Oregon ski areas planning to stay open have decided to cease operations starting Sunday and continuing for a week in response to the rapidly escalating coronavirus pandemic.
Mt. Bachelor ski area in Central Oregon was the first to shutter, announcing Saturday it would shut down all operations starting Sunday and continuing through March 22. Then late Sunday morning Timberline on Mount Hood and Mt. Hood Meadows announced in near-unison that they would close at 4 p.m. and remain closed until March 22, as well.
Mt. Hood Meadows issued a statement saying its overwhelming concern for team members and guests led to the "pause in operations."
“We will take this time to evaluate the next steps and better understand this pandemic and how it will impact all of us,” the statement continued. “We will spend the week sanitizing our facilities and equipment, working with state and local health authorities and considering potential operating scenarios that would allow us to reopen in a responsible manner.”
Timberline announced on Instagram its closure of all ski area operations and the Wy'East Day Lodge, with hopes to reopen on March 23. It was keeping Timberline Lodge open.
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Dear Timberline Guests, Skiers and Snowboarders, We have made the very difficult decision to suspend Timberline Ski Area Operations until March 23rd. As the coronavirus COVID-19 situation evolves, RLK and Company is pausing operations to evaluate options and protocols for the remainder of the 2019/2020 ski season. All ski operations will cease and the Wy’East Day Lodge will close today, Sunday March 15th, 4:00pm. We will monitor and reassess during the coming week with the intention of resuming ski operations Monday March 23rd. The Hotel, including the Cascade Dining Room, Ram's Head Bar, and Wy'East Gallery remain open. We encourage anyone who is showing flu like symptoms to remain at home. Hotel customers can be rebooked or refunded depending on their desire and situation. Timberline season pass customers can expect days added to the end of this season. Ski School customers with reservations next week can reschedule for a future date or get a refund. There will undoubtedly be many unforeseen customer requests and special circumstances. We will have staff available and responsive to email and phone communications in the coming days. Please stay healthy and calm. Timberline is proud of our great team we will come together for the best possible outcome. This is truly an unprecedented situation and a very difficult time. We will get through it and we will be better for it. Sincerely, Jeff Kohnstamm President/Area Operator
Mt. Bachelor released a statement Saturday that quoted its president and general manager, John McLeod, saying, “Suspending our operations is a necessary step for us to take in support of our nation’s efforts to limit the spread and risks associated with COVID-19.”
He went on to say, “This is an unusual and dynamic situation, however, we continue to believe outdoor mountain recreation provides a meaningful escape to nature, which is what made this a difficult decision, but the correct decision for now.”
The Oregon ski area closures come as other Northwest snow-sport destinations, including Crystal Mountain and Stevens Pass in Washington and British Columbia’s Whistler were shutting down Sunday.
The three Oregon ski resorts closing Sunday had indicated on Friday that they would take preventive measures – cancelling large-crowd events and stepping up sanitizing efforts – while keeping chairlifts and ski areas open.
Dave Tragethon, the vice president of sales and marketing at Mt. Hood Meadows, told OPB Friday that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s announcement only applies to organized events of 250 people or more in one place. He said it doesn’t apply to normal business operations like stores and malls, which continue to be open. He said Mt. Hood Meadows would take precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.
In the statement issued Sunday, Meadows management wrote, “This is an important decision - one which we don’t take lightly and only after much soul searching.”