This time of year, we typically publish a list of projected opening days for local ski areas. But last spring, go-to spots for winter recreation shut down early amid concerns about the new coronavirus outbreak, and it wasn’t clear when they’d reopen — or even if they would at all.
The state is working with ski areas to determine if additional COVID-related guidance is needed, according to Mike Faulk, deputy director of communications for Gov. Jay Inslee. For now, several ski areas are reopening following existing guidance on dine-in food service, retail and gondolas and lift chairs. Here’s when they’ll be open again — and what to expect on the mountain.
Weather permitting, Crystal Mountain aims to reopen on Nov. 20, operating at limited capacity, said marketing director Tiana Anderson. Patrons will be required to wear facial coverings and maintain physical distancing from other customers; this extends to chairlifts and gondolas, where only members of the same household will be seated together.
Crystal has also limited ticket quantities and eliminated walk-up ticket sales, meaning patrons without season passes will need to purchase lift tickets in advance online. Capacity will also be capped at 50% in the resort’s food and beverage venues.
While Crystal shut down operations at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state, the resort reopened briefly for limited-capacity skiing with social distancing measures in place this summer, and “we definitely have the advantage of learning from that week we were open,” said Anderson.
She said guests were “really well behaved” and that while the resort released only 500 tickets initially, more were added gradually when it was clear it was safe to do so. Still, said Anderson, “The biggest takeaway is we have to limit capacity.”
Stevens Pass and Whistler
As we reported at the end of August, Stevens Pass is slated to reopen Dec. 4. Like Crystal, Stevens will prioritize pass-holders and require advance reservations to keep capacity down. Stevens’ parent company, Vail Resorts, is implementing a uniform set of social distancing policies across its entire network, including Whistler Blackcomb, which will reopen Nov. 26. (That said, it’s unlikely that Whistler will be the draw it usually is for Washingtonians, since the Canadian border is closed for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19.)
At Stevens and Whistler, face coverings will be required, and only “related parties” will be seated together on chairlifts and gondolas. In cases where it is necessary to seat strangers together, Vail has a set of granular guidelines for placing them as far apart as possible.
All classes and private lessons will be capped at six people, and employees will be screened for COVID-19 before they report to work. Dining areas will operate at limited capacity, and Vail encourages guests to bring water and snacks with them.
The Summit at Snoqualmie
Earlier this month, Alterra Mountain Company announced that ski areas honoring the Ikon Pass would not require reservations for pass-holders. The Summit at Snoqualmie, as part of the pass network, has no plans yet to set up a reservation system for pass-holders.
The ski area, which has not yet announced an opening date but typically opens at the end of November, will operate at limited capacity, selling a reduced number of lift tickets daily, which patrons are encouraged to purchase online rather than in-person, especially on peak days. Physical distancing will also be enforced, and staff will be screened for COVID-19 before reporting to work. Face coverings will be required on the mountain where social distancing isn’t possible, and group lesson sizes will be reduced in compliance with state regulations.
Mt. Baker staff is still formulating policies for the season, said a spokesperson for the ski area, but reservations would likely be required intermittently once the area opens on Nov. 26 (snow permitting). On days when reservations are necessary, at least 51% of daily reservations will be guaranteed for Mt. Baker pass-holders, according to policies listed on the resort’s website.
Mt. Baker is requiring that skiers and snowboarders wear face coverings when on the mountain, and indoor seating areas will operate at a 70% capacity reduction. Lessons will proceed at reduced capacity, and, according to Mt. Baker’s COVID-19 updates, “6-foot distancing protocols are in place in all our facilities, parking lots, lodges, restrooms, lift lines, outdoor areas, chairlifts and all parts of the ski area.”
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Mt. Baker lodges will operate at 70% capacity when the ski area reopens. In fact, they will operate at a 70% capacity reduction (30% capacity).