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Peggy Miller, vice president of operations at Arapahoe Basin, checks in skiers and snowboarders at the base Wednesday, May 27, 2020, on the first day back skiing at the Colorado ski area since the state closed all areas in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Arapahoe Basin allows 600 riders per day and everyone must wear a mask and practice social distancing. Riders must enter a lottery online 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. two days before the date requested to ski. The winners are announced the following morning. Season passes and four-pack owners enter the lottery for free and a limited number of daily tickets are sold for $99. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Colorado's ski industry has used the summer to roll out its usual early-bird deals. But in a very new reality, seller and buyer cannot say what the purchase will grant them come winter, if anything.

The 2019-20 season was cut short by COVID-19, and it's anyone's guess what next season will look like with the pandemic still at the forefront of American life. Operators looked to Arapahoe Basin as a potential model when the ski area ran lifts for less than two weeks at the end of May, limiting the number of guests and enacting protocols that changed the ultimate feeling of freedom on the slopes.

While A-Basin is selling slightly more expensive season passes — $469 for adults, $20 more than last summer — other ski areas are bucking the trend by setting costs lower.

Monarch Mountain dropped last year's early price tag by $30, with $449 adult passes available through July 31 ($399 for renewal). Monarch also announced "a guarantee" of at least 90 days of skiing in 20-21 and a promise for potential refunds — prorated returns in the event COVID-19 shuts down some or all of the season.

"For example," the ski area website explains, "if we are able to be open for only 60 days in 2020-21 due to the pandemic, you will be refunded 1/3 of the price you paid for your pass, whether you used it all 60 days, only some days or no days."

Another independent area, Ski Cooper in Leadville, is offering adult passes through July for $249, down 25% from last year. In a news release, Cooper president and general manager Dan Torsell said the move was meant "to balance helping our customers, while maintaining our financial position so that we can continue to perform and navigate through these stormy waters."

Like passes for first-time buyers, early-bird renewal rates across the board are up, down or the same as last year.

Loveland Ski Area's prices are identical to last summer ($439 for first-time adults, $359 renewals) but now they're available through Dec. 1 — "so you have plenty of time to consider what is best for you and your family," the website reads.

Vail Resorts set passes $10 to $30 more than last season ($729 for the standard Epic Local pass). The increase is similar for Colorado members of the Ikon Pass, including Winter Park ($539) and Copper Mountain ($599).

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