The magnificent Rockies, Tetons, Olympic, and the Adirondack Mountains are already decked out in their winter whites, signifying the start of another ski season. This year, resorts across the United States will be doing more than just revving up the snowplows, as they adopt new Covid-19 standards to ensure a safe opening and season. Of all, skiing is already a spaced-out, outside sport with built-in social distancing, so virus or no virus, staying away from individuals cutting within six feet of you is generally a good idea. This could mean that, other than longer and further lift lines (be patient, everyone), the adrenaline rush that skiers and boarders are looking forward to returning to will be much the same this year. The champagne-soaked après ski parties will — wisely! — be taking a year off, so those who love to maximize off-hours of a ski vacation will have to cool their jets.
Here’s what you need to know this year, both on and off the slopes.
Invest In a Pass Before Going
Since many ski resorts are demanding advanced online reservations this year, investing in a multi-mountain pass like Ikon, Epic, or Mountain Collective is a wise option, as pass holders gain priority booking possibilities for peak-season holidays and long weekends. The Epic pass gives you early access to online bookings for all 34 Vail resorts, including Vail, Park City, Breckenridge, Stowe, and Whistler Blackcomb. Tickets are issued on Wednesdays for the following week. Passholders can usually reserve as many days as they want, depending on the pass they bought. Ikon’s 44 partner resorts, including Jackson Hole, Taos, and Big Sky, are following the same procedures, with tickets now available online. As of this writing, Aspen/Snowmass does not require bookings but instead encourages customers to utilize the Aspen Snowmass App to buy lift tickets, sign waivers, and rent gear, allowing them to spend lesser time in the ticket booth and more time on the mountain.
Another reason to acquire a pass is this: Both the Ikon and Epic passes contain new insurance that guarantees refunds if a peak needs to close or a passenger needs to cancel a booking due to the positive Covid result. Ikon Adventure Assurance and Epic Coverage are two options for Ikon Adventure Assurance and Epic Coverage.
Stay Safe on the Slopes
Gondolas and Lifts
Face masks will be needed for loading/unloading gondolas and chairlifts across the United States of America, and Canada and riders will be loaded in families and groups that feel comfortable together. The gondola cabins will be sterilized at least twice a day, and the windows will be left open to allow for maximum airflow. While lift lines may be longer than usual, the fewer people swooshing downhill will provide for a more tranquil and safe experience, making it easier to get away from the restless powder hounds.
Ski Schools and Group Lessons
Instructors and participants in ski schools and group classes will be subjected to testing and online health assessments, and class sizes will be limited to six or fewer. Because many worldwide borders are still closed, instructors from Latin America, Australia, and South Africa who normally chase powder to the Northern Hemisphere will be absent from the slopes this year, as mountains will rely significantly on local expertise.
Early Access, a new, unguided first tracks program at Big Sky Resort in Montana, will allow visitors to board the base lift at 8 a.m. (one hour before public access), allowing for more spacing around the mountain and alleviating morning base area congestion. From mid-December through mid-March, lift tickets and season pass users can purchase Early Access, which must be ordered online in advance.
To avoid the crowds and locate the best snow, know all about the snow, guests can take a 10-minute helicopter ride to over 200,000 acres of skiable high-altitude terrain with Auberge Resorts Collection’s The Lodge at Blue Sky helicopter experiences.
Want Total Privacy?
Plattekill Mountain in the Catskills is providing the chance to buy out the entire mountain and its 38 trails for a private club of skiers, snowboarders, and snow tubers.
Many ski resorts, such as Aspen and Jackson, require multiple flights. JetBlue and Southwest will begin offering nonstop flights to Telluride from Boston Logan Airport, JFK Airport, and LAX later this year.
Expect additional grab-and-go food options, as well as more outside seats, some with heaters and some without. All resorts will follow their state’s laws for indoor eating and will keep track of the number of persons in lodges at any given moment. Lunch lines will be redesigned cafeteria-style at most of the large, quick-service restaurants, such as Two Elk in Vail, Miner’s Camp in Park City, and Pioneer Crossing in Breckenridge. Guests will come in, move through a single line, and past all of the food options until they reach the cashier. Masks are necessary at all times inside restaurants, except for when seated at a table and eating. Several are also revamping their smartphone apps to include order-ahead options to help space out the lunch rush. This year, Park City, Stratton, Vail, and several other resorts are going cashless to reduce unnecessary touchpoints. Because indoor lodges will have limited dining options, extra layers and warmers will be useful if you need to eat outside on a particularly chilly day when your toes become numb after one run.
Rather than keeping ski lockers, many resorts are requesting guests to leave excess gear in their cars. Equipment rentals, like lift tickets, will be scheduled ahead of time to avoid crowding in rental shops. Transactions are likely to be cashless.
The Scenes Off the Slopes
The traditional holiday ritual of rounding up a fantastic day on the slopes with rounds of hot toddies, champagne bottle service, and DJs spinning Mariah’s best and ’80s throwbacks will be appropriately toned down this year. Table bookings, to-go cocktails, an after-hours bar carts will replace bar service in hotel hallways. Because indoor eating capacity varies by state, you must check with your local government for the most up-to-date protocols before traveling.
However, you will be able to toast your powdered runs with your quarantine pod, as long as you wear masks around others and don’t be a jerk, as the 2020 motto goes. Here’s a look at what après and off-piste activities will be like in several of the country’s most popular ski resorts.
The annual party at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro has been postponed for the year. The restaurant will revert to its original status as a cozy European-alpine bistro this winter. Instead of the usual six-figure champagne bill, this means days of warm fondue, charcuterie, raclette, and spiced wine to enjoy with friends. (Doesn’t that sound appealing?)
Pre-dinner cocktails, light bites, and after-dinner nightcaps with live music will be available at Firefly, a new live music lounge, and restaurant club. The space will be made cozier by a crackling fireplace, marble bistro tables, glass light fixtures, and a curated art collection.
The Little Nell’s Chair 9 après-ski lounge is being transformed into an intimate wine bar with exclusive reserved seating for up to eight people. The servers, all of whom are qualified sommeliers, can help guests navigate the wide wine-by-the-glass menu, which pairs well with the charcuterie and cheese boards.
Guests at Auberge Resort Collection’s Hotel Jerome can take a horse-drawn carriage tour through Aspen’s silver mining town, accompanied by a historian, thanks to a relationship with the Aspen Historical Society. (For four individuals, the cost is $325; for six, the cost is $425.)
Featuring black-leather banquets, string lighting, and pop-up wooden tables, the high-altitude Mountain Village has cleverly adapted its surplus gondolas into 8 heated dining cars. Various eateries will occupy the pop-up throughout the winter, offering a rotating menu of après and supper specials.
Imagine how sore Olympic athletes are after a day of skiing. Gus Kenworthy, an Olympic freestyle skier from all around the US, explains his crucial recovery rituals at the Madeline Hotel & Residences’ new après recovery room. Muscles are eased with Hyperice, Normatec, and Hypervolt therapies, as well as a skier-curated cool-down playlist.
Park City, Utah
Nothing sounds cozier than wrapping up and snowshoeing through a secluded snowy wilderness until arriving at The Lodge at Blue Sky’s cozy mountain yurt, where sizzling pots of fondue and toasty wine await. (The cost is $225 per person, with a limit of 10 people.)
Cross-country skiing at Grand Teton National Park will be a terrific opportunity to escape crowds and enjoy a new aspect of the mountains, with towering mountains and more than 14 miles of groomed Nordic tracks. Anvil Hotel has teamed up with a licensed naturalist guide to take guests on a four-hour private snowy excursion complete with a lecture on winter ecology and fauna. Following that, Death & Company Black Powder drinks are offered at the hotel’s Glorietta Trattoria.
While Yellowstone National Park was among the busiest tourist destinations in the United States this summer, the park is almost deserted in the winter, with ranger-led tours of Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, and the frozen bison accessible on sleds, snowshoes, and heated snow buses.
The Finger Lakes area is home to lesser-known, peaceful, and less-crowded mountains, with the tallest mountains between the Rockies and the Adirondacks. Snow-ga, a practice conducted on snowshoes that employ ski poles for balance, releases tight muscles before or after skiing at Finger Lakes Yogascapes. Go to Bristol Mountain’s slopeside waffle house or The Cannery for outdoor fire pits, local beers, and artisan whiskey if you’d rather ease your muscles with warming carbohydrates and beverages.
The new hot ski-in/ski-out Umbrella Bar between the base lodge and lift area at Windham Mountain in the Catskills offers grab-and-go drinks and rotating craft beers.