While most of the lifts in the Alps are currently closed, the new ski season is starting in North America. But the winter 2020/21 will also look different in the USA and Canada. We have taken a closer look at the corona strategies of North American ski resorts. In some aspects the rules are similar to those in the Alps, but in many points they are stricter and go far beyond the European measures.
Limited number of on-mountain guests
The minimum distance in the USA and Canada is 2 meters or 6 feet. In order to make social distancing easier and to avoid large crowds, the ski resorts limit the number of guests allowed in the resort or on the mountain. This limitation is implemented, for example, with reservations and online tickets.
The option of buying ski passes online has long been more widely used in North American ski resorts than in the Alps. For the 2020/21 season, however, many ski resorts are now converting their ticket sales exclusively to online offerings. In order to be able to manage the number of guests, the resorts offer a limited contingent of day tickets. According to the well-known "first come, first serve" rule, these are only sold online in advance. So if you want to ski, you have to plan ahead and secure ski passes in time. This applies for example in the Vail Resorts, Kicking Horse, Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley.
In contrast to the limited day ski passes, season pass holders have unlimited access in almost all ski areas. At the Vail Resorts, which include ski resorts such as Whistler Blackcomb, Park City and Vail, season pass holders must reserve their ski days in advance. However, they are allowed to book before everyone else and they are also allowed to be the first on the slopes. Because the early season is reserved exclusively for season pass holders.
Another option to manage the number of guests in the ski area is a parking reservation system. If you want to visit the ski resort, you have to reserve a parking spot in advance. Only then the arrival is allowed - no matter if as a day guest or with a season pass. Mt. Bachelor in Oregon or Copper Mountain in Colorado, for example, work with this system.
Especially in smaller ski resorts, however, it is still possible to buy tickets directly on site on the day of skiing. Jay Peak in Vermont near the Canadian border, for example, is banking on the fact that travel restrictions and quarantine regulations will keep the number of visitors within limits of their own accord and that additional restrictions through ticket sales will not be necessary.
To ensure that guests can be spread as widely as possible throughout the area, individual ski resorts such as Le Massif in Quebec have moved their opening date back to offer more slopes and lifts from day one.
Restriction of lift capacities
The limited number of guests allowed in the ski area is to avoid long queues at the lifts. However, there are also stricter rules regarding the loading of the lifts. Who arrives together, e.g. as a family or group, may also use the lift together. In most skiing areas, individual winter sports enthusiasts do not have to ride with people they don’t know. They are seated either alone or with free seats between the passengers.
In Vail Resorts, for example, two individuals are allowed to sit at the respective ends of a 4-seater chair, in 6-seater chairs two pairs are also allowed on opposite sides. In gondolas also only 2 singles are allowed on opposite ends of the cabins. In Aspen, too, the lifts are occupied by a maximum of two people who do not belong to a group.
Although this rule is not formulated as specific in all ski resorts, most of them point out that nobody has to ride the lift with someone who is not a member of his crowd. In addition, there are also general capacity restrictions. Ski Santa Fe in New Mexico, for example, will only operate its facilities at a maximum of 25% capacity.
No mask, no service
In terms of mandatory masks, the rules in North America are similar to those in the alpine ski areas. In indoor areas such as restaurants, lodges, ski rentals, etc. a face covering must be worn. In most ski resorts, wearing a mask is mandatory even when queuing at the lifts and while riding on the lifts, at least in chairlifts and gondolas.
Some ski resorts even go so far as to make it compulsory to wear a mask on the slopes. The only exception in the ski area where the mask may be taken off is when eating or drinking. This regulation applies in New Mexico, for example, in the ski areas Ski Santa Fe and Angel Fire Resort.
If there is an obligation to wear a mask in the skiing areas, then this applies to everyone without exception. "No mask, no service", is the credo for most of them. Those who do not adhere to this will be punished particularly consistently in the Eaglecrest Ski Area in Alaska. A Two Strike Rule applies here: the first offense means a 14 day suspension, the second strike means you are banned from the ski resort for the entire season.
A difference to the mask obligation in European countries is the rule for children. In many Canadian and US-American ski resorts, children must wear a mask from the age of 3, in other regions the obligation applies from the age of 5. In Austria, Italy and most of the Germany, children must wear a face covering from the age of 6 years, in France the obligation to wear a mask only applies from the age of 11 years.
Lodges and restaurants open with restrictions
Mountain restaurants remain open in most ski resorts, but operate with capacity restrictions of up to 50 percent. The focus is increasingly on take-away food, and often the food can be ordered online or via app. In addition, there will be more seating in the outdoor areas.
Visitors are advised to spend as little time as possible in the restaurants and cabins. For this purpose, for example in the ski resort Loveland in Colorado, there is no more free WiFi in the lodges.
Know before you go
As with the corona measures in the Alps, the same applies in North America: the pandemic is constantly evolving. The rules and measures in the ski resorts are being adapted accordingly. You can find detailed information on the websites of the ski resorts.
Stricter than the ski resorts in the Alps
We know that for Europeans ski trips to North America are unlikely this season. Due to the high infection rates, the German Foreign Office currently advises against touristic trips to the USA. In Canada there are currently even travel restrictions for foreign nationals. Nevertheless, a look at the Covid-19 strategies of the ski resorts is worthwhile, especially as a comparison to the alpine skiing areas.
In the European ski areas there are likewise social distancing restrictions, mask obligations and disinfection measures. The biggest difference to the North American ski resorts, however, is that there are no capacity restrictions. These are not yet mandatory in any Alpine country. Online ski passes are now increasingly available in larger ski resorts, but primarily to avoid queues at the ticket windows. A regulation of the number of guests on the mountain is thus not yet taking place.
While the ski season in the USA and Canada is gradually starting in these weeks, the ski resorts in Austria, Italy, France and Germany will be closed in November as part of nationwide lockdowns. Only in Switzerland the ski season is currently still ongoing.