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A Wicked Over Generalized Look At Winter Operations For 2020/2021


As we get closer and closer to the start of the next snow sports season, we see snow sports media putting out articles and guides to just about every mountain across the country and even a few from other parts of the world. While those articles and guides are great resources, the more one reads them, the more they realize that just about every mountain is going to do the same things, all based around the COVID-19 pandemic, obviously. 

So, while it is awesome that some of the snow sports media outlets have put the time into researching what each and every mountain is going to do for the coming season, it can be safely assumed that almost nobody is going to be skiing or riding each and every mountain this season. For that reason, we are going to take a wicked generalized look at what is going to be happening for the next season.

For The Resorts Day To Day Operations

We all know that the mountain has day to day operations they have to perform, but a lot of it goes unnoticed, and at times underappreciated. This relates to ticket sellers, food service, janitorial staff, and any others that a visitor or guest might interact with for a very small percentage of their visit to the mountain. All of those jobs are essential to the daily operations of the mountain, resort, ski area, or wherever else one might happen to play in the snow. 

These folks all now have changed and/or added responsibilities for the coming the season, dictated by a combination of what each mountain has planned to operate safely in the season of COVID-19 and what the local, state, and federal agencies have set for guidelines to operate safely.

Taking a very generalized look at it all, it seems that mountains are going to be cleaning far more often, in some cases multiple times per hour depending on how public the open areas are or how often hands will touch surfaces. To that point, a lot of the mountains are looking to use touchless payment systems just about everywhere they are able to. Now, this is nothing totally new as these systems have been popping up all over the place, anyway. But, with new guidelines for safe operation, these systems are gaining popularity more and more quickly and the mountains are going to prefer that you use them. 

But, to go even further beyond what people may or may not touch and what might have to be cleaned as a result, most of the mountains will have the option to buy their day ticket in advance, which most of the mountains are requiring, anyway. More on that later, however.

As for the employees at the mountain, whether they are going to have interaction with the guests or not, many of the mountains, maybe even all of them, are going to be doing screenings of those employees. Checking temperatures and what not to make sure no one is clocking in while sick. In fact, it's likely this will be the only time that mountains are going to encourage call-outs, for the right reasons, of course. Sneaking out of work on those powder days will still be discouraged, but if an employee is showing symptoms, they're going to be asked to be safe rather than sorry.

Plus, there will also be masks and gloves being worn, along with added glass or other screens to keep employees separated from those that may have to head to a ticket window, guest service desk, or the cafeteria line for those establishments that have any of those open.

It really comes down to all of the same guidelines and rules that we have all had to follow in our day to day lives and our own jobs. The only difference here is that you are going to be seeing them from the other side. Instead of having to follow the business guidelines, you're going to have to follow the guest guidelines, which is what we are going to take a look at now.

For Those Visiting The Mountains This Season 

 You've been following all of the guidelines, anyway. If you have been to a store, out to eat, or even just exploring the local, country, state, or national park systems, you've likely been wearing your masks, possibly gloves, keeping your distance, and practicing better hygiene. Maybe even going beyond proper and frequent hand washing and jumping right in the shower to scrub down after being outside. Whatever it may be, those are the same rules and guidelines that visitors to the ski areas and resorts are going to be following, as well. 

The beauty of skiing, snowboarding, other snow sports, and outdoor sports as a whole is that they are all done outdoors. That makes it much easier for everyone to keep their distance. Combine that with reduced capacities and it shouldn't be hard to stay away from folks you don't know. Well, while one is out on the mountain, that is. Obviously, visitors are going to have to be in close proximity at some point while visiting the resort, but again, that's where the masks, gloves, and increased cleaning frequency comes into play. Also, pay close attention when in the lift line. The mountains will be asking everyone to stay spaced out when in line and to ride with the group they came with or by themself. Every mountain is going to be doing that. 

Of course, the backcountry folks won't have to deal with that nearly as much as those staying inbounds at the resorts, but still, be ready for it. One never knows where they will run into a group of people. Yes, even in the backcountry or deep woods. You'd be surprised. 

Beyond that, social or physical distancing, pick your term, will extend to all of the public areas, open dining areas, and the parking lots. With the parking lots that's going to include any tailgating or taking one's sweet time getting packed up and off the mountain. The mountains, again, generally speaking, are going to ask you not to hang out in the parking lots, especially in groups, and they want you to get the hell out of there P.D.Q.

Now, be ready for limited services. Not everything is going to be open and you'll need to be prepared for that. Bring a peanut butter sandwich in your backpack, a few bottles of water, make sure your gear is good to go and buy that day ticket online before you get to the mountain. Yes, there will be some places with food trucks as options for dining, as well as outside or reduced seating, but be ready for those things not to be there. Guidelines could be ever-changing this season, so be ready.

Oh, and speaking of buying tickets online and in advance, be prepared to make a reservation if you are a passholder, and not just for your day on the hill. Some mountains will also be having parking reservations. Not all of the mountains. Again, this is a very generalized look at what could happen, but for every mountain that doesn't have a reservation system in place, there is another that does. 

This all may seem too generalized, but it's about right.

Beyond these basic things that we are doing anyway, the mountains are going to be asking anyone, just like the employees, to stay away if they aren't feeling well or showing a symptom or two. They are also going to ask that you report it if a person picked up those symptoms after a visit to the hill.

Just so it's said, a kinda "BTW" thing here, most of these mountains will be pulling passes and ejecting people from their areas if these guidelines are not followed. It's going to be a straight zero-tolerance vibe on that, too. Nobody is going to be messing around when it comes to safe operation this winter.

Again, generally speaking, that's really what the masses are going to be looking at when heading out to the hills. But, even with that being said, the mountains are going to have some things be specific to them, meaning everyone is going to have to know what's going down at the mountain they choose to visit.

While this generalized look is a good way to be ready to go just about anywhere, once you chose a mountain to visit, please make sure you go to the mountain's website or call the mountain to get any specifics you might need to make your visit as easy and safe as possible, as well as making the mountain's and their employee's jobs easier and safer. The more we know and the more we help each other out, the better time we will all have.

Also, it might not be a bad idea to check out any resources that your state is providing for COVID-19 preparedness and guidelines. That's also good if travel restrictions still allow for interstate travel. It's always going to be best to know before you go. 

That's it. Now, if you haven't done so already, get yourself generally prepared for your mountain visit or make any other preseason preparations that you usually do. Winter is literally right around the corner. Let's all get ready!!! 

Photo Credit: Richard Ricciardi [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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