UPDATE (Sunday, 10:10 a.m. PT) - Central Oregon's Mt. Bachelor ski resort has ceased all operations starting Sunday and continuing through March 22 – making it the first large ski area in Oregon to take such action amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision came after Mt. Bachelor officials said Friday that it was aligned with other large Oregon ski resorts that were remaining open following Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s “social distancing” order that has led to the cancellation of large event gatherings of 250 people or more.
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."
Timberline Lodge and Mt. Hood Meadows on Mount Hood, like Mt. Bachelor, said on Friday they had complied with Oregon's social-distancing order, meant to slow the spread of coronavirus, by canceling several upcoming events. They include a state high school snowboard championship and the Subaru Winterfest tour. But the three large ski areas all had planned to be fully operational through the spring season.
Dave Tragethon, the vice president of sales and marketing at Mt. Hood Meadows, said Friday Gov. 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 will take precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.
“Cancelling the large events is certainly going to go a long way towards the potential large crowding that we could have had if we would have had those events here,” Tragethon said.
This weekend, the National Weather Service is expecting some parts of Oregon to receive some snow. Meadows is expecting over a foot of snow, adding to a base depth of 108 inches and 163 inches at mid-mountain.
Tragethon said staff will be educating guests on social distancing, which encourages avoiding large crowds or small gatherings in tight places, staying 6 feet away from others and, for those with underlying health conditions, staying home.
“There’s a certain amount of natural social distancing that’s going to happen when you're outside on the slopes skiing and snowboarding, even riding the chair up. So, we’re more focused on what’s happening in the lodges.”
Meadows has increased the frequency of disinfectant wipe downs, along with removing some chairs in dining areas to reduce crowding. They will also have “grab and go” food items to encourage folks to stay outdoors rather than to crowd together indoors.
Tragethon said they will also give guests and riders a choice as to whether they would like to have somebody else seated with them during their lift rides.
Before Saturday's announcement, Mt. Bachelor had cancelled Snowshoe and Ski with Ranger tours for the remainder of the season.
Timberline Lodge planned to release an updated event schedule and evaluating gatherings in crowded areas and had increased the frequency of sanitizing throughout the resort. They will also planned to look for guidance from the CDC and to continue to follow its recommendations.