Face coverings, reservations and not every seat filled on the Queen
By Mark Reaman
There will be a ski season in Crested Butte this year…at least that’s the plan with Crested Butte Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts. The CBMR season will run from Wednesday, November 25 through April 4, 2021. As you might expect given the COVID-19 situation, this upcoming season will be different.
Vail Resorts sent out a letter to potential guests and pass holders Thursday from CEO Rob Katz and he outlined protocols being put in place to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Basically, skiers and riders will need to make a reservation to access the mountain chairlifts, face coverings will be required, chairlift rides will include physical distancing requirements and while the restaurants and ski school will be open, they will be open with restrictions.
“We are fortunate that our core experience of skiing and riding takes place outdoors, across huge mountains, offering fresh air and wide-open spaces for our guests. However, to help protect our guests, our employees and our communities amid this pandemic, some changes will be required this season,” wrote Katz.
The highlights of the protocol announcement include:
• Guests will be required to wear face coverings to get on the mountain and in all parts of resort operations, including in lift lines and riding in lifts and gondolas.
• To maintain physical distancing on our chairlifts and gondolas, we will only be seating related parties (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 our larger gondola cabins.
• Ski and ride school will be offered and on-mountain dining will be open, but with changes to help keep guests safe.
Mountain access will be managed to ensure guests have the space they need. As such, the Company announced a mountain access reservation system and limits on lift tickets to prioritize its pass holders.
For Crested Butte, we asked what the reservation system and maximum number of people allowed on the mountain on any given day meant. CBMR senior communication specialist Will Shoemaker said details are still being worked out and a final plan is a work in progress. “There are a variety of factors we will use to determine capacity, which are still being worked on internally and in discussions with our local communities,” he said. “For the vast majority of days, we will be able to accommodate everyone who wants to visit – but this helps us ensure we can keep everyone safe no matter when they come.”
He did say the number of lifts and amount of terrain open on any given day will play a role. “There are a variety of factors we will use to determine capacity. Regardless of how many people are skiing and riding this season, we will follow our historical practice of opening as many lifts and as much terrain as soon as possible to allow for the mountain experience our guests have come to expect,” he said. “Also, while we have designed our winter operating plan to comply with and at times exceed all known applicable laws, our operations will remain subject to the local regulations.”
Pass holders can start making reservations online beginning November 6, 2020, for the Core Season (from December 8, 2020 to Easter, April 4, 2021). Each pass holder can make seven reservations for anytime in the upcoming season at that time. After that, Vail Resorts will release reservation inventory for the upcoming week based on conditions and terrain availability. So you won’t be able to log on November 6 and make reservations for every day of the ski season and then pick and choose what works for you. Basically for the most part, you’ll be making reservations no sooner than a week in advance. Those with an Epic Pass or an Epic Local Pass will be given the same priority and the holder is bound under the restrictions associated with that particular pass. He said additional direction will be provided by early November.
“Pass holders can make as many ‘Week-Of Reservations’ during the Core Season as their pass type and availability allow. At the same time, pass holders will be able to plan ahead for a big trip or a long weekend by reserving up to seven Priority Reservation Days for the core season (Dec. 8 – closing day) before lift tickets go on sale on Dec. 8,” he explained. “Pass holders also will be able to make as many reservations in Early Season as available, based on capacity and pass access. These reservations do not count towards pass holders Priority Reservation Days for the Core Season.”
Shoemaker said if someone no longer plans to use their reservation, they may cancel by 12 a.m. of their planned ski date. “The earlier they cancel their reservation, the more likely that a fellow skier or rider will be able to use their spot to enjoy the mountain,” he confirmed. He also said the plan was being set up to prioritize pass holders. However, if a pass holder continually makes reservations and doesn’t use them, there may be some sort of consequence. “We’ll ask pass holders to cancel any days they don’t plan on using, and we’ll be monitoring for those we believe are abusing the system. We will share additional details around cancellation policies prior to the start of the season,” he explained.
As for uphill skiing on the mountain, Shoemaker said, “Uphill access is expected to be similar as last season outside of operating hours, with uphill beginning after lifts close and no later in the morning than 8:30 (and skiers/riders beginning to return to the base no later than 8:45). No uphill access or carrying skiing or riding equipment during operating hours. Snowshoeing or hiking on designated trails away from open skiing/riding terrain is being reviewed.”
The Company’s Labor Day pass purchase deadline has been extended to Sept. 17, including the deadline to use pass holder credits from last season.
“There is no doubt this season will be different but we are committed to what matters most: working to protect our guests, employees and communities and doing everything we can to provide great skiing and riding all season long,” Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz concluded.