It already snowed in Utah, which means many of us have already begun daydreaming about blissful powder turns and perfectly groomed corduroy. That inconvenient little pandemic we’ve been trundling through has our minds wandering to happy places as a coping mechanism, but hey, who doesn’t love having something to look forward to? The resorts will be open, and the lifts will spin. Praise Ullr! Despite the more rosily optimistic predictions, however, it doesn’t seem we’re going to have this global scourge anywhere near under control for the upcoming winter. A day of skiing will look a little different during the Winter of COVID.

Most of the conversations around the upcoming winter I’ve been privy to have been filled with wild speculation about altered mountain operations. Perhaps sensing the growing concern among the skiing masses, Vail Resorts has gotten ahead of the pack, attempting to allay concerns and set expectations for the upcoming season. We’ve already covered how Vail has implemented a reservation system skiers must use each day they want to ski at Park City to limit guest capacity—a concept likely to be replicated in some form by most Utah resorts—and now Vail’s detailed how the nuances of lift riding and dining will be impact your day on the hill.

Clearly not all resorts will utilize identical methods and restrictions, but it’s safe to assume some variant of this model will be in place at your favorite mountain. Employee temperature checks and health screening will be ubiquitous, and all guests are going to have to wear face coverings when interacting with staff or entering buildings, but we’re already used to that. Let’s get to the details.

Riding the Lifts

Chairlift and gondola rides will be designed to maintain physical distancing. Does this mean longer lift lines or less crowded slopes? Maybe. I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. Anyway, here’s how they plan to achieve that goal.

  • Related Parties only on each chair or in each gondola (guests skiing together count as related, so you needn’t be with your aunt and brother to have a chairlift chat)
  • Two singles can be seated on opposite sides of a four-person lift
  • Two singles or two doubles can be seated on opposite sides of a six-person lift
  • Two singles can be seated on opposite ends of “larger” gondola cabins (A bit confusing and possibly terrifying. I believe this applies to the Quicksilver Gondola and not to the Red Pine Gondola, for example)

Getting Tickets

We’ve been through this in greater detail already, but showing up to the hill to buy a day pass probably isn’t going to happen this season. Luddites aren’t going to be happy, but planning and capable use of technology are going to be paramount this season.

Eating in the Lodge

Sorry, but I refuse to repeatedly use the term “dining.” Back in my day we “ate” at the mountain. But I digress. Here’s how Park City plans to manage on-mountain eating.

  • Restaurants, including full-service sit down ones, will be open
  • Capacity will be limited and managed at entrances
  • Seating both indoors and outdoors will be spaced out
  • At quick-service restaurants, only ready-to-go hot and cold food options will be available in an effort to accommodate more people
  • Packaged beer will be available but full-service bars will be closed
  • No cash transactions
  • You can eat your own food in the lodge like the good old days!
  • Loitering will be frowned upon

Read more outdoor coverage here.