Tucker Mountain
Photo credit: Curtis DeVore/Copper Mountain

Colorado Ski Resorts Want You to ‘Know Before You Go’

The only thing certain about the 2020-2021 ski season is that nobody really knows what to expect. But Colorado ski resorts are starting to offer advice to local and visiting skiers.

Inbounds ski areas are borrowing a slogan from backcountry skiers as we approach uncharted territory for winter 2020-2021: “Know before you go.” That line, hammered into the heads of backcountry skiers mostly related to avalanche safety, applies directly to visiting a ski resort this winter.

That’s because the ski season will be unlike any other, with things like reservations for parking, online-only lift ticket sales, and face mask requirements. We met with Colorado Ski Country USA, an agency representing 22 Colorado resorts, to learn more about what skiers should expect in 2021.

COVID-19 and Skiing: Recommendations From Ski Resorts

Chris Linsmayer, public affairs director with Colorado Ski Country USA, said the No. 1 thing skiers can do before visiting a resort is to get online and educate themselves. Don’t just show up at the resort and expect to park in a lot and buy tickets at the window! Here’s why.

  1. Sales and reservations will likely be handled differently by various resorts, so what happens at one ski area does not guarantee the same outcome at another. Yes, this even applies to resorts on the same pass system and resorts in the same geographic area. Do yourself a favor and double-check.
  2. Most resorts will require pre-purchased lift tickets, rentals, and ski school lessons. While this may not always be the case at every resort, skiers should become familiar with their options well in advance of an expected ski day and make purchases online or over the phone if possible.
  3. Masks will be the norm at ski areas, which must follow state and local ordinances. In Colorado at this time, skiers should expect to wear masks in lift lines, on lifts, in restaurants, and in most other areas where people may be congregated. Some resorts may require face masks at all times.
  4. Parking systems will likely change. Most resorts will require parking reservations, so plan to make these well in advance.

Ski Resorts Expect Strong 2021 Season Despite COVID-19

Representatives from three ski resorts said they expect a healthy ski season and have seen solid sales and interest in visits from customers.

“Our season pass sales are through the roof. We’re hearing that people want to come to the independent guy this year. They don’t want to deal with the rat race,” said Dan Bender, marketing director for Monarch Mountain. He added that Monarch will require reservations on some weekends and holidays, but that it will vary depending on expected traffic.

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“We really recommend people plan before they come,” he said (which is a good practice to get into anyway).

Taylor Prather, communications manager for Copper Mountain, said Copper plans to open on Nov. 30. Copper will open up its parking reservation system on Monday.

“The only thing we can count on is change this year. We’re hoping we can open up a lot of terrain and encourage guests to spread out,” she said. Gone are the days of carpooling, packing into a crowded lift line, and gathering at the mountain bars.

Xan Demas, Aspen Snowmass public relations manager, said that Aspen’s lifts will begin to spin on Thanksgiving Day. And much like other resorts, she urged guests to get online and study up on the mountain’s new workings.

“We’re working through capacity issues and doing a lot more dining outside. Our app will be the go-to place for lift tickets, rentals, ski school, and all that jazz. The ticket offices will be open if guests need them, but we’re urging guests to go digital this year,” she said.

Sean McCoy

Editorial Director Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.