Opening days for Utah ski areas starting to be unveiled

Park City and Alta slated to get lifts running the weekend before Thanksgiving.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Skiers were required to wear face coverings at Park City on opening day, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The resort announced its 2021-22 opening day will be Nov. 19, 2021. Reservations will no longer be required to ski or snowboard, but the area has not announced what, if any, other measures it will require to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A few snowflakes fell at Alta last week. So, even though it’s still August and almost 90 degrees outside, it must be time to start thinking about the upcoming ski and snowboarding season.

If that line of thinking seems logical to you, then you have company. Park City Mountain Resort announced Thursday that it plans to open for the 2021-22 ski and snowboarding season Nov. 19, conditions permitting.

The date mostly falls in line with the resort’s opening day last season with one exception: Lifts will be open to all comers this year, not just season pass holders. Last year, as resorts tested the protocols they’d put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the opening date for anyone other than pass holders was Dec. 8.

Park City has the earliest opening date of any Utah resort at the moment. Alta Ski Area is eyeing a Nov. 20 opener, while Snowbasin and Deer Valley have tentatively set Nov. 24 and Dec. 4, respectively, as the days they will begin operations. Brighton tends to be among the first in the state to open but it and Utah’s 10 other resorts have not yet announced opening dates.

Vail Resorts, which owns PCMR, released the operations schedule for all 34 of its North American ski areas Thursday. Seven others, including both Heavenly and Northstar in California, will open Nov. 19. They will be preceded only by three Colorado resorts in the Vail family: Keystone, which will open as soon as possible, and Breckenridge and Vail, which are slated for Nov. 12.

The largely unpopular lift-access reservation system Vail Resorts implemented at all of its ski areas last season will be retired. No announcement has been made as to what other COVID precautions visitors will be required to follow.

“As always, our goal is to provide a safe and memorable experience of a lifetime for our guests and employees,” James O’Donnell, president of the mountain division of Vail Resorts, said in a press release, “and to do everything we can to provide incredible skiing and riding all season long.”

Vail Resorts greatly reduced the price of its Epic Pass this season. A standard Epic Pass with access to the 34 North American resorts with no blackouts is $783, compared to $979 last season. The Epic Local Pass provides unrestricted access to 26 resorts and holiday-restricted access to Park City, Heavenly and Stowe. It costs $583 until Labor Day (Sept. 6), when prices will increase.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Park City Mountain Resort ski patrollers hike the boot-pack path toward the ski area exit gate on the ridge above the Ninety-Nine 90 lift. Access to the gate has been closed since two men died in January in avalanches in the adjacent unmaintained backcountry areas after leaving the resort through that point. Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021.

No longer included in a pass to Park City is access to the backcountry from the exit point near its Ninety-Nine 90 lift. Almost half the people who have died while in lift-accessed backcountry in Utah in the past 20 years exited out of that gate, including two last year. Because of that, COO Mike Goar said last week that the Ninety-Nine 90 exit point will be closed permanently. The same terrain will still be accessible, albeit with more effort, from the Peak 5 exit point.

Park City also announced its expected closing date: April 17, 2022.