Skiing in the Pandemic: Ikon Destinations Outline 2020-21 COVID Protocols

Advance ticket sales only, priority access, and modified lift service — Ikon Pass resorts have begun to offer a first peek at what the 2020-21 ski season will look like.

Last week, Colorado put residents on notice that winter is on its way with a brief but burly late-summer snowstorm. And that only heightened everyone’s anticipation for the upcoming ski season. It also raised questions about what that season will look like at ski resorts.

COVID-19 already upended several businesses and summer destinations with social distancing protocols and capacity restrictions. And with the looming specter of packed lift lines and crowded apres bars and restaurants, many are wondering how their ski and travel plans will be affected.

Today, Alterra Mountain Company, which owns key resort destinations like Winter Park, Steamboat, Squaw Valley, Mammoth Mountain, and others as part of its Ikon Pass, announced updated safety protocols. These include many familiar measures — like face coverings and social distancing — but also a few new and potentially disruptive requirements.

What’s more, Alterra’s announcement won’t impact all of its resorts the same. Nor does it mirror the mandates of its primary competitor, Vail Resorts.

Alterra Mountain Co., Ikon Pass COVID Protocols

In a letter published today, Alterra Mountain Company CEO Rusty Gregory outlined the key updates to resort policies.

“We are prioritizing access for season pass holders and will tightly regulate the number of daily lift tickets that will be available by advance purchase only,” Gregory wrote. “To this end, walk-up window sales will be eliminated, and the sale of some undated lift ticket products will be discontinued until further notice.”

What Gregory didn’t confirm, however, was a mountain access reservation system. So far, that’s still in the hands of individual resorts. And it marks the main difference between Alterra/Ikon and Vail Resorts/Epic Pass.

Last month, Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz confirmed all 34 ski areas under its umbrella would implement a reservation system. Katz acknowledged the requirement would remain fluid as conditions and risks evolve. But he also noted that on most days “it will not be necessary to manage the number of people on our mountains.”

Aspen, Colorado
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The sweeping regulation across all Vail Resorts properties also puts it in contrast to Alterra’s stance. For example, while Winter Park won’t currently implement a reservation system, its sister resort, A-Basin, will. While a lot is still up in the air, what’s certain is that skiers should expect new lift protocols — groups lift together or at reduced capacity — face coverings required at all times, and social distancing guidelines will be enforced.

And for those resorts that do require advance reservations, current pass-holders will receive priority booking and some exclusive days on the mountain. By and large, friends and family passes will be honored, but advance notice will be required. For full details on reservations, check here for Epic Pass and here for Ikon Pass.

Do I Need a Reservation at Epic Pass Resorts?

Yes. Currently, all 34 North American resorts under Epic Pass require a reservation.

Do I Need a Reservation at Ikon Pass Resorts?

Only at some. The following resorts currently require a reservation:

  • Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Colorado
  • Windham Mountain, New York
  • Big Sky Resort, Montana
  • Brighton, Utah
  • Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming
  • Loon Mountain, New Hampshire
  • Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
  • The Summit at Snoqualmie, Washington

Stay tuned — we’ll update resort policy changes as they occur throughout the season.

Adam Ruggiero
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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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