California Ski Resorts Begin Reopening Plans Amid COVID-19 Surge

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California officials have placed the state’s counties into more restrictive tiers after the sudden spike of coronavirus cases, covering reopening protocols for businesses and restaurants but leaving ski resorts in limbo.

Several ski resorts, including Mammoth Mountain and some Southern California establishments, have reopened their doors to the public for the season. Ski resorts in Tahoe are preparing up for their reopening days, and lifts could start moving again this coming weekend. The resumption of services also come after a storm had just delivered nearly a foot of snow to the Sierra Nevada.

The state’s situation is similar to what was experienced at the beginning of the pandemic in March, where resorts closed down due to the threat of the virus. The spread of the infection and order to stay at home came at the time when the biggest storm of the season hit the mountains.

However, the main difference now is that ski resorts are better prepared to handle customers amid the coronavirus pandemic. Officials have noted that they have taken the necessary precautions to ensure the public’s safety and keep the spread of the virus in check. The decision comes amid the lack of COVID-19 guidelines specifically tailored for ski resorts.

The California Department of Public Health said on Monday that they have continuously reviewed and assessed scientific data to properly update guidelines. The department said that it would revise its guidelines when information regarding ski resort-specific information has been made available and noted that establishments are not permitted to reopen before then, the San Francisco Gate reported.

Despite the department’s warnings, several ski resorts have opted to reopen to the public with stricter protocols to protect people from the virus. Mountain High in Wrightwood reopened on Sunday morning with reduced capacity. The resort’s management said rentals and lessons would not be available due to safety concerns and noted the lodge would be closed.

Officials of the San Bernandino County resort decided to suspend their reopening after four of their employees tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week. However, management released an online message on Mountain High’s website that they would reopen once the situation has become safer.

Running Springs’ Snow Valley resort is scheduled to open its doors to the public after the last 48 hours brought 18 to 20 inches of new snow. The resort’s officials said, “In the COVID-19 era, lift lines will move much more swiftly at Snow Valley because its six-person chairlift will safely accommodate the whole family and groups that arrive together.”

Officials said they would not be providing rental and lesson services but noted they were working on bringing them back eventually. The resort would also not be accepting cash payments for on-site purchases and would only allow customers to eat in outside seatings, the Times of San Diego reported.

The president of Ski California, Mike Reitzell, said there had been dramatic changes ski resorts have taken due to the coronavirus pandemic. Interested customers would most likely have to book in advance to get a limited number of tickets available.

With state officials moving back counties to more restrictive tiers after a surge of coronavirus infections, citizens should expect a different indoor experience. However, Reitzell said that outdoor activities would more or less stay the same.

In Colorado’s ski country, officials require visitors to wear face masks at all times within public areas such as lifts and gondola lines. However, activities such as skiing, snowboarding, and dining, would allow participants to remove their masks but still maintain social distancing.

The director of marketing and communications for the National Ski Areas Association, Adrienne Isaac, said the ski industry began to prepare protocols for the pandemic in the spring. He said, “We knew it was going to be different,” noting the need for better practices that would keep customers safe, USA Today reported.

Danielle Joyce Ong

Danielle is a local journalist with a passion for exploring stories related to crime and politics. When Danielle isn't busy writing or reading, she is usually exploring the great outdoors and all the hiking trails in the Bay.