2020-21 Tahoe ski season during Covid-19 coronavirus

As of September 12, 2020 we are about ten weeks away from the start of the 2020/21 ski season which typically kicks off during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and the question on the minds of many skiers’ and snowboarders’ is:

What will the 2020-21 Tahoe ski season will be like during coronavirus with resorts implementing COVID-19 safety measures?

Tahoe area ski resorts indicated that cleaning and sanitation will increase in frequency and rigor and that physical distancing and masks will be required in indoor areas, base areas, lift mazes, on chairlifts and on shuttle buses.

Only related groups can ride together on chairlifts; there will be occupancy limits at indoor spaces and on shuttle buses, and Ski & Ride School will operate with reduced capacities.

Most resorts will have a reservation system to limit resort and slope-side capacity. Resort visitors will be required to make a reservation before arriving at the mountain. Resorts will limit the number of people allowed on site daily. Many will require you to buy your lift pass and book your time on the slopes at least a day in advance; you can no longer just show up on a powder day and buy lift tickets the day of.

Those with season pass will still need to reserve slope-side days. Resorts will likely sell-out for several days in advance especially on powder days. How does Epic Pass resort reservation system works?

Also as many transactions as possible will be conducted online prior to arrival to reduce interactions.

Tip for fresh POWder days & holiday weekends:

Plan ahead by making reservations if you want to ski on a holiday weekend, since resorts are limiting their visitor capacity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Megan Michelson, a reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle, details what Tahoe ski season could look like during coronavirus/COVID-19:

“Winter sports can still happen in the COVID era. Skiing and snowboarding are relatively well suited to a viral outbreak. They take place outside, generally away from others, and skiers are used to wearing face coverings and gloves. But life at ski resorts — assuming they’ll be able to open safely this winter — will not look the same. Many resorts were able to open for limited summer operations, like biking and hiking, and Southern Hemisphere ski resorts in places like Chile and New Zealand opened with strict COVID guidelines. With guidance from public health experts, California ski resorts are now working on reopening plans and how to best protect guests, employees and ski-town communities.

“Things will be different this winter, but we are a highly adaptable industry, having faced droughts, excessive snowfall and road closures,” says Katie Hunter, director of sales and marketing at Sierra-at-Tahoe. “We believe that winter outdoor recreation, when practiced safely, will be a source of healing for people.”

Goggle tans no more
Masks will be required at most ski resorts in congested areas. Vail Resorts — which operates Tahoe’s Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood — is requiring face coverings in designated zones, like inside the lodge, in lift lines and in ski school corrals. “Just as other tourist destinations have required, we must ensure that face coverings are not optional if you are walking around with a drink or snack in your hand,” Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz wrote in an open letter to guests.

Proper masks are preferable to the standard skiers’ Buff. “Synthetic fibers like those in a Buff are technically not as good as a cotton mask, which has more three-dimensional structure to block the potentially virus-laden droplets more efficiently,” says Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of medicine and an infectious disease specialist at UCSF. “But in community mask wearing, fit and convenience trump quality of the mask. For skiers, it’s perfectly fine to use the neck gaiter if it means you will wear it when you need to.”

Give a ski’s length in line
Physical distancing guidelines will also be in place. You’ll find signage and marked spots on the ground to remind you to give at least 6 feet of space while you wait for food, rentals, lifts and other services. You’ll load chairlifts and gondolas only with those in your existing group. (Singles will likely need to ride solo or with empty spaces in between.) Lift lines will inevitably move slower and stretch farther in length.

In the lodge, you’ll find signage that could indicate one-way traffic or specific doors for entering and exiting to eliminate congestion. Yes, everything will take a little longer, but that’s OK. Take a deep breath and be thankful you’re out there.

What day is it anyway?
While everyone used to live by traditional Monday-through-Friday work and school schedules, with schools and jobs going remote, expect to see more crowds midweek and less of a hustle on weekends. With many city dwellers relocating to the mountains with remote jobs, the typical Friday-night traffic flow to Tahoe may be reduced. Best news? If you’ve already relocated to the mountains, your kid can now ski for PE on a Monday and you can squeeze in a midday powder session between Zoom meetings.

Plan your ski days ahead of time
Ticket sales may be capped to limit the number of skiers on the hill each day. Homewood, for example, plans to limit season-pass sales and cap daily lift tickets during peak periods. So this is not the season to spontaneously go skiing. Plan well ahead and purchase lift tickets online and in advance.

“When there are capacity restrictions, you can expect advance registration systems,” says Adrienne Saia Isaac, spokesperson for the National Ski Areas Association. “Ski areas will be responsible for creating clear, up-to-date messaging across their channels, and skiers and riders will need to check the ski area’s website before they hit the slopes to learn about whatever local regulations may be in place.”

Lunch will be served on the tailgate
Ski-town and on-mountain restaurants are pivoting to offer more takeout and outdoor dining options. Think grab-and-go windows, food trucks and patio seating. You’ll still be able to enter lodges and order food, but you’ll find more heat lamps and outdoor firepits to encourage you to dine alfresco. You’ll also see a lot more people packing their own lunch and eating at their car or slopeside condo. In towns like Truckee or South Lake Tahoe, gone are the days of weekend crowds surging popular bars and restaurants. You’ll order food and drinks to go and bring it back to your cabin.

“For skiers, many settings are low risk — particularly those in the open air and while enjoying the slopes,” says Chin-Hong. “One area that is especially at risk is the après-ski setting at the lodge where people may be eating, drinking. I would avoid that area if possible and take your hot chocolate outside or back to your room.”

Goodbye, carpooling
Carpooling to the mountains with people not in your household is a thing of the past, so you may see an uptick in cars heading from the Bay Area to Tahoe. When in the mountains, you can still ride public transportation like buses or on-demand rides to the ski hill, but plan on wearing a mask, sitting far from others and keeping the windows open. Most likely, you’ll be driving your own car or staying close enough to the mountain that you can walk to the lifts. Before you go, check resorts’ apps or websites for up-to-date parking and transportation tips.

Lifties gone robotic
Resorts are moving many services to digital to reduce face-to-face contact. Take Sugar Bowl. The resort has invested in radio-frequency identification scanning gates at all primary chairlifts for this winter, as well as new self-service stations for other services to promote contactless transactions. It’s official: Gone are the days of human ticket checkers scanning your pass in line. This winter, you’ll purchase or reload your lift ticket, sign up for ski lessons and talk to guest services online or via the resort’s app.

You can always cancel
New cancellation policies and beefed-up refund guarantees are now in place to give you peace of mind in case the ski season gets shut down due to COVID or you need to cancel plans for any reason. Vail Resorts introduced Epic Coverage, which comes free with every Epic Pass this season, to provide refunds for certain resort closures, as well as job loss, illness or injury. Ikon Pass — which works at Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain — now comes with Adventure Assurance to let you defer use of your pass for any reason to next year.

Sierra-at-Tahoe has a Play it Forward Guarantee that lets you credit this year’s pass to next season due to any unforeseen circumstances, and Homewood’s new guarantee offers prorated refunds on passes if the mountain is forced to close before March 1 due to non-weather events.

Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows has tentative plans to open on Nov. 25. “Our team is doing everything we need to do to be ready to offer skiing and riding for the upcoming winter season,” says Ron Cohen, president of Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows. “We are planning for a dynamic environment, building a full set of tools to be able to best respond to whatever comes our way, so that we can continue to offer outdoor recreation to all of our dedicated skiers and riders.” – SF Chronicle.

Looking to join a shared ski lease or are you a ski lease organizer? We’re trying to gauge sentiments, consider sharing your input with the following survey..

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Survey questions created by Mike K., ski lease organizer.


Ski resorts opening dates and operations are contingent on state and local public health restrictions and guidelines during the pandemic; read the latest on COVID-19 pandemic emergency alert to see what businesses are opened:

City of South Lake Tahoe

EL DORADO COUNTY

North Tahoe/Truckee, CA

Placer County Reopening Requirements

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

“The Tahoe-Truckee region is governed by 6 counties, a city, a town, two states, and the federal government. This can create a lot of confusion even when we aren’t operating under COVID-19 restrictions. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers.

Keep in mind, guidelines and laws are changing almost daily; check the latest update at

https://takecaretahoe.org/covid-19/

Every ski area around the world is taking stock as to whether they can operate safely and financially viably this winter in a pandemic. So far the vast majority are deciding yes, but a few have decided “No” – keep track of rolling ski resort updates as they pertain to COIVD-19 restrictions.

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