(CNN) – Jenny Leveille is still planning on chasing the powder this year. Despite numerous Covid-19 restrictions in ski resorts around the world, the most avid skiers and drivers like Leveille may be able to overcome the coronavirus obstacles. But passion for the sport alone won’t be enough to propel you through the season.
A successful 2020-21 ski season requires a flexible itinerary, Type A planning sensitivity, and the financial means to do it all.
The car as a “lodge”
The 30-year-old Leveille is used to doing everything in her van – yes, including going to the bathroom – and says she doesn’t rely on the interiors of the ski resorts. In fact, she rarely uses them.
That goes well with some resorts. A press release from Ski California, which represents resorts across California and Nevada, said food and beverage options will be available this year, but will not look like previous years due to reduced indoor capacity.
The press release therefore states: “Many resorts will be promoting al fresco dining, offering take-away options and recommending the use of private vehicles as a ‘lodge’ this year.”
Chris Linsmayer of Colorado Ski Country USA says some Colorado resorts are “encouraging people to use the car as their home base.” He says it might be a good place to have lunch.
But what if you don’t have a car?
Many travelers fly to or near the ski resort of their choice and then rely on shuttle services or shared ride services to get around town, to the mountain and back to their accommodations. This year, shuttle service offerings will be reduced or discontinued, leaving visitors with a difficult choice and potentially the additional cost of renting a car.
But for those who can go into the mountains, a question of access remains.
At resorts on the east coast (much smaller than their western counterparts) like Stowe and Killington, both in Vermont, getting from your car to the lodge and then back can be long and cumbersome. Ski boots weren’t made for walking.
Avid skier Tim Pham is the founder of SnowPals.org, a San Francisco Bay Area-based snow sports club for busy professionals. He considers the “car as a lodge” plan to be particularly problematic for families.
“It is a hassle to get kids in skis, shoes and clothes to get in the car and hit the slopes after the break,” says Pham.
But not all ski towns allow motor vehicles. Zermatt (Switzerland), Oberlech (Austria) and Valmorel (France) are all car-free.
Zermatt is therefore unable to propose visitors to have lunch in their cars, but the Swiss mountain village will introduce the food restrictions for Covid-19. Only four people can sit at a table and guests must be about three feet apart.
Flexibility is the key
In addition to the required mandatory face mask requirements and social distancing protocols, some resorts are pushing for weekday visits.
According to Linsmayer, Colorado ski resorts encourage guests to visit during the week or during off-peak hours. “We are fully aware that this may not be possible for people to do, but if you can, this is the best time to go to a ski resort this winter.”
“During the week there won’t be any trouble getting up the mountain and we don’t expect overcrowding on the weekend as we’ve decided to cancel all of our events for the season,” said Leif Williams, vice president of marketing at Hoodoo Ski Area in Oregon.
Of course, a mountain excursion during the week outside of the holidays is not possible for everyone.
Leveille’s flexible work schedule combined with her unique life situation – she lives with her dog in her van – means that during the week she can lace up and snowboard first thing in the morning. She can skip weekends and large crowds and still spend days on the mountain.
“If you can ski every day, you don’t like lift lines,” says Leveille.
Pham, on the other hand, who had the Mountain Collective Pass last year, won’t buy a pass this year. Although he says he’s okay with the reservation system at many resorts in California and Colorado that he checked out, he’s ultimately not happy with the protocols in place at the various resorts. He says they feel like a reflection of the “bits and pieces strategy across the country,” where states and cities are handling the pandemic differently.
Planning will be essential this season in ski resorts around the world. While many of the resorts included in the Ikon system do not require a reservation, all of Epic’s 34 North American resorts will.
Reservation or no reservation, pass holders have priority access. Some resorts are eliminating the need to sell walk-in windows, making a tough stop for skiers and drivers who wake up to several feet of fresh snow and see an opportunity.
Because mountains limit their capacity, securing a spot in advance is vital.
Deer Valley Resort, Utah, will be circumventing overcrowding this season by “prioritizing access for season ticket holders and strictly regulating the number of daily lift tickets that are only available in advance”.
“We strongly recommend purchasing one of our passport products ahead of the season to ensure you get the best value and access to our resorts this season,” Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz wrote in a letter to guests .
In the Lutsen Mountains of northern Minnesota, daily capacity additions result in a series of sold-out days. “Online reservations are strongly recommended and are required to secure your place on the mountain for selected dates,” the Covid information read on the website.
Accordingly, the high season, the week before Christmas and New Years, won’t be quite as high, but it may be more sought-after than ever. In the US, long holiday weekends are also equated with overcrowded slopes.
An Ikon spokesperson says travelers should book vacation trips now.
“If snow lovers are planning to go skiing during the vacation, I would highly recommend that they book their trip now.”
“Based on the target you have chosen, you should consult the measures announced by the resort (priority access to passport holders over reservation system, etc.) and closely monitor the situation in that state.”
Aspen, a popular upscale ski area among Europeans and U.S. residents, won’t be welcoming international visitors anytime soon, but travel restrictions haven’t made vacation prices in the area any less competitive.
A stay at the four-star Limelight Hotel over Christmas and New Years costs over $ 1,000 a night. For five-star accommodation at The Little Nell, the prices are more than twice as high. During the main holiday season, the St. Regis Aspen Resort appears to be sold out.
Plan the worst
Ski resorts have ironed out plans for worst-case scenarios across the board.
The 2019-20 season was abruptly canceled in the wake of the pandemic, robbing passport holders and putting them financially at a disadvantage. For many pass holders, buying only makes sense if you can spend enough days on the mountain. Losing months in a season was expensive.
Skiers with trips planned for mid-March and beyond this year were looking for some sort of fallback. The success of their efforts varied by passport and in some cases individually.
Epic Pass holders were entitled to a credit percentage based on how many or how few days they were able to use the pass.
Ikon meanwhile granted a discount on the upcoming 2020-21 season and nothing for pass holders who saw their season suddenly come to an end.
As the pandemic continues to rage with recent spikes across Europe and with no signs of slowing its spread in the US, resorts are proactively addressing potential closings and closings.
Dolomiti Superski, which offers a pass for its 12 ski resorts in Italy, has gone to great lengths to resolve any possible stoppages.
Likewise, Maine Pass holders qualify this season for the Worry-Free Winter Assurance program, which guarantees a total of 150 days of skiing on the Sunday River and the Sugarloaf, as well as the option to extend the value of their purchased 2020-21 season pass towards a Pass for 2021-22 if requested before December 10, 2020.
The transparency of refunds and credits can reassure some cautious skiers, but the action plans for possible Covid-related closures are insufficient to address concerns like Pham’s.
He is disappointed with the lack of a unified approach and says he is concerned that the resorts on his neck of the forest are not taking enough precautions. Pham believes that skiing in and of itself poses little risk because it is outside of it. However, he remains concerned about exposure in enclosed areas, including gondolas, hotels, and lodges.
Hope for the best
Big Sky Resort in Montana is confident the current plan enables a full ski season. It is also important that guests behave in accordance with the Covid-19 protocols.
Across the board, the two non-negotiable requirements are now well-known concepts: face covering must always be worn unless you are actively walking down the mountain and actively eating, and social distancing guidelines must be followed – on lift lines, while eating areas , waiting for toilets and more.
Ski lifts will not be fully utilized as in previous years. Rather, families or friends who travel together sit together. Singles ride alone or split up in larger chairlifts and gondolas, like in Whistler-Blackcomb.
“In terms of lift transport, we are lucky that practically all of our ski lifts are either gondolas for a maximum of 10 people, chair lifts or surface lifts. This makes social distancing a lot easier, as groups and families can stay in their own bubbles, ”explains Claire Burnet, Press Secretary for Chamonix. She didn’t answer questions about individual skiers who, in the past, had the advantage of taking a seat on a ski lift or gondola with an almost full party for convenience.
It remains to be seen how new lift protocols will affect the solo traveler, but the lines can be longer.
On the flip side, the looming uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 and air travel safety issues could ultimately mean that fighting the crowd is a moot point.
Some skiers, including parents in the Pham ski group, have decided to skip this season due to the additional issues.
Leveille doesn’t mind the protocols, however, many of which don’t apply to her snowboarding lifestyle anyway. She got through the winter last year when she first lived with her van and admits that her focus was “on snowboarding and getting on as many days as possible in as many places as possible.” She managed it after 29 days when the pandemic wiped out the season.
Leveille, who owns an Ikon Pass this year, is hoping to spend 50 days on the mountain.
Posted by Stacey Lastoe, CNN
The CNN wire
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