Ski resorts should require masks, social distancing says Vail Resorts CEO

(Julie Jag | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Cabriolet Lift on the Canyons side of Park City Mountain Resort takes a patron back to the parking lot on March 13, 2020. Face masks and social distancing are likely to be required on lifts and around the resort when it reopens this winter.

This ski season, face masks will be mandatory and chairlifts won’t be shared among strangers. At least that’s how Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz envisions it.

Katz wrote an open letter Wednesday addressing the steps he believes ski resorts and their surrounding communities need to take to allow for a full 2020-21 season amid the pandemic. The two tenets he emphasized were to not become complacent and that safety is not optional.

Vail Resorts operates 37 ski areas in the United States, Canada and Australia, including Park City Mountain Resort in Utah. Its resorts were among the first to close in mid-March after resort towns — led by Park City — were found to have some of the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases in the nation.

Katz noted that because they draw people from many areas with many different levels of COVID-19 risks, resorts and communities nearby cannot base their decisions solely on the risk level in their county or state.

“By welcoming people to our resorts from other locations we need to realize that we will be taking on their COVID-19 experience as well,” he wrote. “Therefore, for us to be successful we need to enforce protocols and procedures now that can work all season.”

Included among those protocols is requiring workers and guests to wear masks at all times, with very limited exceptions for places where people are eating and drinking. Katz emphasized that does not exempt people walking around with a drink or snack in hand from wearing a mask.

In addition, he emphasized the importance of social distancing among unrelated parties. That needs to be enforced from the chairlifts all the way to establishments in and around surrounding towns, he said.

“All of us want to protect our local economies and our communities. All of us want a great ski and snowboard season,” he wrote. “To make that a reality — all of us must remain vigilant.”

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