Well that escalated quickly. I was skiing at Park City Mountain on Saturday afternoon, breaking my self-isolation for a bit of normalcy on the slopes—albeit with a 6-foot protective radius around myself. Yes, the resort had suspended hot food service, but things felt eerily typical for an early-spring weekend. Then I received a text message about community spread of COVID-19 in Summit County. What followed was a cavalcade of announcements from ski resorts throughout Utah they would be suspending operations on Sunday, March 15 in response to coronavirus. Just like that, ski season had ground to a halt.
The weather is getting warmer, and some people were already feeling spring fever. But there was to be another month of ski season in Utah where the ski industry and associated communities were humming nicely along even as the world outside the insular walls of winter sports began to close in. Park City announced they were abruptly suspending operations from March 15-22. Snowbird announced a similar policy. Other resorts like Snowbasin pulled the plug for the remainder of the season. I wouldn’t hold my breath the resorts merely on hiatus will be turning their lifts any time soon.
Just days ago ski resorts were optimistically marketing themselves as healthy, open-air spaces to get out for a bit during a public health emergency. The world has rapidly changed since then, and any concerns about recreating as normal seem trivial as a public health emergency has enveloped Utah, the nation and the world. As you’ve undoubtedly heard, the economy is suffering. The downturn is particularly acute in mountain communities that depend on revenue from the winter season to sustain budgets for the year.
Park City was on track to see four to five percent growth in occupancy over a banner 2018-2019 season, and is now expected to be see an overall decrease of that same amount. Restaurants, bars and stores have shuttered. Scores of hourly workers are missing paychecks as communities do the responsible thing and socially distance. The ramifications will be felt for a long time, but there are bigger issues at play right now.
Stay up to date with ski resort-related COVID-19 policies and closures here, and as always, get the latest, up-to-date information about COVID-19 in Utah by checking in with the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) over the phone at 1.800.456.7707 or by visiting their website at health.utah.gov. Stay healthy. Stay calm. Treat each other well. We’ll see each other on the slopes again soon enough.