The ski industry is gearing up for peak season, and resorts throughout the country are facing a number of noticeable changes.
The country’s largest ski resorts are reimagining typical ski experiences to mitigate crowds and follow coronavirus-related mandates. Most are limiting the number of skiers and snowboarders on the mountain, requiring reservations for dining at on-mountain lodges and ensuring that all guests wear masks.
To draw in visitors while scaling down surplus demand, ski operators are doing away with day-of tickets and prioritizing season pass holders.
Alterra Mountain Company, for example, will offer its Ikon pass holders access to the mountains without advance reservations, although the ultimate discretion will be left to its 15 resorts. The company, which is one of the two largest U.S. ski conglomerates, took steps to make sure that it will reduce ticket availability for the busiest ski weeks, including President’s Day weekend, according to CEO Rusty Gregory.
“There are several things we put into a calculation as to what we think is a capacity at peak to maintain social distancing,” Gregory told FOX Business. “Some resorts, depending on their geology or topography or where there buildings are in relation to some ski lifts have more room for people to stay in the lines than others. Some resorts have quads or gondolas while others have two-person chairs. Each one of the resorts has a number that we are internally managing to.”
Competitor Vail Resorts, which services Epic Passes, is requiring pass holders to reserve spots to ski at its 34 resorts but without a cap on the number of ski days that can be booked based on their pass type. Slots will need to be placed at least a week beforehand and will depend on availability.
The pandemic punctured the ski industry last season, amounting to losses of $2 billion and thousands of workers left unemployed because of the lockdowns. While resorts are bracing for fewer guests this season, they're hoping to prove that the sport is still safe.
There has been an influx of more locals than usual because long-distance traveling has slowed because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases and variant strains.
“The trend that they are noticing here at Deer Valley is that people are not traveling from near and far like they normally would, but people are still coming here from driving distances to go skiing,” FOX Business’s Grady Trimble told Varney & Co. “There’s still interest in this sport, which is something you can do while social distancing.”