#1: Coming Soon: Skiing Resumes at Timberline Lodge, Beartooth Basin, and More:
Let’s kick things off this week with some positive news! In recent weeks we’ve found ourselves discussing the ongoing question of which resorts will be able to reopen before their snow turns to runoff, and as we’ve learned, there’s no simple answer. Much like any other topic related to coronavirus responses, the situation is quite fluid. That said, this week we have updates from a handful of resorts that intend to reopen.
First up on that list is Timberline Lodge in Oregon, which as of today, has officially reopened for their summer season. Like other ski areas that have either reopened or planned to reopen, Timberline has implemented a reservation system which helps ensure that on-hill capacity remains significantly lower than is typically allowed. While Timberline hasn’t specifically stated their target capacity, we’ve been seeing a general range of 10-25% of typical ski traffic implemented at other resorts, so we’d expect Timberline to be within the same range. With a decrease in “supply”, it should come as no surprise that demand for access to the resort resulted in Timberline’s reservations for their first day being entirely booked within just a couple of hours. From here on out, those hoping to log a day of skiing at Timberline will have to successfully secure a reservation the day before via their online system. That system is set to open at 9am PST, and will likely be sold out within hours on a daily basis. In fact, at the time of this writing, it appears as though reservations for tomorrow have been entirely booked, meaning they were claimed within approximately 30 minutes. For more information regarding Timberline Lodge’s reopening, or to try your luck at making a reservation, check out their website.
Elsewhere in Oregon, we also caught official word that Mt. Bachelor will be reopening for season pass holders for the remainder of their scheduled season, which concludes on 5/24/20. There, season pass holders will be able to book a reservation for up to two skiers 36 hours in advance. As is the case with any ski area opening with limited capacity, competition for reservations will likely be high as the resort is only issuing 500 reservations per day. To learn more about Mt. Bachelor’s official policy, click here.
Finally, before wrapping up this particular highlight, we want to share information regarding a few additional ski resorts that plan to reopen. In Montana, popular summer ski destination Beartooth Basin has announced that they plan to open for the season on May 30th. As a reminder, Beartooth Basin is North America’s only summer-only ski operation, meaning it’s also the only ski area that wasn’t forced to close at the start of the pandemic, for the simple fact that it wasn’t open. Now, Beartooth Basin will look to begin their summer operations on schedule, albeit with Covid-19 guidelines in place. Details regarding this have yet to be announced, but will likely be shared in the weeks ahead. In Colorado, we also heard that Arapahoe Basin is pushing snow around in preparation of reopening as soon as the Governor’s restriction on skiing is lifted, hopefully on May 25th. Additionally, in a bit of a surprise update, Breckenridge representatives have also said that the resort hasn’t definitively ruled out the possibility of reopening, and that it could happen depending on the Governor’s actions as well as the weather in the weeks ahead. For more on the latest from Colorado, check out this report from The Denver Post’s “The Know.”
#2: U.S. Ski Team Looks to Get Back on Snow as International Counterparts Already a Step Ahead:
In other “back on snow” news, we caught an interesting report from Ski Racing Magazine this week that highlights the impact that ski resort closures are having on the U.S. Ski Team’s ability to train, particularly as it compares to its international counterparts. As we all know, the coronavirus impacted ski resort operations worldwide, meaning that no matter what country an athlete calls home, the ability to train on snow was greatly impacted. That is, until recently. Over the course of the last few weeks, European skiers from a range of countries have slowly been able to make their way back to the slopes to start their summer training schedules. Typically at this time of year, the American teams are overseas training alongside the Europeans at resorts in the Alps. This year, the U.S. team was scheduled to train in Norway, but due to travel restrictions they’ve found themselves confined to the domestic options. Until just this week, that’s meant that training regiments have been restricted to conditioning and dry-landing training rather than focusing on improving on-snow fundamentals as is tradition this time of year. In other words, the U.S. Ski Team has currently found themselves being a step behind in their ability to begin training for the upcoming season. Fortunately though, as we mentioned in highlight #1 this week, resorts are starting to reopen, and while capacity restrictions are in place, our assumptions are that resorts like Timberline Lodge will find a way to accommodate the needs of the ski team. For more on this story, check out the writeup from Ski Racing Magazine.
#3: Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory Shares His Shutdown Story and Discusses the Path Ahead:
If you’re sick of hearing about ski resorts closing due to the coronavirus, we’re sorry. That said, we caught a podcast this week which features an hour long interview with Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory in which he shares a plethora of interesting insights in regards to how Alterra handled the decision to close their resorts, what happened immediately after, and where Alterra goes from here. While we’ve been able to cover these topics from a birds eye view over the course of the last couple of months, hearing the captain of one of skiing’s two biggest ships recount the details of the saga is equal parts fascinating and reassuring for anyone with an interest in how the ski industry is operated at the highest levels. For example, right off the bat, it was enlightening to hear that Alterra’s considerations regarding the closure of its ski resorts wasn’t based upon the situation developing in Colorado where Governor Polis’s order to close ski operations resulted in a wave of nationwide closures. Rather, for Alterra, their concerns were centered on Crystal Mountain in Washington where its proximity to one of the United States’ first hot spots was the impetus for concern. It was while the team at Alterra was weighing options and developing strategies for operating Crystal Mountain during the pandemic that the decision was made in Colorado. That small detail shows that the team at Alterra was tuned into the situation and actively putting their best foot forward to operate their business as safely as possible. Rather than acting in reaction to policy announcements, they were proactively attempting to find ways to mitigate the risk at their resorts.
In another anecdote, Rusty Gregory shares what it was like as he fielded calls from customers who were infuriated by the resorts closing overnight. As he retells the tale, it’s clear that he suddenly found himself in an unenviable position where all he could do was listen. Ultimately, as he says, he had no choice in the matter. The closures had to be carried out, repercussions being what they may. Finally, we’ll leave you with one last quick highlight before recommending that you give the podcast a listen in full. When all Alterra resorts closed, a number of seasonal workers suddenly found themselves jobless. In an effort to ease the hardships of both the employees and the mountain communities, Alterra paid each employee for an extra week of work. The thought process was two fold: first, the employees obviously needed the money they anticipated earning, and second, by providing an extra week of income, the team at Alterra hoped it would allow seasonal workers to afford to be able to leave the mountain community and return to their homes, increasing safety for both parties. Ultimately, after listening to this podcast, and keeping in mind the ongoing philanthropic efforts of Vail’s Rob Katz, it’s hard not to appreciate the way that both Alterra and Vail have shown themselves to be stewards of mountain communities. To listen to Gregory’s story in full, check out this podcast.
#4: Ski Industry Embraces UV Light Technology to Disinfect Indoor Areas:
Finally, let’s round out the week with a glimmer of hope. Or, put more accurately, a pulsating blast of intense UV-based hope. Making headlines in Colorado this week is Breckenridge’s Grand Colorado on Peak 8. While currently closed to the public, this mountainside lodge has started working with Colorado based company Puro Lighting to use high power UV lights to disinfect its rooms. Traditionally used in hospital settings, the Puro Light is a specialized light that emits pulses of intense UV light to disinfect entire rooms at a time. At the Grand Colorado on Peak 8, approximately 50 of these lights are being used to disinfect everything from individual rooms to lobbies, pools, and even the lodge’s movie theater in preparation for a potential reopening as soon as June 1st.
So why, exactly is this relevant to the world of skiing? Well to be fair, this particular story is about the hotel industry, really, but if you’ve been following Top 5 Fridays then you’re likely aware of our susceptibility to speculation. In this case, we can’t help but combine what we know about current efforts of resorts to reopen, along with the idea that Covid-19 won’t exactly be a thing of the past come next winter, and the concept of using specialized UV light equipment as a disinfecting technique. When we mix these concepts together, we start wondering how prominent this technology will be at ski ares next season. Presently, while a handful of ski areas are learning how to successfully operate a ski area in the midst of a pandemic, they’re being forced to significantly restrict amenities such as lodges, food options, and even rental programs. Looking ahead to next season, it’s easy to see how lights such as the Puro Light could be implemented at resorts in an effort to offer as many services as possible. If, for example, these lights were installed in rental shops, it’s feasible that entire fleets of skis could be disinfected overnight and safely rented out the following day. Taking it a step further, these lights could also be implemented in retail settings by ski shops looking to continue operations. In fact, our retail store here in Stowe, Pinnacle Ski and Sports, is planning to do just that. As part of our reopening plan, we’ll be building a UV disinfecting booth where products will be routinely sanitized to ensure the safety of our customers and staff (for more on this, check out the safety page on our website). Ultimately, while we can’t say for sure, this week’s news along with our own actions leads us to believe that UV lights could be a big part of next year’s ski experience. To learn more about how Puro Lights are being used in Breckenridge, check out this report from the region’s Channel 9 News.