulations and best practices around Covid-19, the Mountain Collective pass is a smart option for skiers and snowboarders who don’t need unlimited access throughout the season, which could very well end early or abruptly.
At Epic, Ikon, Mountain Collective and other destinations, skiers and snowboarders can expect certain social distancing measures to be standard.
Coverings are required to access the mountain, in lift lines and while loading, unloading and riding on chairlifts and gondolas. At Epic Pass resorts, only related parties (guests skiing and riding together) will be seated together on lifts, or two singles/two doubles at opposite ends of larger lifts and gondolas.