I’ve never been a huge fan of gondolas. Sitting in a cramped, stuffy box with an overhyped loudmouth who has seemingly no control of where his ski poles are at a given moment is unpleasant to begin with, and the thought of adding airborne particles of unknown origin to the mix amid a pandemic isn’t helping. So, I’ll be skipping gondi rides with strangers this season, but that won’t be the only unique thing about the 20/21 ski season. We’re here to help you pull off a successful ski trip even as a deadly illness rampages across the globe. I can hear you already. “Gee, thanks. But skiing doesn’t seem that important right now.” Well, dear reader, some of us have thrown our lives away in the service of this meaningless pursuit, and we’re not about to let a little thing like an unprecedented public health crisis get in our way. Like everything in 2020, an avalanche of uncertainty means we don’t know exactly what the ski season will look like, but clues from southern hemisphere resorts like Perisher point to reduced capacity, limited food and drink service and understandable fear of indoor spaces. They’ve informed these five tips for enjoying the pandemic powder and a COVID ski vacation.

TIP #1: PLAN AHEAD, BUY A SEASON PASS & AVOID PEAK TIMES “In this economy? Are you nuts?” Yes. And probably. Capacity is going to be an issue this winter. Park City Mountain implemented a Byzantine reservation system for all skiers, but even under Vail’s restrictions season pass holders will get first-right-of-refusal priority over other guests. Other resorts are enacting their own crowd-control measures for the season. Regardless of where you want to ski in the Beehive State, you’d be wise to plan as far ahead as you can, and think strongly about avoiding typically busy periods like Christmas and MLK weekend.

TIP #2: STAY SOMEWHERE WITH A KITCHEN  “Haven’t VRBO and Airbnb destroyed the housing and lodging structure of ski towns?” Yes, they have, but now that a pandemic has turned indoor dining spaces into terrifying enclosures of airborne infection, having a full-sized kitchen is wonderful. Sure, takeout can be great, but being able to quickly whip up some breakfast before heading to the mountains can save a lot of stress and money.

TIP #3: HAVE RENTAL EQUIPMENT DELIVERED TO YOU  “Mustn’t one endure the indignities of aloof, inattentive service for overpriced, mid-quality, rental equipment?” Thankfully no, as the rental world is evolving. Companies like Ski Butlers and Black Tie Skis will conduct fittings and deliver skis, snowboards and boots directly to your hotel room, condo or vacation rental. They even offer a slopeside delivery service for those who are really serious about keeping their lodging hermetically sealed. The more crowded indoor spaces you can avoid the better. skibutlers.com, blacktieskis.com

TIP #4: SKIP THE LODGE WITH POCKET SNACKS “Won’t I miss the indulgent feeling of paying $26 for a burger without fries?” Probably not. Ski lodge food has taken the express line to boujie town in recent years, and resorts have sternly discouraged skiers from brown bagging lunch in their buildings. This is our chance to reclaim the ski lodge lunch for the proletariat in the name of public health. Everyone already knows PB & J sandwiches are better once the bread is smashed nice and thin. Pocket bacon wrapped in tin foil is an excellent pick-me-up to get through a powder day. Best of all, monogrammed flasks will be making a comeback for jump-starting your après session. We’re here to feed ourselves, not the bloated corporate overlords who have taken over skiing.

TIP #5: TRY BACKCOUNTRY SKIING WITH A GUIDE “Are the lift lines going to be longer or shorter?” Yes. I honestly don’t know which though. Take lift lines out of the equation altogether by heading into the backcountry. Doing so on your own would be daunting and dangerous, but going with a guide service can be safe, fun and inspiring. Many guide services throughout Utah lead human-powered backcountry tours, where you’ll breathe fresh mountain air far from the possibly-contagious masses. It’s difficult getting to the top under your own power, but well worth the effort. The powder is far better beyond the resort boundaries.

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