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Will you need a vaccination card while skiing in Utah? Here are the COVID rules this season.

From proof of vaccination to masks optional, resorts are no longer following the same playbook.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Skiers were required to wear face coverings they skied at Park City on opening day, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. This year, rules will vary between resorts.

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It was Code Red at Powder Mountain.

As the ski area near Eden prepared to start up its lifts last December in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic — which months earlier had forced it and the rest of the country’s resorts to shut down, costing the industry an estimated $2 billion — its managers weren’t taking any chances.

The restrooms became the only open indoor facilities. The Powder Keg, once the rocking center of the resort’s après-ski scene, had been reduced to a pick-up window. Skiers and snowboarders could still order up wings or pad thai, but they had to eat it in their cars or at an outdoor table. And masks? They were required everywhere except while actively skiing or snowboarding down the mountain.

It wasn’t skiing as most had come to know it. But, it was skiing as it would come to be known statewide. Because PowMow wasn’t the only resort clamping down. Across Utah, ski areas informally adopted a blanket set of safety standards to ensure they would all survive the season.

“Just about everybody, they were doing the most cautious [policies] across the board because we didn’t know what we were going to expect,” said Nathan Rafferty, the CEO and president of Ski Utah, the marketing arm of the state’s ski and snowboard industry. “And this year we just know so much more about it that every company, I think, is going to have their own philosophy.”

After spending last season in lockstep on COVID-19 protocols, it’s become the Wild West at Utah ski resorts. This season, approaches to mitigating the spread of the virus will vary as widely as ticket prices and terrain.

(Kim Raff | The New York Times) People exit the Lightning Ridge snowcat for access to that section of the Powder Mountain resort in Utah, Jan. 31, 2020.

Varying measures

Park City Mountain Resort falls on the most cautious side of the aisle. In measures implemented across all 34 Vail Resorts properties in North America, it will require proof of vaccination for lesson takers, all employees and anyone who wants to enter a quick-service restaurant or cafeteria (no word yet on whether that will include the coffee shop or general stores). Indoors, masks will be required except when eating.

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“We are fortunate that the core of our experience takes place outdoors in vast mountain settings,” Rob Katz, chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts, said in a release. “However, as we welcome guests from around the world to the indoor experience at our resorts, we feel it’s important to do our part to combat the spread of COVID-19.”

On the opposite side of the spectrum perches Snowbasin. It has returned to regular dining capacity with no restrictions on entry in its lodges and restaurants. Masks will, however, be required indoors except while eating and drinking, though guests will be expected to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulations if they change over the course of the season.

At Powder Mountain, they’re starting the season in Code Yellow, the middle ground in the ski area’s three-tiered operations plan. That means restaurants and lodges will reopen, but with limited capacity, and masks will be highly recommended. Alas, the Powder Keg will remain only a walk-up establishment until the resort goes to Code Green.

(Kim Raff | The New York Times) A patron during the lunch rush at the Powder Keg bar and restaurant at the Timberline Lodge of the Powder Mountain resort in Utah, Jan. 31, 2020. Head north from Salt Lake City to visit Snowbasin and Powder Mountain, relatively undiscovered gems of the state's ski scene.

Powder Mountain spokesperson JP Goulet said the lessons of the past two seasons made it easier to prepare for this one.

“We’ve been able to see for almost two years now how other businesses have operated,” he said. “... With us playing it so conservative last year, it opened up the door for us to be like, ‘OK, we feel safe doing that, we don’t feel safe doing that.’ And you know, and our guests are always the priority and our staff also. So we know we put a lot of thought into that and just trying to keep people safe. And we feel pretty good going into this season.”

As with snowflakes, though, this COVID season isn’t exactly like the others.

The delta variant is more transmissible than previous versions. Some guests will be vaccinated, but others will not, and policies will need to stretch to cover adults and children in both categories. Plus, there’s the challenge of keeping on top of rapidly evolving national, state and local coronavirus-related regulations.

Why aren’t COVID policies the same at all resorts?

Unlike last year, resorts didn’t get a playbook from the National Ski Areas Association with suggestions on how to run a resort during a pandemic. That’s part of the reason so many resorts have charted their own path. Nevertheless, most operators said they’re feeling more at ease entering the season and more confident about making it through without any major outbreaks.

“From my perspective, we put a lot of measures in place last year. We did a lot of the heavy lifting for what we thought was going to be the worst-case scenario but wasn’t the worst-case scenario,” said Stacey Glaser, the marketing director for Nordic Valley and Brian Head Resort. “This year, a lot of questions are unanswered, but we feel confident with the game plan we put into place.”

Beaver Mountain spokesperson Travis Seeholzer agreed.

“The apprehension level is, at least I feel like, remarkably lower,” he said. “Last year nobody knew what was going to happen. We had all these plans and all these Zoom meetings but it was like, ‘We don’t know what that’s going to look like.’ But for the most part, it worked.”

It probably doesn’t hurt that the country’s ski industry experienced record participation last year despite the risks, additional inconveniences and below-average snowfall. The NSAA reported 10.5 million people skied or snowboarded at a North American resort last season and that about a million of those were new or lapsed participants. If most of those return this year, and early booking and pass sales indicate they will, resorts could well be looking at another banner year.

As the sun sets on Beaver Mountain, a large group takes advantage of the Little Beaver lift that opens up for night skiing. Photo by Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune 02/14/2008

“We’re expecting there will still be that demand, you know, but maybe a little bit more competition,” NSAA spokesperson Adrienne Isaac said, noting people will have more demands on their time this season as schools, offices and activities reopen.

“Wow, did last season really show us how badly people needed to get out.”

Some COVID policies will be similar at all Utah resorts

Resorts want to do everything they can to perpetuate last season’s interest while preventing the kind of community spread that made ski towns among the hardest hit early in the pandemic. Managers and their teams spent the summer trying to figure out where the sweet spot is, and for the most part they’ve all come up with different results.

A few things they can agree on, however. Most notable among them: If it’s outside, it’s probably safe.

That’s a sound assessment, according to Dr. William Lang, a former director of the White House Medical Unit and deputy physician to the president under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He now advises ski companies like Powdr, which owns Snowbird and Woodward Park City, on their COVID policies.

“You’re pretty well covered up and you’re pretty well diffused — because diffusion is the solution,” Lang said. “So that makes, I think, the ski environment relatively safe. Obviously, the bigger concerns are going to be après ski: the restaurants [and] the bars.”

To keep people outside longer, resorts put their money into on-mountain improvements rather than infrastructure this offseason. In addition to buying snowcats and avalanche mitigation equipment, half of Utah’s 15 resorts added to or upgraded their snowmaking.

One of them is Brighton. It has aimed more snowmaking equipment at its Snake Creek area, which it plans to open for night skiing. Another is Cherry Peak. It has increased its coverage via snowmaking from 65% of the mountain to 95% with the intent of opening by Thanksgiving weekend, which would blow away its previous earliest opening of Dec. 11.

Resorts also plan to continue to reduce touch points by employing many of the technologies that gained a toehold during the pandemic. That includes online reservations for lift tickets, equipment rentals and lessons; touchless RFID chips in lift passes and food ordered via apps and QR codes. The expanded grab-and-go food options and additional outdoor dining areas also will remain in place.

(Photo courtesy of John Schafer | Alta Ski Area) Skiers taking a lesson ride the rope tow at Alta Ski Resort on March 23, 2019.

Creating a policy on lessons has proven more tricky for resorts. Kids under 12 are still not eligible to be vaccinated, but many of them might be by December. So most, but not all, resorts have reopened group lessons for children 6 and older while still restricting those under 5, since that group requires more contact and assistance on lifts and likely won’t be able to be vaccinated until next year.

Perhaps the place where resorts share the most common ground, though, is in the lift lines — as in, they don’t like or want them.

So don’t expect to see a string of skiers and boarders snaking halfway up the ski hill — images of which spread early and often on social media last season — except during the holidays and weekends. Ghost lines and half-empty chairs have been scuttled almost entirely, as has Park City’s lift reservation system. If guests want to ride a lift solo or just with their group, that will typically be accommodated but not encouraged.

“We are really, really focused — we’re a skiing-first company,” said Brandon Fessler, the general manager at Nordic Valley, which has been busy expanding the terrain off the high-speed six-pack chair it installed last year. “We’re focused on providing a better skiing experience, and most of that is outdoors.”

But not everyone will stay outdoors.

Indoors is a different issue altogether. Some resorts will let guests walk in, grab a table and stay as long as they like, just like in the old days. Others require reservations or masks or immunization cards or some combination of all three.

Because they are dealing with the uncertainty of vaccine availability and government health regulations, most resorts have been slow to roll out the exact details of their plans for dealing with COVID-19. So anyone planning a trip to the slopes is advised to check resorts’ websites for the most updated information.

Ski Utah’s Rafferty suggests skiers and riders be ready for anything.

“You have to go prepared, you know, with a mask in your pocket and vaccination card in your wallet or whatever,” he said. “And be prepared for whatever comes your way.”

Update: Oct. 27, 2021, 12 p.m. >> Snowbasin has updated its policy since the summer and will require guests to wear masks indoors except when eating and drinking.

Guide to Utah’s ski and snowboarding resorts

ALTA

Opening date: Nov. 20

Acres/vertical drop: 2,614/ 2,538 feet

Lifts: 6 (2 D, 1 HST, 3 HSQ)

Day-of weekend ticket price: $125

Walk-up tickets available: Yes

Parking: Reservations ($25) required on weekends and holidays, sales begin in October

Rentals: Yes, at Albion

Lessons: Group and private available for ages 4+, reservations required

Child care: Daily, with reservations

Masks required: Indoors unless eating or drinking

Other COVID-19 precautions: Cap on skier numbers determined by available parking spaces; grab & go food options, including at Goldminer and possibly in parking lots; reduced capacity and ordering via QR code in restaurants and added space at Alf’s; skiers who bring their own food are asked to eat in their cars. Sunnyside at 3 access available only with the Sunnyside at 3 Card.

Notable: Alta widened its Corkscrew run, combined Nina’s Curve and Schuss Gully and added snowmaking around the base area; adding four Wyssen towers in the East Castle area for remote avalanche control; will be charging for parking for the first time, but UTA bus pass included with season ticket.

Operation details: alta.com/covid

BEAVER MOUNTAIN

Opening date: mid-December

Acres/vertical drop: 828/1,700 feet

Lifts: 6 (1 D, 3 T, 2 surface)

Day-of weekend ticket price: $60

Walk-up tickets available: Yes

Parking: Free

Rentals: Yes

Lessons: Group for ages 7+, ages 3-6 TBD; private for all ages

Child care: No

Masks required: Optional unless CDC, state or local recommendations change

Other COVID-19 precautions: RFID technology in tickets for contact-less access to lifts; tents and yurts for extra dining space and filling out rental paperwork; limited menu in dining, but will have food trucks and grab & go options and expanded outdoor seating; additional portable restrooms.

Notable: Upgraded wifi in the base area, additional parking plus webcams to check capacity; new yurt in base area will be first stop for beginners; IndyPass blackout dates on weekends and holidays.

Operation details: skithebeav.com/c/mountain/lessons/covid19-lesson-restrictions

BRIAN HEAD RESORT

Opening date: Nov. 19

Acres/vertical drop: 650/1,320 feet

Lifts: 12 (1 D, 6 T, 2 HSQ, 3 surface)

Day-of weekend ticket price: $89

Walk-up tickets available: Yes

Parking: Free

Rentals: Yes

Lessons: Group and private lessons, ages 3+

Child care: No

Masks required: Optional unless CDC, state or local recommendations change

Other COVID-19 precautions: Will cap visitor numbers by limiting daily ticket sales; reduced capacity in indoor spaces; grab-and-go food and outdoor dining space available

Notable: Resort has acquired the Best Western Premier Brian Head Resort & Spa, located less than half a mile from the ski area’s Navajo Lodge, and expects to offer ski-and-stay packages.

Operation details: brianhead.com/covid-safety/

BRIGHTON

Opening date: ASAP

Acres/vertical drop: 1,050/1,875 feet

Lifts: 7 (1 T, 5 HSQ, 1 surface)

Day-of weekend ticket price: $99 (in 2020-21)

Walk-up tickets available: Yes

Parking: Free but optional reservations may be added

Rentals: With reservations; new equipment

Lessons: group and private, ages 4+; camps will return

Child care: No

Masks required: Indoors unless eating or drinking

Other COVID-19 precautions: Will use the parking lot capacity to limit crowds; food can be ordered through an app or online; walk-up coffee window added; additional outdoor seating; restaurants and day lodges will be at normal capacity.

Notable: Increased snowmaking on Snake Creek by a third and added lights to double the amount of terrain open for night skiing and riding; added the first of what it hopes to be many diesel-electric snowcats to its fleet.

Operation details: brightonresort.com/covid-19

CHERRY PEAK

Opening date: Thanksgiving weekend

Acres/vertical drop: 200/ 1,265 feet

Lifts: 4 (3 T, 1 surface)

Day-of weekend ticket price: $45

Walk-up tickets available: Yes

Parking: Free

Rentals: Yes

Lessons: Group and private, no age minimum

Child care: No

Masks required: At all times

Other COVID-19 precautions: Purchase of lift tickets and food and ski map downloads are available online; indoor capacities will be limited; upper floor of the Grand Lodge will be open for overflow seating and has wifi; possible parking shuttle on busy days.

Notable: Upgraded snowmaking will cover 95% of runs and should allow resort to open earlier.

Operation details: skicpr.com/covid19-guidelines

DEER VALLEY

Opening date: Dec. 4

Acres/vertical drop: 2,026/3,000 feet

Lifts: 21 (2 D, 5 T, 13 HSQ, 1 G)

Day-of weekend ticket price: $199-$249

Walk-up tickets available: Yes

Parking: Free except at Silver Lake Lodge

Rentals: Yes, new equipment

Lessons: Group for ages 3+, private for all ages, with reservations

Child care: Yes

Masks required: Indoors unless eating or drinking

Other COVID-19 precautions: Reservations required in day lodges for groups of 8+; heat lamps and fire tables available with outdoor seating; food and reservations via an app; kiosks with QR code scanners for contactless redemption of passes bought online; skier cap, as always, will be in effect.

Notable: Revamping of Fresh Tracks Kitchen in the Snow Park Lodge, including reworked menu and extended hours for apres ski; app expanded to include mountain webcam and a live map with ski tracking feature; new snowcats and upgraded snowmaking.

Operation details: deervalley.com/about-us/covid-operations

EAGLE POINT

Opening date: Dec. 17

Acres/vertical drop: 650/1,500 feet

Lifts: 5 (2 D, 1 T, 1 Q, 1 surface)

Day-of weekend ticket price: $75

Walk-up tickets available: Yes

Parking: Free

Rentals: With reservations

Lessons: Group ages 5+, private all-ages, with reservations

Child care: No

Masks required: Optional unless CDC, state or local recommendations change

Other COVID-19 precautions: Restaurants will have grab-and-go food and outdoor seating; seating within restaurants will be limited.

Notable: Expanded snowmaking in the Skyline Lift area; new Canyonside Collection condos available to rent; open daily from Dec. 17 to Jan. 2, then Friday-Monday through February. Open Friday-Sunday from March 4 until April 3, 2022. Starting in January, the entire resort can be rented out on weekdays for a base price of $15,000 for up to 200 people.

Operation details: eaglepointresort.com/covid-19-policies

NORDIC VALLEY

Opening date: Early December

Acres/vertical drop: 170/1,000 feet

Lifts: 5 (2 D, 1 T, 1 HS6, 1 surface)

Day-of weekend ticket price: $50 (from 2020-21)

Walk-up tickets available: Yes

Parking: Free

Rentals: Yes

Lessons: Group for ages 7+, private for all ages

Child care: No

Masks required: Optional unless CDC, state or local recommendations change

Other COVID-19 precautions: Online ticketing and food/drink sales; cashless transactions; limited indoor seating; guests are encouraged to eat at fire pits, in the Hagaar building or in their cars.

Notable: Adding four trails (2 blacks, 2 blues) and bathrooms to the 50 acres it made accessible when it installed a six-person, high-speed detachable lift last January; snowmaking has been upgraded at the base of that lift; rentals have been moved to a yurt to allow for more spacing and better flow.

Operation details: nordicvalley.ski/2020-2021-winter-experience/

PARK CITY MOUNTAIN RESORT

Opening date: Nov. 19

Acres/vertical drop: 7,300/3,200 feet

Lifts: 37 (4 D, 7 T, 4 Q, 10 HSQ, 6 HS6, 4 G, 6 surface)

Day-of weekend ticket price: $189

Walk-up tickets available: Yes

Parking: Free; follow @PCMtnAlert on Twitter or check parkcitymountain.com/status for real-time updates on parking lot capacity as well as other mountain operations updates

Rentals: Yes

Lessons: Yes, for ages 5-older. Proof of vaccination required for full-day lessons for ages 12-older.

Child care: No

Masks required: Indoors unless eating or drinking

Other COVID-19 precautions: All employees are required to be vaccinated; guests 12-older required to show proof of vaccination for dining at quick service/cafeteria-style restaurants (a list will be available on the resort website); reservations required for on-mountain restaurants; bars will be open; guests can bring food from home; cashless transactions only.

Notable: This year will break ground on its Elektron Solar Project, an 80 megawatt solar project that is expected to provide renewable energy for 100% of Park City Mountain’s electric usage by 2023. Additional lifts are planned for 2022-23.

Operation details:

parkcitymountain.com/explore-the-resort/about-the-resort/winter-experience.aspx

POWDER MOUNTAIN

Opening date: TBD

Acres/vertical drop: 3,200/2,519 feet

Lifts: 9 (1 T, 4 Q, 1 HSQ, 3 surface)

Day-of weekend ticket price: $105

Walk-up tickets available: No

Parking: Free

Rentals: Indoor and outdoor facilities

Lessons: Yes, group and private for ages 5+

Child care: No

Masks required: Indoors unless eating or drinking

Other COVID-19 precautions: Skier numbers capped as always at 1,500; three tiers of restrictions (green/yellow/red), starting in yellow — only restrooms and grab-and-go food will be open in red tier; otherwise metered flow into buildings, food orders via app; Powder Keg bar will be closed except for to-go food orders; no terrain park; no standing room on shuttles; rooftop deck and trailer added to snowcats.

Notable: Celebrating its 50th year on Feb. 19; will be included on the Indy Pass for the first time, with weekend and holiday blackouts

Operation details: powdermountain.com/resort/winter-2022-info

SNOWBASIN

Opening date: Nov. 24

Acres/vertical drop: 3,000/3,000 feet

Lifts: 11 (2 T, 2 HSQ, 2 HS6, 2 G, 1 tram, 3 surface)

Day-of weekend ticket price: $169

Walk-up tickets available: Yes

Parking: Free; Lot A in Earl’s reserved for carpools of 3+ plus prize incentives for carpooling

Rentals: Yes

Lessons: Group for ages 7+, 4-6 TBD; private for all ages; with reservations

Child care: Yes, off-site

Masks required: Indoors, except while eating or drinking

COVID-19 precautions: Ski-up, outdoor restaurants; Wildcat parking lot open daily.

Notable: Snowbasin is replacing its Middle Bowl Chairlift with a high-speed six-person lift that shortens ride time from 12 minutes to less than six. Also, approximately 350 parking spaces will be added in Maples and Canyon Rim parking areas.

Operation details: snowbasin.com/2021-22-winter-season

SNOWBIRD

Opening date: Dec. 1

Acres/vertical drop: 2,500/3,240 feet

Lifts: 13 (4 D, 6 HSQ, 1 tram, 2 surface)

Day-of weekend ticket price: $155

Walk-up tickets available: Yes

Parking: Free, but reservations are available for up to $25/day; discounts for carpools of 4+

Rentals: Yes

Lessons: Yes, group and private for ages 5+; private for ages 3-4

Child care: Yes, in The Cliff Lodge

Masks required: Optional unless CDC, state or local recommendations change

Other COVID-19 precautions: Tram capacity TBA, masks recommended; grab & go dining and QR codes for placing orders; additional dining space will be created as needed.

Notable: New Fast Tracks pass/ticket add-on allows access to express lanes on six lifts (tram is excluded); installed Wyssen Towers in Mineral Basin for remote avalanche control; will begin producing 90-100% of its energy on-site via Snowbird Power Systems, which uses natural gas to produce electricity while recycling naturally occurring heat waste to warm the resort.

Operation details: snowbird.com/health-safety/

SOLITUDE

Opening date: Nov. 19

Acres/vertical drop: 1,200/2,494 feet

Lifts: 9 (1 D, 1 T, 2 Q, 4 HSQ, 1 surface)

Day-of weekend ticket price: $125 (as of 2020-21)

Walk-up tickets available: Yes

Parking: Pay parking daily ($25 for 1 person per car, $15 for 2 people, $10 for 3 and $5 for 4 or more)

Rentals: Yes

Lessons: Yes, group and private lessons for ages 4+

Child care: No

Masks required: Indoors unless eating or drinking

Other COVID-19 precautions: Grab & go food and outdoor seating options; full table service at St. Bernard’s bar, Argenta Pub and Moonbeam Lodge

Notable: Extending weekend and holiday hours, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting by Dec. 18 and switching to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. after “springing forward” in March; changing its parking pricing to reflect a two-person carpool; paying all non-tipped employees a $15 minimum wage; adding Gerry Nooney, known for his emphasis on local food and sourcing, as director of food & beverage.

Operation details: solitudemountain.com/footer/about-us/community-well-being

SUNDANCE

Opening date: Dec. 10

Acres/vertical drop: 450/2,150 feet

Lifts: 8 (2 HST, 2 Q, 1 HSQ, 3 surface)

Day-of weekend ticket price: $90 (for 2020-21)

Walk-up tickets available: Yes

Parking: Free on weekdays; on weekends, pay in lots A, B and C unless carpooling with 4+ occupants

Rentals: Yes

Lessons: Group for ages 5+, private for ages 3+, with reservations,

Child care: No

Masks required: Optional unless CDC, state or local recommendations change

Other COVID-19 precautions: New RFID chips in tickets to reduce contact in lift lines; grab-and-go food with expanded options in the deli; tickets for most activities can be purchased online.

Notable: Two lifts, one of which is a high-speed detachable quad that restores access at mid-mountain summit and expands night skiing terrain. The other expands terrain for visitors coming from the back mountain. Also, re-graded beginner terrain with three magic carpets and a new BBQ restaurant, the Lookout.

Operation details: sundanceresort.com/sundance-health-statement-on-covid-19/

WOODWARD PARK CITY

Opening date: TBD

Acres/vertical drop: 60/349 feet

Lifts: 4 (1 Q, 3 surface)

Day-of weekend ticket price: $49 (for 2020-21)

Walk-up tickets available: Yes

Parking: Free

Rentals: Yes

Lessons: With reservations

Child care: No

Masks required: Indoors unless eating or drinking

Other COVID-19 precautions: Touchless kiosk for accessing advance-purchase tubing tickets; contactless ordering at The Hive and The Grind.

Notable: New Ride With Woodward lesson package helps skiers and boarders of all abilities learn park skills; a new stage within the parkour zone will host events including film premieres, athlete speakers and live music performances.

Operation details: woodwardparkcity.com/covid19-update


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