8 Rules for Skiing This Season

As an activity in the Covid-19 era, skiing has a lot going for it — it’s outdoors, people naturally distance by spreading out all over a mountain, and they’re used to covering their faces. What’s tricky is everything around skiing: renting gear, waiting in lift lines, sharing gondolas and chairs, crowding at mid-mountain restaurants, socializing at après spots.

And so mountain resorts across North America are adjusting their operations to the new reality, from restricting the daily number of skiers and riders to modifying schedules — Jackson Hole, Wyo., for example, will load some lower-mountain lifts earlier so guests can spread out faster.

Naturally, skiers and riders are perplexed: What will the experience be like? If you decide to go for snow, here are a few tips to help you make the most of this unusual season.

This winter, forget about impulse decisions to waltz in for a few runs: Many resorts won’t have walk-up ticket sales and reservations will be key for almost everything from lifts to rental to lunch.

Similarly, check what your planned area’s policies are on distancing in lift lines and whether they will be loading the lifts in a way that lets skiers from different groups remain separate.

With several major airlines getting rid of change fees, many skiers are securing cheap flights, just in case. Similarly, you can book many accommodations with no-penalty cancellations that allow for last-minute pivots — a chain hotel might be more flexible than an Airbnb, but it might also feature more common areas where social distancing is harder.

It could also be a good time to join a ski club to alleviate planning headaches. “We spent the spring negotiating with tour operators for never-before terms and conditions,” Joe Gilbert, co-chair of the Ski Club of Washington, D.C.’s Western/international committee, said over Zoom. “If there are any coronavirus-related issues, we have force-majeure clauses, so our members are protected.” Another advantage of ski clubs is that they often have already pocketed rooms at resort lodgings — remember, capacity will be limited in many places and there could be a pinch on certain weekends.

This won’t be the year to fly to Europe’s megaresorts or Japanese powder fields, but British Columbia or Quebec are likely to be off-limits, too, as the border between the United States and Canada remains closed for now. Domestic quarantine restrictions willmake interstate travel tricky as well. Right now, for example, New Mexico requires a two-week quarantine for visitors from high-risk states (and that means only Hawaii residents can skip it, as of Nov. 23). Vermont has some of the most stringent travel restrictions in the country, with either a 14-day quarantine or a shorter quarantine with a negative test. Check each state’s official website before even thinking of heading out.

Popular resorts like Park City, in Utah, Vail, in Colorado, or Mammoth, in California, can draw big crowds on weekends and holidays. Since they will operate at partial capacity, you may not be able to go on your preferred dates. (Some mountains are guaranteeing tickets to people who stay in resort-owned lodging, while others are not. Again, make sure to check.)

If you have your own gear, bring it, because rentals are going to be a bit of a hassle. Likewise, be ready to boot up in your car since locker rooms are likely to be either closed or restricted. In fact, think of your car as a home base and stock it with items that used to be easy to get on the slopes: water, snacks, tissues, sunscreen, lunch.

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