Vail Resorts will require skiers and snowboarders across its 34 North American resorts to reserve mountain space during the 2020-21 season.
Reservations will even be mandatory for pass holders as Vail limits capacity as a Covid-19 precaution.
"I realize not everyone will agree with our approach some feeling we are being too conservative or aggressive," Vail CEO Rob Katz wrote in an open letter to guests Thursday. "And I recognize the changes we are implementing will be an inconvenience. But I ask for your understanding and patience. In return, you can count on us to try and do everything we can to help keep you safe and make skiing and riding a reality this entire winter."
Holders of individual lift tickets will reserve their mountain space at the time of purchase, while pass holders will use a new reservation system to schedule ski days.
In general, Epic Pass holders, as well as holders of other pass products, will be able to reserve mountain space only a week in advance. But they will get some advantages under the new procedures. Vail won't sell any daily lift tickets until Dec. 8, meaning that mountains will be for pass holders only from opening day until that time.
In addition, pass holders will be able to reserve mountain space for up to seven different days of Vail's core Dec. 8 to April 4 ski season before daily tickets go on sale on Dec. 8. That policy should provide assurance to pass holders wishing to book a weeklong ski trip that the mountain they are visiting will be open to them.
"For the vast majority of days during the season, we believe everyone who wants to get on our mountains will be able to," Katz said. "However, we are not planning for the majority of days; we are planning for every day of the season."
Vail provided no specifics on the capacity limits it will set at ski areas.
"There are a variety of factors Vail Resorts will use to determine capacity across their 34 resorts, which are still being worked on internally and in discussions with the local communities in which they operate," a spokeswoman said.
The company also announced several other operational adjustments for the 2020-21 ski season.
Face coverings will be required on the mountain, in lift lines, on ski lifts and at resort amenities.
Physical distancing will also be required. On chairlifts, parties at the resort together will be able to ride together. But singles will be separated. Just one single will be allowed on two-seat lifts. On four-seat lifts, two singles can sit on the opposite side of each lift. On six-seaters, either two singles or two parties of two can sit separated on opposite sides.
Vail said it will continue to offer on-mountain dining and ski school this coming season but with changes geared toward safety. The company didn't elaborate on those changes.
"There is no doubt this season will be different, " Katz said.