Vail Resorts, the parent company of Stevens Pass, has announced its plans to open for the 2020-21 winter season, while implementing new guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

β€œThere is no doubt this season will be different but we are committed to what matters most: working to protect our guests, employees and communities and doing everything we can to provide great skiing and riding all season long,” Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said in a news release.

As of now, Stevens Pass will be open Dec. 4 through April 4, 2021, and visitors must make a reservation beforehand to access the mountain.

The reservation system will be key to managing crowds, and also mitigate other past challenges, like limited parking, said Marc Riddell, West Coast director of communications for Vail Resorts.

Other notable changes to the resort for the winter season include:

  • Guests will be required to wear face coverings to get on the mountain and in all parts of the resort.
  • Chairlifts and gondolas will only be seating related parties together, and separate individuals will be spaced in order to maintain social distancing.
  • The company announced a mountain access reservation system and limits on lift tickets to prioritize its pass holders to limit capacity.
  • Employees will go through required health screenings before coming to work.
  • Classes and private lessons will be limited to six people maximum.
  • Limited capacity in dining areas.

Vail is implementing these protocols across all of their 34 resorts in North America.

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“If you go to any Vail resort across the country, you’ll still be required to make a reservation, wear a face covering, and follow other protocols, regardless of which state you’re in,” Riddell said. “We’re erring on the side of safety and want to be consistent.”

But Washington state has not yet issued specific guidelines for skiing. Under Gov. Jay Inslee’s phased reopening plan, ski resorts would fall under the same phase as the county the resort is located in. “Specific guidance for skiing is still being developed,” said Mike Faulk, the governor’s spokesperson. “We look forward to working with the industry, users and public health officials to arrive on the best guidelines for the winter season.”

Vail Resorts says prospective visitors to Stevens Pass can purchase season or day passes, but again, will have to make reservations ahead of time. Those who held season passes last winter, when the season ended abruptly due to COVID-19, received credits, which they can use until Sept. 17 to buy new passes for this season.

“This is going to be a different winter, we know these aren’t normal times,” Riddell said. “We feel strongly though that our reservation system and other safety protocols will help us manage through the season.”