As Colorado ski resorts finalize pandemic operating plans for the upcoming season, one policy seems consistent across the state — no masks or vaccinations required for outdoor areas.
“To my knowledge, not a single case was contracted last season at any ski area through outdoors contact. There’s nothing there,” said Bob Nicolls, owner of Monarch Mountain.
But indoor areas remain a different matter from resort to resort. Aspen Skiing Company, for example, is requiring proof of vaccine to check into hotels and before sitting down inside full-service restaurants.
“We want to provide the healthiest environment possible in order to give us the best shot at remaining open for the season and providing a safe work environment for our staff and the community at large," Aspen Skiing Co. President and CEO Mike Kaplan said in a Thursday news release.
Similarly, Vail Resorts — with properties including Breckenridge, Keystone, Beaver Creek and Crested Butte — implemented vaccine requirements for visitors gathering inside "quick-service, cafeteria-style restaurants." But vaccine proof isn’t required for Vail’s sit-down restaurants, since customers are spaced more, nor its hotels.
Aspen's announcement cited a rise of COVID-19 infections around Pitkin County and the state. This month, Colorado saw its most coronavirus-related hospitalizations of the year.
“Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is not required to ski or ride at our resorts, or to ride on a lift or gondola — only in our indoor, quick-service, cafeteria-style restaurants,” Lindsay Hogan said previously via email. “It’s also not required to eat at outdoor restaurants or indoor full-service restaurants.”
In an email to Epic passholders, Vail stated: “Consistent with many other large-scale indoor activities and venues, we believe the vaccine requirement is important for the protection of our guests and our employees, given the number of people using these facilities and the fact that guests will not be wearing face coverings while eating and drinking. This is currently the only part of our experience that will require proof of vaccination, unless required by local public health.”
Most resorts are requiring all employees be vaccinated. Others are strongly encouraging it and reporting a majority have elected to get the shot.
“We’re trying to get as many of our staff vaccinated as possible,” Nicolls said.
“We’re certainly recommending it, and about 62% of employees have,” said Davey Pitcher, owner and CEO of Wolf Creek Ski Area. “Seems like every week, someone who was on the fence decides to get the vaccine. Those who aren’t have to wear face coverings at all indoor spaces, even if it’s not public.
“We don’t have any intention of doing anything more than limiting the seating capacity in our busses, and people on busses or shuttles have to wear masks … We’re not going to be confrontational if it seems like they’re not coughing or hacking.”
Wolf Creek opened Oct. 16 and Arapahoe Basin Oct. 17, so the 2021-22 ski season is officially underway.
“At this time, for the 2021-22 winter season, there are no requirements or restrictions for Arapahoe Basin guests related to COVID-19,” said Arapahoe Basin spokeswoman Katherine Fuller via email. “That said, we follow the guidelines of Summit County Public Health and the state of Colorado, meaning regulations could change at any time.”
Araphoe Basin is having a little fun with attempts to get more skiers vaccinated. It's offering a free bloody Mary, beer or soda to those who get vaccinated on site Oct. 29 and 30.
Most resorts have also gotten rid of reservation systems used in 2020 to limit capacity, including for parking areas.
“But we do recommend buying tickets online ahead of time,” Pitcher said. “That worked out quite well last year. … So we’ve posted all these rules and encourage folks to look at them, but they’re subject to change at any time.”
A Winter Park spokesperson said the resort was in the process of finalizing its COVID-19 operating plan and expects to publish it next week.
A list of website links to the major Colorado ski areas, where available, is below:
Gazette features writer Seth Boster contributed to this story.