When are Utah ski areas opening and what do you need to know to play during a pandemic?

Alta ski patroller Christal McCrary is lowered to the ground as patroller Randy Hartwig belays her during lift evacuation training at Alta Ski Area in Alta on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020.

Alta ski patroller Christal McCrary is lowered to the ground as patroller Randy Hartwig belays her during lift evacuation training at Alta Ski Area in Alta on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Anticipation for Utah’s upcoming ski season is high, with resorts making meticulous plans during the COVID-19 pandemic to maintain safety on the mountain for visitors and employees alike.

Starting Friday, Park City and Brian Head will be the first of Utah’s 15 ski resorts to welcome winter sports enthusiasts back for another season of the “greatest snow on Earth” after the coronavirus outbreak forced a premature end to last season.

With months to observe how the pandemic took hold of the nation, resort managers have had lots of time to plan how to run their operations effectively while still providing an exceptional environment for patrons to have fun as well as stay safe.

“Our ski areas closed the weekend of March 14 last season resulting in the longest offseason in the history of skiing in Utah,” said Nathan Rafferty, Ski Utah president and CEO. “The upside of that is resorts started preparing for this ski season on Monday, March 16, so we’re as prepared as any (to reopen).”

Speaking during an online panel discussion this week, he said the National Ski Area Association has worked diligently since the pandemic started to create “a playbook” to give resorts nationwide guidelines and standards to follow when they reopen this winter.

“We’ve taken those playbooks and we’ve customized them to individual areas based on the health department and the guidance that we’ve had throughout the state,” said Davy Ratchford, general manager of Snowbasin Resort in Huntsville, Weber County. “In the case of Snowbasin, we presented that several months ago to the health department (and) we got two thumbs up. We can continue to evolve and create new plans and procedures so that we keep our guests safe and our employees safe.”

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He said ”the name of the game” is to find ways to effectively run the ski areas while with reduced visitation.

“Some of the ski areas have done things from reservation systems to parking reservations to limit visitation, to paid ticket reduction — which in the case of Snowbasin is what we’re doing,” he said. “Managing the flow as much as possible is key and doing it with the guidelines that we’ve had in place …. socially distancing, wearing masks — everything that we’ve been preaching since March 16 when we closed until today.”

Resorts have thought long and hard about how to provide a positive experience for visitors while keeping safety as a main priority, he said.

“We’ve created multiple slopeside dining options. When you come up, you socially distance to get food and then have your food on the go outside,” Ratchford said. “These are going to be incredibly useful to us not just for this season but beyond. COVID has helped to create an environment of innovation throughout the resort also with the mindset of keeping people safe.”

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Source:: Deseret News – Sports News

      

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