After ski resorts cut short last winter’s ski season to limit the spread of the coronavirus, they will now begin to slowly reopen the slopes starting this week.
Last March, several large ski resorts had to cease operations to comply with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” order. It included canceling all events and gatherings with 250 people or more. That led to an abrupt end to the ski season. But now, ski resorts will begin reopening, and some will require online reservations in order to come up.
Mount Hood’s Timberline Lodge will be one of the first ski resorts welcoming back guests, with plans to operate their chair lifts starting Wednesday.
Director of Marketing and Public Relations John Burton said it has been a challenging year for everyone but it’s rewarding to be able to finally reopen the slopes.
“We’re ready to go, as ready as we’ve ever been but we are also prepared to be nimble and make changes as necessary to keep everyone safe,” Burton said.
He said it’s a top priority to make sure everyone continues to follow COVID-19 guidelines like maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from others and wearing a face mask.
But one of the other noticeable changes is how the resort has reworked the lift line queues and added more staff near lift lines to help direct traffic.
“It’s simply keeping the process flowing. Keeping the chairs moving and loading and unloading people safely,” he said.
Overall, Burton said what guests will notice the most is the overall space that has been created to make sure everyone is social distancing.
Since Brown announced Oregon’s two-week freeze on Nov. 18, dining indoors will not be allowed until Dec. 2 at the earliest, so Burton said skiers and snowboarders will be asked to use their cars if they want to take a meal or snack break or to socialize tailgate-style in the parking lot. Entrance to the lodge will be limited to guests with reservations to stay overnight only.
“There’s more room on the slopes, there’s less people on the lift lines, there’s plenty of parking,” he said. “We certainly understand that the early bird gets the worm, but this is the year to definitely think outside the box a little bit.”
One of the big changes that most ski resorts have made is ensuring everyone coming up has an online reservation in the morning. That will help the staff be able to manage the crowd capacity in the parking lots, the lift queue lines and on the slopes.
For the first three days of reopening, Timberline Lodge will require guests to register online in advance. But starting Saturday, that will no longer be required before arriving at the ski area. Timberline will be managing capacity based on how many cars are able to fit in the parking lot. Timberline Road will close once the parking lot is full and reopen once spots become available.
Mt. Hood Ski Bowl’s tubing operation is set to begin on Friday. Folks will be required to register online in advance.
Vice President and General Manager Mike Quinn said no opening date has been announced for the start of the ski and snowboard season but that it usually takes until early to mid-December until the snow base is sufficient to start operating.
“The cliche of that we are all in this together is true,” Quinn said. “And if we work together, we’ll be able to make the experiences as enjoyable as possible.”
Mt. Hood Meadows plans to reopen Monday. Vice President of Sales and Marketing Dave Tragethon said waiting until after the holiday weekend and starting operations on a Monday will give the staff and seasonal workers a few slower days to work through. By the weekend, they’ll be able to make adjustments to the ski area’s strategies for keeping staff and guests safe while the coronavirus continues to be a problem.
“We need people to be patient and flexible. Otherwise all of our efforts will be compromised by people who aren’t,” he said. “It may take a little longer to get through a lift line if we’re not loading every single chair.”
This season, a new 23,500 square foot additional indoor space will be available for Mt. Hood Meadows guests. Tragethon said it will provide a heating and ventilation system that is similar to what hospitals use.
To spread out visitors and minimize congestion during certain times of the day, Mt. Hood Meadows is selling lift tickets for certain time frames for non season pass holders, starting at 9 am, noon, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Season pass holders may arrive at any time.
“We’ve done this so that we can spread out that visitation through the day and also through the week,” Tragethon said.
Central Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor plans to reopen to season pass holders on Dec. 7 and to the public on Dec. 11. It also is requiring guests to reserve a parking spot.