Single on the Slopes: Small-Town Dating Amidst COVID

PARK CITY, Utah. — Dating in a small town like Park City can be hard enough as is – it can feel like everyone already knows each other. Add in a pandemic and things get really grim.

Almost a year into life rearranged by COVID, it was time to see how some single Parkites had adjusted their dating strategies and what had changed in the local dating scene.

An anonymous single who is 31 said, “Dating in Park City, in general, is really difficult. Even in non-COVID times because there are so many transient people who are in and out and not looking to date…But COVID was definitely tough.” When the social climate isn’t conducive for singles meeting sporadically at events, concerts, or going out, what choice is there but to turn to dating applications, she said.

Apps like Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble have gained popularity in recent years as a reliable source for dates. During COVID, these apps have seen an increase in users. Isolated or within pods, local singles (and singles everywhere) have turned to meet people online. Anonymous said of her experience switching to heavier reliance on dating apps, “It’s definitely been hard because I like to meet people more organically.” She said she used dating apps to meet, chat, and eventually, meet for socially-distant activities such as hiking or skiing.

Melissa G., age 34, said she had encountered another dilemma related to dating during a pandemic: “…COVID made it so uncertain [that] everyone started to form their pods and wanted to be careful. And so, it was when you considered going on a date you really had to consider, am I willing to expose my pod?” Melissa has had Zoom, skiing, and dog-walking dates after meeting potential suitors on Hinge.

A silver lining to dating in a pandemic could be the justification for asking more forward questions in the getting-to-know-you phase.

She said, “…you have to ask more kind of revealing forward questions. You’re not wasting your time, and I think it’s a good thing. I think then you’re not just surface level and going on a date every single night. You’re trying to get to know someone or at least some of their ideologies before you meet them.”

Parker D., age 24, had deleted dating apps from his phone, but with the onset of COVID, redownloaded them to meet people. He said he observed tourists are often active on apps while visiting, which can be disappointing to a local.

“I have run into a few people that have changed their location to Park City for the weekend they’re in town,” he said. “Oh, they’re literally just here from New York for the weekend…and you just traveled here…and you’re just spreading [COVID].”

In winter months, both Parker and anonymous said they’ve taken more of a laissez-faire approach to dating and have dialed back on the apps. Outdoor dates are simply harder to execute in the harsher winter weather. It’s tough out there in the dating world. It’s even more tough in a pandemic when trying to balance personal and pod health while looking for love.

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