Operating a Colorado ski resort a new challenge during COVID-19 pandemic

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WINTER PARK, COLO. — On Thursday, Winter Park Resort opened its ski slopes, joining several other mountains that have kicked off the ski season attempting to operate in the middle of a pandemic.

“Skiing on the mountain is going to be the same as everyone has expected and loves,” said Jen Miller of Winter Park.

If the skiing is the same, that might be about it. Numbers are being limited, but Winter Park and other resorts won’t say by how much. Masks are required everywhere except while skiing, social distancing is encouraged, and indoor dining at Winter Park has been closed.

In fact, those restrictions are tighter than what’s required by Grand County, which as of Friday was in the orange level on the state’s COVID-19 dial.

“We are still, as a resort, behaving and acting at a higher level because we want to stay open,” Miller said.

To do so, the resort is asking skiers to take personal responsibility to wear masks, keep their distance, and stay home if they’re sick.

“We want to stay open and we need our guests to help us do that,” Miller said. “We’re making sure people follow the rules to make sure we don’t get elevated (on the dial).”

Even with good crowds on opening weekend, a recent survey found that 31% of Colorado skiers are considering skipping this ski season because of COVID concerns and some resorts’ reservation systems.

“We’re doing what we can to make sure this is a good place for people to come and try to lessen their concerns,” Miller said regarding Winter Park. “But at the end of the day it’s up to individuals.”

People hoping to ski and ride at Winter Park should plan ahead — especially this year. Winter Park is not selling any walkup lift tickets, and some days have already sold out. Other ski resorts have reservation systems for non-pass holders.

“This is not the year to be spontaneous,” Miller said.