Skiers and snowboarders have returned to Oregon slopes the past two weeks, starting what many hope is a full season.
This is the second ski season that’s overlapped with the coronavirus pandemic. Many of Oregon’s slopes ceased operation in March as the state shut down. They’ve fired up lifts this season with new measures in place to limit virus transmission.
Monday was opening day at Mt. Bachelor in Central Oregon. Sun osmosed through gauzy clouds to give the snow a light sheen while people slalomed downhill, grasping for normalcy.
Lines were long but running smoothly as season pass holders like Dan Ganley took the first crack at the slopes. By the end of a three-minute conversation, he had moved from the back of the line close to the front.
“It was a big disappointment to lose the end of last year, the majority of the season really,” said Ganley, who has been coming to Bachelor the past four years. “But really ecstatic to be getting up here on the lifts again.”
His gratitude was matched by many skiers and snowboarders who spoke to OPB. Outdoor recreation has for some been the only reasonably safe respite as the pandemic has worsened.
Alpine sports generally require a lot of space, but base areas can become crowded. Mt. Bachelor has added “ghost lanes” between lift lines to keep people 6 feet apart. Solo skiers and snowboarders can now take a chair up by themselves. Face coverings are required.
People mostly seemed to comply with the new rules, which is critical to a full season.
Bill Calder, who’s been coming to Mt. Bachelor for two decades, was a few places back in the lift line from Ganley. A sprinkling of snow left over from his previous run covered the tops of his skis. He said the long lines are worth the wait.
“The weather’s good, the snow is good, the lines are to be expected given it’s a limited opening,” he said, “but it’s good to be out here.”
The most noticeable sign of change at Bachelor is miles away from the slopes themselves. A roadside marquee on Century Drive in Bend reminds drivers headed to the mountain that they’ll need a reservation if they want a parking spot.
Skier Ashley Molan said she was concerned about how pass holders would respond to the online reservation system over time.
“You spend a lot of money on a pass, you wanna be able to go ski,” she said. “I’m sure it will figure itself out. I think people are just kinda panicked right now.”
Glenn, who preferred to use only his first name, was resting his legs on the outdoor deck of Mt. Bachelor’s West Village Lodge. He said the slopes were “much less hectic” than he thought they would be.
Opening day was a sellout, which indicates lines may not get much longer than they were Monday.
However, Mt. Bachelor director of brand and communications Leigh Capozzi said the resort may adjust the number of people allowed as the pandemic and related restrictions evolve.
“We wanna ski from December through May,” Capozzi said.