Vail Resorts, which includes Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR), released their plans for the 2020-21 winter season as of last Thursday.
CBMR will open to pass holders only from Nov. 25-Dec. 7, with lift tickets going on sale to the general public Dec. 8.
Other key takeaways for this season at CBMR include COVID-19 safety protocols for guests and employees plus a new reservation system.
Guests will be required to wear face coverings to get on the mountain and in all parts of the resort. This includes while waiting in lift lines and while riding lifts.
Markers will be placed to help space out guests in lift lines, while ski and snowboard equipment will naturally create distance while loading lifts. Only related parties “skiing or riding together” will be seated with one another on chair lifts.
Two singles can ride on opposite sides of a four-person lift.
“We’re focused on three things,” CBMR Senior Communications Specialist Will Shoemaker said in an email to the Times. “The first is the safety of our guests, employees and communities. The second is ensuring we have a successful season from start to finish. And the third is prioritizing our pass holders.”
To ensure skier numbers can be controlled, a mountain access reservation system with coinciding limits on daily lift tickets will be implemented. Pass holders must also make reservations before arriving at the resort — even if hitting the slopes for only a couple hours on a powder day.
Pass holders can view realtime availability and make their reservations online, even the day of if availability remains.
From Nov. 6 to Dec. 7 pass holders are entitled to book up to seven “priority reservation days,” locking in ski dates for the season before lift tickets go on sale to the general public. Vacationing pass holders traveling to the area are encouraged to book their dates during this time.
The number of lift tickets sold to the general public on a given day depends, in part, on how many pass holders have already made reservations.
“It is possible that at some point in the season, as we evaluate the dynamics of our operations, we may decide that we no longer need the reservation system at certain resorts,” explained Vail Resorts’ CEO Rob Katz in an open letter released last Thursday. “However, with so many uncertainties, we believe it is only prudent to have this system in place now.”
Tickets will only be sold online at epicpass.com or via Vail Resorts call centers — ticket windows are solely for pick-up.
How many skiers or riders will be allowed on the mountain on any given day? Plans are still being formulated.
“There are a variety of factors we will use to determine capacity, which are still being worked on internally and in local discussions,” Shoemaker explained. “While we think for the vast majority of days we’ll be able to safely accommodate the majority of guests who want to ski or ride at our resort, we’re planning for all contingencies.”
Shoemaker said putting priority with pass holders is nothing new for Vail Resorts.
“We try to prioritize our pass holders with every decision we make,” said Shoemaker. “They are our most loyal guests and are key to the long-term success of our company and our sport.”
Vail has previously released statements indicating over half of visits to company resorts are from pass holders.
Changes to CBMR’s uphill skiing policy are also in place for this season. In an effort to “put safety first,” uphill traffic will only be allowed outside of operating hours.
Similar to the summer restrictions, only cashless payments will be accepted. Grab-and-go food and alcohol will be avail able, but full-service bar settings will not be open.
Specific details for CBMR’s restaurant protocol will be forthcoming, although they are “committed to opening” all of their on-mountain restaurants.
As for Monarch Mountain, General Manager Randy Stroud has offered blog updates on skimonarch.com.
For pass holders, Monarch guarantees at least 90 days of skiing to happen in the 2020-21 season. If the resort cannot meet that promise, pass holders will be refunded a prorated amount.
Similar to the Vail reservation system, Monarch is requiring advance booking online for full-day lift tickets for the week of Dec. 26-Jan. 3, 2021, and every Saturday and Sunday thereafter. Hard details on this system are not yet finalized.
“Thus far you can expect changes at the lift lines where we will allow for cohorts to load the chair together and for those who wish to ride alone, may do so,” Stroud stated. “Lift lines will be formed so (as) to encourage social distancing.”
Monarch’s inside facilities will follow Public Health protocols, like masks, distancing, enhanced cleaning and capacity restrictions. Restrooms will be monitored for cleanliness and hand sanitizing stations will be available in multiple locations.
A new dedicated team of “Ambassadors” will also be available at Monarch “at each level of the lodge” to help with questions or concerns.
Uphill skiing protocols are mostly unchanged this season, aside from uphill access only being available to season pass holders at no extra charge.
“We’re referring everyone to the website and Randy’s updates and more information will be forthcoming,” Monarch Marketing Director Dan Bender said in a call with the Times.
Opening day at Monarch is anticipated for sometime in late November or early December — which is typical, as Monarch’s opening coincides with sufficient natural snowfall.
( Morgan Schaefer can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or morgan@gunnisontimes.)