Vail Resorts has released answers to the biggest question looming over the mountain resort industry as of late: “What’s the plan for this winter?”
A letter from Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz details universal plans for all 34 of the company’s North American resorts. Katz said the goal is to design an approach that can remain in place all season. “We do not want to be caught off guard or find ourselves needing to make reactionary changes,” said Katz. “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.”
The key elements of the plan:
Face coverings will be required in every part of the operations, which includes loading and while riding chairlifts and gondolas; when inside all buildings; and during all ski and snowboard lessons. No one will be permitted on the mountain without a face covering. The company is also encouraging the communities where its ski areas operate to require face coverings at all indoor and outdoor public spaces.
Reservations will be required to access the mountain for both passholders and day-ticket purchasers to control crowds and maintain safe physical distancing. Lift tickets will only be available to purchase on Vail Resorts websites and through its call centers. No lift tickets will be sold on-site.
Passholders will have priority. Several details for this process are outlined, but keys include:
– Throughout the season, pass holders will be able to make as many week-of reservations as their pass type and availability allow.
– The early season will be reserved for passholders only. Lift tickets won’t be available to purchase until Dec. 8.
– In addition to week-of reservations, passholders can also book up to seven Priority Reservation Days for the core season (Dec. 8-April 4), or as many days of access as they have on their pass if less than seven. The booking window for Priority Reservation Days will open Nov. 6 and will be exclusive to passholders until Dec. 7.
Employee and dependent passes will be exempt from the guest reservations system and will enable mountain access at any time, with the exception of traditional blackout restrictions when there is limited terrain open.
To maintain physical distancing on chairlifts and gondolas, only related parties will be seated together (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 larger gondola cabins.
Katz acknowledged that riding a chairlift is in the open air and is often short duration, but added “… in the current environment, we do not believe it is appropriate to seat guests from different parties directly next to each other, given the dynamics during loading and unloading, during chair stoppages and due to the proximity between guests as they ride the lift, speak to each other, speak on the phone, eat, and adjust their clothing,” he said.
Katz said VR is committed to opening all on-mountain restaurants this season. To allow for physical distancing, resorts will be managing the number of people in restaurants in accordance with public health requirements and will monitor guests coming in and out of restaurants at the entrances. Sit-down restaurants will have reduced seating capacity, food options in quick-service restaurants will be just a handful of ready-to-go hot and cold options and no ability for any custom or special orders. More outdoor dining spaces will be added, and guests will be encouraged to bring their own food and drink.
Ski and snowboard rental shops will have managed capacity in accordance with local regulations, and be set up to allow for physical distancing and appropriate guest flow. Guests and employees will be required to wear face coverings, and for the portions of the process that require close interactions with technicians, employees will take additional precautions, including wearing eye protection and gloves. Equipment will be fully sanitized between each guest use, and rental delivery service will be expanded.
All ski and snowboard school participants will be required to undergo and confirm an online self-health screening prior to arriving at the mountain for their lesson. Lessons must be purchased in advance. Class size will be limited to six people. Specific details and procedures for certain class types for children are still being determined and will be announced as they are finalized.
“I realize not everyone will agree with our approach—some feeling we are being too conservative or aggressive,” said Katz. “And I recognize the changes we are implementing will be an inconvenience. But I ask for your understanding and patience. In return, you can count on us to try and do everything we can to help keep you safe and make skiing and riding a reality this entire winter. While it will be a little different than we are used to, we are very optimistic it will be a great season and the welcome respite we all need right now.”
Read the entire letter at vailresorts.com.