Last March, when the Coronavirus first swept across North America, all the ski resorts were shut down in the name of “flattening the curve”. Luckily for those of us who love to ski:
- The pandemic related closures did not come until the middle of March. This was towards the tail end of the ski season, at a time when most people who take part in multiple outdoor activities were already starting to look towards their Spring and Summer pursuits.
- As the pandemic progressed over the course of the year, experts would learn more about it. They learned how to better treat those who contract it and how the virus spread. The conclusion was made that the virus did not spread quite as much outdoors as it does indoors. Restaurants, bars and breweries would build outdoor seating, sometimes even closing sections of road so that socially distanced crowds could still drink and dine out.
It also meant that when it came to spreading the virus, skiing, an outdoor activity, would be seen as less problematic than indoor activities like visiting Santa at the mall.
To reduce the spread of COVID, Vail Resorts, the owner of the most of the top resorts in Central Colorado, would adapt three policies:
- A reservation system was implemented to limit the total number of people at a resort on any given day. Visitors have to reserve a spot at a resort ahead of time, and once a certain capacity is reached, no more reservations are available.
This keeps the crowds relatively thinner. Of course, it has its downsides. In a typical year, skiers could decide to ski at one of the resorts, or change plans at the last minute. This year that is not possible. Often times, days need to be planned ahead of time, especially for anyone that wants to ski on a Saturday, the day that the resorts are most likely to run out of reservations.
2. All indoor seating is closed.
This is perhaps the most important measure the resorts took to prevent the spread of the virus, but also the biggest inconvenience. In the lodges at lunchtime is probably where people are most likely to come into close contact with one another. However, for many visitors, it is also an important part of the day. Skiing is a cold weather activity.
Without indoor seating, it is harder to find a way to warm up on cold days.
3. The resorts adapted some interesting policies with respect to sharing lift rides.
These policies prevent people from sitting next to people outside their party, another way the virus can spread. They have the potential to cause some confusion. On a six person chair lift, for example, a party of two could join with another party of two. However, at times, single skiers have trouble determining if four people lining up for a chair are a party of four, which they can join, or two parties of two, which they cannot join.
It also resulted in lift lines being, despite the overall reduction in the number of people at the resort, typically slightly longer than they would be had it not been for the pandemic.
Breckenridge and other nearby resorts are also facing another challenge this year, a lack of snow. The snow season is off to a slow start. As of the middle of January, the snowpacks in the Upper Colorado Headwater Basin, the basin that contains Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Vail and Winter Park ski resorts, is 30% below average.
These conditions are fine for those that want to ski on groomed trails.
In fact, with less crowds, this may be a wonderful opportunity for those that wish to fly down trails like these.
However, for the types of skiing that require more snow, it can be a bit of a challenge.
Snow conditions in the upper parts of the resort, where the ungroomed bowl skiing is, is not good. The imperial express lift, which leads to the highest points at the resort, has yet to open.
Variance is a natural part of life. It can be expected in every aspect of life, from entertainment to business to outdoor activities. There are going to be some years that are better and some that are not as good. Maybe, with over 95% of the population still waiting to be vaccinated and uncooperative weather, this was not meant to be one of the better ski seasons.
The key to being able to handle variance in life is to not be one dimensional. It is to base an entire life on one thing and only one thing. It is having that other activity to turn to when those less favorable seasons inevitably occur.