Skiers on a lift at Stowe Mountain Resort, pre-COVID
Skiers at Stowe Mountain Resort this winter must make a reservation before hitting the slopes, one of several new protocols intended to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Vail Resorts, the Stowe slope’s Colorado-based parent company, announced the measure on Thursday, along with other changes to riding the lifts, hanging out in lodges and buying tickets during what will be an unprecedented ski season.
The new rules affect the company’s 34 North American resorts, including Stowe, Okemo and Mount Snow in Vermont.
“I realize not everyone will agree with our approach — [with] some feeling we are being too conservative or aggressive,” Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said in a statement. “And I recognize the changes we are implementing will be an inconvenience. But I ask for your understanding and patience.”
The reservation system will limit the number of skiers on the mountain each day. Those who buy an Epic Pass, the resorts’ season ticket, will be able to request seven “priority reservation days” and can maintain seven reserved days throughout the season. They’ll also be able to reserve days ahead of each coming week.
All lift tickets will be sold online or over the phone only; no sales will be made on the mountain, though ticket windows will be open to distribute passes. By purchasing a single-day pass, one has effectively placed a reservation for the day chosen. If passes are unavailable on a certain day, the mountain is booked, though the company expects to accommodate “everyone who wants to be on our mountains” for “the vast majority of days during the season.”
Stowe is scheduled to open on November 20, Okemo on November 21 and Mount Snow on November 14. Single-day lift tickets go on sale December 8, though Epic Pass tickets are available now.
Face coverings must be worn at all times, except when “actively eating” inside. Skiers and riders are encouraged to wear them even while coming down the mountain.
Most restaurants are expected to open, though with capacity limits. Full-service bars will not be open.
Groups and family members will be seated together on lifts, but restrictions will be in place for people who don't know each other. Two singles will be seated on opposite ends of four- or six-person chairs, or on far ends of larger gondolas. Physical distancing will be enforced in lines, as well.
Vail Resorts said it is reviewing its uphill policy and has yet to announce if it will be allowed or under what conditions.
Thursday's news is the most comprehensive update from the company since mid-March, when it closed all of its resorts as the coronavirus began to spread nationwide.
“There is no doubt this season will be different, but we are committed to what matters most: working to protect your safety and wellbeing and providing you with great skiing and riding this winter,” Katz wrote. “I hope to see you on the mountain.”