Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz today announced the company’s 2020/21 winter operating plan in a letter to guests, which outlines their approach to operating its 34 North American resorts this season.
“We are fortunate that our core experience of skiing and riding takes place outdoors, across huge mountains, offering fresh air and wide-open spaces for our guests. However, to help protect our guests, our employees and our communities amid this pandemic, some changes will be required this season,” said Katz in his letter.
“It has been our goal to design an approach that can remain in place for all of the 2020/21 season. We do not want to be caught off guard or find ourselves needing to make reactionary changes. Striving for consistency will provide our guests, employees, and communities with as much predictability as possible this season, which we believe is worth the extra effort.”
Outlined in the plan include key changes to season pass use, ticket sales, ski school, dining, lift operations, and a mandate that guests wear face coverings on the mountain and in all parts of resort operations, including in lift lines and riding in lifts and gondolas.
Mountain access will be managed through a reservation system and limits will be placed on lift tickets to prioritize pass holders. Pass holders will be required to make a reservation before arriving at the mountain. For more details on the reservation system, click here.
The early season, which is set to begin with Keystone opening on Nov. 6, weather permitting, will be reserved for pass holders only. Lift tickets will not be sold until Dec. 8 and will only be sold online and through call centers. No lift tickets will be sold at the resort ticket windows.
Throughout the season, pass holders will be able to make as many week-of reservations as their pass type and availability allow. Families will be able to book reservations together if they are in the same pass holder account.
To maintain physical distancing on chairlifts and gondolas, only related parties (guests skiing or riding together) will be seated together or: two singles on opposite sides of a four-person lift; two singles or two doubles on opposite sides of a six-person lift; or two singles on opposite sides of larger gondola cabins.
Ski and ride school will be offered. All employees will be required to undergo health screenings before they arrive at work while all participants will be required to undergo an online self-health screening prior to their lesson. This season, group and private lessons will be limited to a maximum of six people.
On-mountain dining will be open, with changes. Full-service, sit down restaurants will operate with reduced seating, spaced to enable physical distancing. Large, quick-service restaurants will be reconfigured to have a cafeteria-style approach, with single-direction traffic flow. There will also be outdoor seating available.
Packaged beer and wine will be sold at most locations, but there will be no full-service bars, on or off the mountain.
Vail Resorts has stated they do not believe convening in a traditional bar setting, anywhere in the resort or throughout their communities, is safe amid COVID-19. Finally, all transactions at Vail Resorts will be cashless.
Employee housing will continue to be provided, where available, with additional safety protocols in place, to be announced. Due to challenges with hiring international workers due to restrictions on the J1 visas, Vail Resorts is heavily recruiting in resort town regions to provide local employment opportunities. “We have found interest among students who have more flexibility now due to online learning or deferring college attendance for a year,” says Johnna Muscente, director of communications for Vail Resorts.
To give guests more time to consider the changes, the company’s Labor Day deadline for pass purchases has been extended to Sept. 17, including the deadline to use pass holder credits from last season.
“There is no doubt this season will be different but we are committed to what matters most: working to protect our guests, employees, and communities and doing everything we can to provide great skiing and riding all season long,” Katz concluded in his letter.
This article originally appeared on Powder.com and was republished with permission.