On December 3, 2020, California’s state officials announced a new COVID-19 health order called the Regional Stay At Home Order. It was signed and put into effect immediately at 11:59 pm on Sunday, December 7.
Unlike the stay at home orders in March at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, this order will be handled on a county to county basis. The criteria for shutting down? The order will kick in any given county the day after a region has been announced to have less than 15% ICU availability. After being triggered, these orders will remain in effect for at least three weeks. They will be lifted after that period when a region’s projected ICU capacity meets or exceeds 15%.
So how will this order affect skiing? It depends on the county. In Mono County, Mammoth Mountain remains open for skiing and snowboarding, but its lodging “will be limited to homeowners and critical infrastructure services,” a resort statement said. “All existing [hotel] reservations from Monday, December 7, 2020, are required to be canceled, and no reservations are allowed to be taken,” read an announcement from county leadership.
This means that non-homeowners are essentially not able to acquire lodging at Mammoth. The ban on tourist lodging will last for the full 21-day duration of the order or longer if need be. Mammoth will also need to additionally limit indoor capacity from 25% to just 20%.
El Dorado and Placer Counties, home to many of Lake Tahoe’s ski areas, face more lenient restrictions. Under the new state order, these counties are not mandated to have a strict stay-at-home order, as their ICU bed availability is still under 15%. However, local governments have cracked down on enforcing restrictions in a last-ditch effort to curb the spread and prevent a full stay at home order. Indoor capacity (including trams and gondolas) remains at 25%.
However, Lake Tahoe is not immune from state restrictions. If the local counties dip below 15% ICU bed availability, they may be subject to similar restrictions as Mono County under the state mandate. If this is the case, California’s ski season could truly be in jeopardy unless cases begin to decline and restrictions are lifted.