Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz has released a letter outlining the operating plans for the 34 North American resorts owned by what is now the world’s biggest ski-resorts operator by most measures.
Their resorts inventory includes many famous names in North American skiing: Breckenridge, Park City, Whistler, Stowe, Heavenly and Park City to name a few.
Among the initiatives announced are measures being adopted at most ski resorts around the world – around COVID testing of employees and guests, increased cleaning, online ticket sales only, refunds in certain scenarios, the wearing of face coverings in most locations and social distancing.
The group are also reducing capacity on their mountains and requiring all skiers to register for the days they want to ski in advance to secure their space on the slopes whilst stressing that won’t normally be an issue,
“The good news is that we operate many of the largest mountain resorts in North America, and for the vast majority of days during the season, we believe everyone who wants to get on our mountains will be able to,” says Mr Katz, whilst noting that whilst that’s the case they are also looking to plan for the busy, peak-season powder days too.
However what’s a little different to most other ski resorts is that Vail are not going to be selling lift passes for the first weeks of the season and season pass holders will have exclusive access to the slopes through this generally quiet period, including the Thanksgiving Holiday at the end of November.
“The early season will be reserved for pass holders only. We will not sell lift tickets until Dec. 8.” said Mr Katz, adding that pass holders will also get, “up to seven Priority Reservation Days” across the remainder of the season, including peak dates, before regular lift tickets go on sale to non-season-pass holders.
When regular lift tickets do go on sale therefore, the number available will depend on the number of spaces available for any given day after season pass holders have had priority to reservation the days they want to ski.
The group’s first ski area to open is likely to be Keystone on 6th November followed by Breckenridge on the 13th with Park City, Heavenly and Stowe a week later and Whistler on the 26th.
“Since the beginning of this crisis, we have made a commitment to all of our stakeholders that we will operate in a way that puts safety first and uses the insights we have gleaned from operating so many resorts around the world. This often means choosing to go above and beyond what is required in order to do our very best to provide you peace of mind,” Mr Katz says, adding that the group have tried to create operating protocols that can remain in place through the season, and adding,
“I realize not everyone will agree with our approach – some feeling we are being too conservative or aggressive. And I recognize the changes we are implementing will be an inconvenience. But I ask for your understanding and patience.”