Skiing during Covid - A review
Anybody curious how alpine resort skiing is during Covid 19? Even if you're not, I'm going to write about it anyways right now. Sorry I don't have any "covid specific" photos but I'll just include random shots of the mountain that I took during the couple of days on the hill. I skied Saturday and Sunday from open until about one hour from close both days. This was at Mammoth Mountain which is one of the busiest weekend skiing destinations in California. There were about 1/4 of the total ski lifts open serving probably 1/10 of the terrain. Pretty big mountain with multiple base areas but early season conditions relying on man-made snow really limited the options available to work with.
So, going on a ski trip during a worldwide pandemic. How safe really was it? Well to start the day, there are no window sale of tickets for the day. Would this mean no ticket line? No, not really as they moved to a mobile/Internet order system but you still have to wait in line to pick up the ticket. Thankfully I have a pass which was mailed a couple months ago though so I was able to go direct to the lift. The lift riding and waiting system is extremely organized and safe though. Longer queues than normal due to the spread of waiting area with proper spacing. Plus no singles line since all singles ride alone. The biggest thing that was present was a swarm of lift operators dedicated as mask police. Anyone in line who had their nose poking out was IMMEDIATELY approached and corrected by the workers. While some may find this obtrusive, I found that it made me feel rather safe in a crowd of people, even if there was plenty of space for distancing.
Out on the hill, skiing was fantastic, most people already wear masks for the cold, and it was super easy to feel safe and distanced. The upper chair lifts away from the base area had zero lines and so I spent most of the days up there. So really it felt even less risky than going to the beach or taking a hike near home. I could see ski areas with gondolas/trams being VERY dangerous though. Mammoth has a gondola but it's not running to the top anyways so I didn't try it out. I had used it for biking in the summer but honestly I don't think an enclosed space like that is safe at all at this time. Open air lifts, spaced out lines, and then not using the facilities really made it feel safe.
I include a picture of the car because this was the lodge for me. And really going to the car is absolutely the only safe way to go about it. I got to the mountain about 30-60 minutes before open each day to ensure a prime parking spot where I could easily go for lunch. The most unsafe thing I saw all weekend were people on Saturday partaking in Apres ski at the outdoor bar at main Lodge. Sure they are outside but with nobody wearing masks and alcohol flowing plenty, I'm sure some covid spread had to happen there. Same goes for the lunch areas or even in the parking lot as people gathered with seemingly little care. I avoided all of this being cocooned in the car and masking up 100% of the rest of the time. But I see Apres ski and restaurants outside of the ski day being what could get the ski season shut down. They seem to have a clear handle on the actual skiing part in keeping it safe.
And that brings me to the last thing to review, lodging and traveling. Lodging was fine, the hotel had no amenities to use and the room was seemingly way cleaner than hotel rooms I usually see are. Plus it was cheap relatively thanks to people not traveling as much. I brought all of my own food which I painstakingly prepared at home to avoid even using the grocery store in the resort town. Travel to and from the mountain involved gas stations as my only interactions and I avoided public bathrooms by using the facilitrees and bottles when needed. I could not imagine trying to fly somewhere to ski so that is probably out this season. But road trips are pretty safe assuming you plan ahead and stay self reliant.
My next ski trip will be in January so we shall see how the pandemic continues to unfold and I am sure hoping for more snow too! It is definitely going to be a weird season though so honestly I'd be kinda sad if it really snows a ton. Hoping for just an "average" season so I can enjoy the days I get out there but not cry when the mountain is closed on a perfect powder day. Anyways, if anyone else is considering skiing in the pandemic, I'd say do it. Just make sure to avoid all of the normal ski vacation things. That is normal for me but I know not everyone likes the ski bum lifestyle of ski, sleep, ski.
spacekraken last edited by
@wrong-wheel-drive said in Skiing during Covid - A review:
Just make sure to avoid all of the normal ski vacation things. That normal for me but I know not everyone likes the ski bum lifestyle of ski, sleep, ski.
Perfect! This seems like very good news for me doing the same this season. Glad the snow was good and stuff felt safely organized.
@spacekraken I'm sure it will differ from ski area to ski area but hopefully areas learn from each other for best practices. The lines were arranged inconveniently as hell in some areas requiring long walks to enter the queue. I'm sure this is to maintain spacing but some people were vocal in complaining. But I think the experience from lift served mountain biking really helped mammoth prepare. They had pretty massive crowds for that and so those lessons learned have made ski season more than manageable. I'd be worried about holiday trips for sure but since I'm blacked out then, I don't have to think much about it.
spacekraken last edited by spacekraken
@wrong-wheel-drive Yeah my plan since it's a short-ish 1.5 hour drive here is to shoot for weekday afternoons, probably after the holidays have wound down. Seems like a good way to get turns in without too many people around for those lines haha!
PowderHound last edited by
@wrong-wheel-drive I went to Park City this weekend, finally got some reservations, because they are doing that. Not a whole lot open so I was only out for an hour or two.
I saw people being asked to pull their masks on and someone that had a ski mask with holes in the front that was made to put on an actual mask so that's nice to see.
It will be interesting to see how it is when more opens up and there are even more people there.
@powderhound yeah a powder day at Alta, how on earth is that gonna be a socially distanced activity? I'm assuming the ski bus isn't a thing as that is the first thing that comes to mind. I know on powder days last season just before covid hit hard, I was on a bus headed to Alta with a hundred other people on board packed in face to face. And then powder day lift lines and the craziness of it all is a damn zoo. This will surely be the season of people getting into back country skiing I imagine. But with that comes many other dangers of the unprepared and unskilled venturing into some real danger. I enjoyed my one backpacking adventure that felt extra safe thanks to @HammerheadFistpunch being my ski touring guide. But I'd imagine enough people new to the activity might not go with a good guide or even just go it alone with other unexperienced friends. And that is much more likely to end poorly than any covid encounter.
PowderHound last edited by
@wrong-wheel-drive I'm not sure if they are doing ski bus or not. I know they are monitoring parking lots and not letting cars up if the lots are full.
I've already heard some horror stories of the amount and lack of skills of people in the back country. We haven't had much snow so far so it's thin but setting up a nasty faceted base layer for when we do get the goods.
HoustonRunner last edited by
We were planning family skiing in Santa Fe the week after Christmas, but are ditching that now. We bought the full passes (plus version even so we could book over the holidays) and VRBO house, but also trip insurance with a cancel for any reason adder. We will only get 75% back (unless the fine print includes travel restrictions), but we knew it was a calculated risk. I think we could ski safely even with kids, but we can’t get the places to ski safely from Houston.
We will keep the passes and hope we can go in late spring, but we may just lose this season. I’m bummed after getting my own boots for the first time for Christmas last year and only getting to use them twice.
functionoverfashion last edited by
I think I'm getting a portable, collapsible ice fishing hut with a propane heater, to open up behind the car for our "base lodge." We have friends who bought a big Sprinter van for the same reason, I'm totally jealous. I just hope we can get out there. One of our local hills is restricting access to town residents only (it's a town-owned rope tow) which is devastating, the kids LOVE it there and we only live a couple towns away - they're trying to keep out weekend people, we live in a town with a grand total of 11 cases so far... it's too bad we can't go because it's not US they're trying to keep away. Hopefully we can find reasonable ways to get on the snow. We didn't buy passes anywhere and I can't see buying 4 full-day full-price tickets to ski for an hour, which is all the kids last some days.
@functionoverfashion yeah its gotta be real tough with kids under these conditions. For me im always going solo so it's not really a big deal. Just slightly more expensive since I can't stay in hostels and even shared space Airbnbs. Not that there are any Airbnbs at mammoth anyways, but that is a different problem. I'd definitely like to have a van, id use it for full on lodging rather than just a day Lodge. Then I'd have no problem making a trip out to Utah too since it would be so easy in that case. But it's not in the cards to go drop money like that now. But for Covid 28? Probably a good idea to plan for that!
facw last edited by facw
@wrong-wheel-drive My thoughts from Stowe:
- Ticket lines longer than expected given that it was pass holders only. I guess people picking up their pass (not sure if they could mail these, since they need to take a photo, though I guess they could use last year's for returning Epic members)
- No lines at lodges, rental shops, etc. They were set up for them though, and I imagine on busier days there will be.
- They were scanning passes to enter the buildings (as I understand it, this is to fulfill Vermont's contract tracing requirements)
- People were eating in the lounge (this seems like a bad idea to me, but it certainly wasn't packed)
- New lift rules were being followed (the only unrelated parties allowed are two singles on the opposite sides of a quad).
- Because they had eliminated the single's line, they were often sending quads up with just a single person, since they had to rely on two singles happening to reach the end of the maze at the same time.
- I only rode the lift with another person on my first trip and he asked if I was comfortable with riding with someone else.
- The mazes were separated with "dead" aisles between the lines, except where they merged.
- The fact that Vail prefers hand scanners to gates means you do have to get within 6' of the person doing the scanning, but there's still good distance (especially for someone like me who keeps their pass in the their glove). Outside I don't think this is a big deal.
- Lift lines were generally short and moved reasonably quickly on the first day, but on the second day the express quad was closed due to wind, and the triple they had open on the main mountain really couldn't handle the number of skiers trying to use it.
- The mountain gondola wasn't open yet due to insufficient snow on those slopes, but the gondola running from the mountain to their village on the other side of the notch (and a secondary peak there) was fine. Felt very wasteful to be a single in cars that presumably load 6-8, but at this point the line was manageable. Given that cars were lightly loaded, I think they could have been running it through the station a bit faster though, felt like it took an eternity for the next car to come along.
- I saw one guy completely unmasked on the slopes, but everyone else had their mouths and noses covered. Given that they have a people scanning at each lift, and at the main lift had people at the start of each maze queue directing traffic, I'd expect people who didn't mask up would get weeded out pretty quickly.
- I saw some shuttle busses running (pretty empty), but I don't know how that would work at peak season.
- Booting up at my car was sub optimal (I think it might be better if they set up some benches in the parking area), but I've done it sometime even pre-covid when I didn't want to deal with the crowds at the lodge, so I guess I can manage.
- The hotel I stayed in was more expensive than I expected, even though occupancy seemed low (judging from cars, I'd guess they were around 25% capacity). Obviously pool/hot tub/bar were shut down. Breakfast was provided in the form of a snack basket rather than at the hotel lounge/restaurant.
Anyway, overall it was a good experience. Felt like people were generally being safe, and aside from the wind related problem, things weren't too crowded. Have to see how things progress as the season moves on. Vail has capped attendance at the Epic resorts, but who knows if they're capping at levels that keep things reasonable. The only eastern day I've seen sell out was the Sunday after Thanksgiving at Stowe, but I suspect that had very low capacity given that the snow wasn't really there. I understand they are getting a lot of days filled up out west.
@facw Careful with the pass in your glove thing, that was how I ended up breaking my pass one year. I didn't find out until a powder day at Alta while waiting for the lift to open. Then I get to the front and it's not working. I take out the pass from my glove and it has cracked down the center! Now I only ever keep it in my jacket chest pocket and seen no issues since then. I feel like I've been transported to the stone ages when at a mountain with the guns and paper passes to scan instead of gates. Sounds like you've got similar concerns to me, that this is fine for now but at peak season this could potentially all fall apart.
facw last edited by
@wrong-wheel-drive The pass sits pretty flatly across the back of my hand, so I think it's unlikely to break (though I guess I could be wrong!). It's probably not necessary with Vail's hand scanners, but I do like it for the places with gates, which sometimes seem super flaky about reading passes, so it's nice just to be able to put the thing right on top of the reader. I guess we'll see if I learn the hard way, but hasn't been an issue yet.
Vail says they like the guns because they create more personal interaction (which I guess normal people enjoy). It also means they can scan before you get to the lift, which means if someone has an issue (say a broken pass), they don't block the entire lift maze, just the part they are in, they can pull people from other queues to keep things running at capacity. It does seem like it has to be way more expensive to have people checking passes though. And yeah paper passes feel really outdated, I was at Attitash last year, and they were still using them for single day tickets even though they had had scanners for Epic pass people, which seemed odd. Pat's Peak still had paper as well, but for a small resort that seems more normal (also in a half a dozen visits there over the past few years, I think they've checked my pass exactly once, which is a pretty good customer experience).
@facw Yeah it was the taking it in and out of the glove that did it in. Since the zipper on my glove pocket is in the center of the glove like a coin purse, you kind of have to bend it a little to get it in and out. I was taking it out in order to dry the gloves at the end of each day so that the pass wouldnt get cooked by the heat. Ive got a glove/boot dryer that works wonders but Id worry about putting electronics like that into contact with it.