On March 14, skiers and snowboarders at Smugglers’ Notch ski
resort in northern Vermont were lining up at the Sterling lift and dining at
the Black Bear Tavern like it was a regular Saturday.
But that evening was anything but normal in the ski
industry. While Smugglers’ Notch remained open, Vail Resorts shuttered its 37
mountain resorts and retail, effective immediately until March 22 due to
concerns over the spread of Covid-19, and said it would use the time to assess
the rest of the season. Lodging and property-management operations would remain open for current bookings, but no new bookings will be taken.
At the same time, Alterra suspended operations until further
notice. The closures shuttered the lifts, food and beverage and retail
operations at 15 mountains, including Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado, Squaw
Valley Alpine Meadows and Mammoth in California, Deer Valley and Solitude
Mountain in Utah, and Tremblant in Quebec. Its CMH Heli-Skiing division was to
continue operating through March 17.
The decisions, like the reaction to the coronavirus pandemic
in the U.S., came fast.
The same day Alterra and Vail announced their suspensions, Jared Polis, Colorado’s governor,
issued an executive order requiring ski resorts in the state to close for a
week. “As a result, Telluride Ski Resort is now closed for the season,” that
resort said on its website. A letter from CEO Bill Jenson began, “The past 24
hours have been unprecedented.”
At Araphoe Basin in California, COO Alan Henceroth wrote on his blog, “We
support the governor making this very difficult decision. While some folks
encouraged us to close, hundreds, if not thousands, of people have asked us to
stay open. We tried our very best to be creative and modify operations to
reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission. I know that many of you want to be
here and many of you had a great week skiing here. This closure saddens me
deeply. Unfortunately, it is time to close.”
Aspen Snowmass at 7:15 p.m. on March 14 said it, too, was
closed. “We understand that this impacts a huge number of people; our
employees, guests and the community as a whole,” the resort said in a
statement. “We are working now to address all of these issues and will work
with each of these groups to minimize the impacts where we can.”
Bachelor and Mt. Hood Meadows in Oregon were suspending operations for a week,
until March 22. But Snowbasin and Sun Valley in Utah closed effective March 16
for the remainder of the season.
As of March 16, Alyeska Resort in Alaska was keeping its mountain open, although its aerial tramway closed and food and retail operations were cut back significantly. "Our executive leadership team is committed to daily
meetings at 9 a.m. for the foreseeable future and will announce any
changes to our operations immediately following," it said.
But after posting Sunday that it would remain open, Smugglers' Notch on Monday evening said it would stop its lifts Tuesday, after Vermont's public schools were to close and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dropped the number of people that should gather together to 50.
"As you know, change is coming at a rapid rate," Smugglers' owner Bill Stritzler wrote in a statement published on Instagram.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report gave incorrect information about Vail Resorts. March 22 is the day the resort company may reopen its ski resorts, not the day it had originally planned to close.
Update: This report was updated March 16 to include updated information about Smugglers' Notch, Telluride and other North American resorts.