Vail Resorts announces COVID-impacted operating plan for 2020-21 ski season

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Ski industry giant Vail Resorts on Thursday unveiled its operating plan for the upcoming ski and snowboard season that includes reservations, physical distancing on chairlifts and face coverings amid COVID-19.

Vail operates 34 resorts in North America — including three in the Lake Tahoe region, Northstar, Heavenly and Kirkwood — and said they are committed to safety and the winter operating plan is an “outfront approach with the goal of ensuring a safe, enjoyable and successful season.”

“We are fortunate that our core experience of skiing and riding takes place outdoors, across huge mountains, offering fresh air and wide-open spaces for our guests,” said Vail CEO/President Rob Katz in a press release. “However, to help protect our guests, our employees and our communities amid this pandemic, some changes will be required this season. It has been our goal to design an approach that can remain in place for all of the 2020/21 season.

"We do not want to be caught off guard or find ourselves needing to make reactionary changes. Striving for consistency will provide our guests, employees and communities with as much predictability as possible this season, which we believe is worth the extra effort.”

Key changes outlined in the plan include:

  • Guests will be required to wear face coverings to get on the mountain and in all parts of resort operations, including in lift lines and riding in lifts and gondolas.
  • To maintain physical distancing on our chairlifts and gondolas, Vail will only be seating related parties (guests skiing or riding together) or: two singles on opposite sides of a four-person lift; two singles or two doubles on opposite sides of a six-person lift; or two singles on opposite sides of our larger gondola cabins.
  • Ski and ride school will be offered and on-mountain dining will be open, but with changes to help keep guests safe.
  • Mountain access will be managed to ensure guests have the space they need. As such, the Company announced a mountain access reservation system and limits on lift tickets to prioritize its pass holders.

“For the vast majority of days during the season, we believe everyone who wants to get on our mountains will be able to,” Katz said. “However, we are not planning for the majority of days, we are planning for every day of the season. We want to provide assurance to our guests that we will do our very best to minimize crowds at all times – be it a holiday weekend or the unpredictable powder day.

"We believe this approach will help ensure a safe experience for everyone, while prioritizing access for our pass holders.”

Full details on the pass holder reservation system can be found here. Pass holders receive:

  • Exclusive early season access (lift tickets will not go on sale until Dec. 8)
  • Pass holders will be required to make a reservation before arriving at the mountain.
  • Access all season with week-of reservations
  • Priority reservation days to lock in days for the core season before lift tickets go on sale
  • Easy-to-use reservation system

To give guests more time to consider the changes, the company’s Labor Day deadline has been extended to Sept. 17, including the deadline to use pass holder credits from last season.

Vail plans to kick off its North American ski and snowboard season with Keystone in Colorado opening on Nov. 6, weather permitting.

Heavenly Mountain Resort and Northstar California plan to open on Nov. 20 with Kirkwood Mountain Resort opening Dec. 4, weather permitting.

The company said it plans to open all terrain and lifts as soon as possible.

“There 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,” Katz said.


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