VAIL, Colo. — On Thursday morning, Vail Resorts announced its safety plan for the 2020-2021 ski and snowboard season, while also noting that only those with the Epic Pass can visit Vail Resorts locations until early December, when the mountains will open to everybody else.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, officials had to make many sweeping changes to the way the Vail Resorts' 34 locations will function this upcoming season.
Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz announced a winter operating plan in a letter to guests on Thursday morning. The letter outlined multiple changes, including:
- A mountain access reservation system will be put in place with limits on lift tickets to prioritize pass holders
- Guests will be required to wear face coverings to get on the mountain and around resort operations, including lift lines and riding on the lifts and gondolas
- Only related parties can sit together on lifts or on gondolas. Otherwise, two singles can sit on opposite sides of a four-person lift, two singles or two doubles can sit on opposite sides of a six-person lift, or two singles can sit on opposite sides of the larger gondolas
- Ski and ride schools will still be available, but with limited space and daily health screenings for instructors
- On-mountain dining will be available, but with changes
Katz said the changes are required this season to keep guests safe and healthy.
“It has been our goal to design an approach that can remain in place for all of the 2020/21 season," he said. "We do not want to be caught off guard or find ourselves needing to make reactionary changes. Striving for consistency will provide our guests, employees and communities with as much predictability as possible this season, which we believe is worth the extra effort.”
He said he understands some may think this approach is too aggressive.
"And I recognize the changes we are implementing will be an inconvenience," he wrote in the letter. "But I ask for your understanding and patience. In return, you can count on us to try and do everything we can to help keep you safe and make skiing and riding a reality this entire winter."
Pass holders will get several perks, include early season access, week-of reservations, and priority reservation days to lock in days during the core season.
Vail Resorts said individual lift tickets will not go on sale until Dec. 8. Sales will be limited based on the number of spaces available after Epic Pass holders' reservations.
The company's deadline for buying a pass at the lowest price, which usually falls around Labor Day, has been extended to Sept. 17.
The company's ski season in Colorado will begin in November for all of its local locations. As of now, these are the opening dates:
- Beaver Creek: Wednesday, Nov. 25–Sunday, April 4
- Breckenridge: Friday, Nov. 13–Monday, May 31
- Crested Butte: Wednesday, Nov. 25–Sunday, April 4
- Keystone: Friday, Nov. 6–Sunday, April 4
- Vail: Friday, Nov. 20–Sunday, April 11