Slope Report: Locals Weigh in on Season’s Start

Lifties are busy. Besides their usual safety concerns and cries of “Don’t duck that rope!” they’ve added new refrains: “Please pull your mask up!” and “Are you comfortable riding together?” 

Pandemic skiing is underway, bringing new protocols and added responsibilities for employees and fun-seekers alike. 

While Vail Resorts’ new reservation system has been a frustrating time-suck for some, most Parkites acknowledged that the real culprit this year has been Mother Nature. A lack of early snow has prevented the opening of much terrain at all local resorts. And fewer open lifts and runs means fewer reservations available.

At Deer Valley, Canyons and PCMR this month, locals discussed what was working and what wasn’t, and generally expressed appreciation that the mountains are open at all.

“I’ve had zero issues so far getting dates I want,” said Parkite Ruth Gonzalez, who has been skiing Canyons every other day. “People are following protocols and I think they’ve done a fantastic job to be able to keep the season open.”

Cami Richardson, a Canyons employee who has already skied Vail, Brighton and Snowbird in addition to all the local resorts this year, said daily precautions upon arriving at work include health surveys and temperature checks. Richardson said that other than lift loading being tricky with spacing out or combining single riders, she believed that systems were working pretty well.

The new measures are designed to avoid the dire situations occurring now in Europe, where Covid-19 outbreaks have shut down skiing throughout the Alps. If people can agree on anything in 2020, it’s that no one wants that here.

Parkites said they feel safe on the mountain so far, and the vast majority of people are keeping their masks on, though lift lines appear the same as usual rather than more spaced, perhaps because people feel their skis or boards provide natural spacing.

This year, little things like grabbing snacks or beverages or hitting the bathroom are the big things. Pop-up restrooms were added near Red Pine Lodge at Canyons and near the Silverlode lift at PCMR to lessen crowds inside existing buildings. Backpacks are much more common on the slopes this year as some opt out of entering lodges or restaurants and BYO their supplies. 

For now, locals aren’t spending entire days on the mountains, just stopping in for a few quick turns, saying a full day of the same couple of runs would be boring. 

Deer Valley skier makes a rock star fashion statement
The snow was excellent and lift lines were short at Deer Valley Dec. 13 – and this skier was not getting lost in the crowd.

However, the Epic pass reservation system doesn’t accommodate partial day reservations. If it did, more locals would be able to ski, since they could book in smaller time chunks and free up space for others. 

“I wish there was a checkout button on the app so on full days, people who ski afternoons only could go when other people leave,” said Parkite Christi Grisham.

Jessica Miller, senior communications manager for Vail Resorts, said the new system, like the season itself, is evolving and urged pass holders to do their part to free up reservations by canceling if they can’t get to the mountain.

“We understand plans change, but if our pass holders repeatedly miss or cancel week-of reservations (or Priority reservation days booked within two weeks of the reservation date), they may lose the privilege to make reservations in advance for a period of time,” she said. Ideally, people should cancel before 12 a.m. on the day of their reservation. 

Other than frustration with reservations (and hours spent on hold on the phone) Parkites said the resorts are trying to make people happy and doing the best they can in bizarre circumstances.

“Inconvenient skiing is still better than no skiing at all,” said one skier at Canyons  Monday as he declined to ride the Sun Peak chairlift with strangers and allowed a single skier to pass him in the lift line.

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