COVID Still Rules Ski Scene |
By Daniel Gibson |
No New Mexico ski areas have announced opening dates as of Wednesday morning, but we are getting very close to that happening, and Colorado resorts are up and running. On Nov. 30, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham released a plan that will allow individual counties to begin re-opening businesses and outdoor recreation as they hit certain milestones in the global fight against COVID-19.
The governor’s press release stated, “In an effort designed to provide local communities the flexibility to operate more day-to-day activities, the state of New Mexico will transition to a tiered county-by-county COVID-19 risk system on Dec. 2, enabling local communities to shed burdensome restrictions as soon as public health data show the virus is retreating within their borders . . . We must remain as vigilant as ever to contain and beat the virus; we also must look for ways to lessen the burden on our communities wherever possible, while never swerving from our top priority–protecting New Mexicans and saving lives.”
The three-tied system — red for the worst condition, yellow for moderate conditions and green for the best — will be re-evaluated every Wednesday. Every county but one in the state is currently rated red, but even this category allows outdoor recreation at ski areas to occur at 25 percent of capacity.
So, it is expected that several, perhaps all, of the state’s ski areas will open soon, some perhaps within days and most, surely, within a week, says George Brooks, the executive director of the industry trade organization, Ski New Mexico.
“The governor’s office has been working closely with us to approve our opening plans, and the ski areas are prepared to open,” says Brooks. The hang up, he explains, is due to new requirements regarding testing of staff and personnel and the mechanics of that: how often, who will administer, procedures if personnel are positive, and so forth.
If a county reaches yellow status, as the regulation now stands, this would not trigger a higher capacity for outdoor recreation. But if a county reaches green status, capacity would be increased to 50 percent. The relaxing of standards as we transition from red to green status would also be applied to ski area restaurants, lodging, and other businesses. So, stay patient and
MASK UP! The governor has wisely tied local easing of restrictions to the local level of taking this virus seriously and acting responsibly.
David Norden, CEO of Taos Ski Valley, noted in comments released on Oct. 9, “We’re striving to provide you with the same
unparalleled skiing and riding experience you’ve come to know. We hope you’ll work with us on two important things. First, plan ahead for skiing and riding. As much as we like a spontaneous powder day, this season will require some advance work. Secondly, it’s critical everyone comply with New Mexico Health Orders and COVID-Safe Practices. All guests must wear a face covering in all public places, physically distance six feet, avoid gathering in groups, and follow our procedures, which are clearly marked throughout the resort. Ultimately, we’re excited for what’s in store this year. We think you will love the intimate experience and will benefit from the extensive planning we’ve done.”
Conditions & Openings
Wolf Creek has a nice 48-inch base, with 98 percent of its terrain open. Only lifts, restrooms, private lessons, rentals, and two sports shops are open, so plan to brown bag it in your car.
Excellent but often overlooked Monarch Mountain — north of Alamosa, Colorado, and just outside of Salida, which serves as its lodging and dining center — has opened for daily operations. Advanced online lift ticket purchases (up to midnight the night prior to arrival) are encouraged but not required, except on all weekends and the week of Dec. 26. They have received 49 inches so far this season and have a base of 14 inches (with more snow predicted). Four of seven lifts are functioning and 36 of 66 trails are open, including nine expert slopes.
Telluride opened Nov. 26. However, only 10 of 160 trails are open, and one terrain park served by the Village Express chair. They’ve received 21 inches so far and report a base depth of 15 inches.
Purgatory is also open and reports a 16-inch base, with two lifts and 12 trails available. Lift ticket sales will be online only, with prices fluctuating according to demand.
Crested Butte is spinning five lifts, including the Red Lady Express, on an 18-inch base. It has received 36 inches so far and has seven percent of its terrain open.
Arizona Snowbowl, near Flagstaff, has three lifts running, including the Grand Canyon Express, and seven runs open on an 18-inch base.
Ski Santa Fe is not yet open but is reporting it has received 18 inches of snow so far this season and is busy making the white stuff. So, its opening should occur very soon — possibly even this weekend. For a summary of its COVID practices, see last week’s column.
Sipapu, normally the first to open in the state, reports a 30-inch base and will be functioning within days. Lift tickets will be sold only online this winter, and no one will be allowed to enter even the parking lot without showing an email confirmation of the purchase. All tickets, lesson buys, rentals, etc. will be paid for and tracked using the Sipapu Card. If your planned ski day is postponed, the reservation can be moved to another day. Each card will have its own PIN and will not be easily replaced, so patrons are urged to take care with them. The credits can be used by anyone in your party and will be issued upon arrival at the parking lot. They will provide for a direct-to-lifts process, i.e. no daily tickets will be issued.
Pajarito Mountain is planning on a Dec. 11 opening. Another member of the growing family of ski areas managed by Mountain Capital Partners, Pajarito will function just as described above for its other New Mexico resort, Sipapu. Additional details are available on its website. It will host a job fair this Saturday, Dec. 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For details, visit pajarito.ski/employment/.
Sandia Peak is planning on a Dec. 19 opening, and Angel Fire Resort on Dec. 11. It has received 31 inches of snow to date and has a good early base of 14 inches. It will offer walk-up lift ticket sales but due to reduced capacity limits set by the state government, advance buys are highly recommended, especially on weekends and holidays.
Daniel Gibson is the author of New Mexico’s only comprehensive ski guidebook, Skiing New Mexico: Snow Sports in the Land of Enchantment (UNM Press, 2017). He is a member of the North American Snowsports Journalist Association and has written on the topic for newspapers coast to coast, web sites, and magazines including Powder, Ski and Wintersport Business. His first day on wooden skis with wooden edges came at age 6 in 1960 on a snowy day at the former Santa Fe Ski Basin. He can be reached at [email protected] or via DanielBGibson.com.This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead