Vail Resorts Plans for Winter 2020/21

Lynn Barlow | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Bluebird lift access days are a possibility for the 20/21 season if resorts can adapt to social distancing guidelines. PC Maarten Duineveld via Unsplash

Rob Katz, the CEO of Vail Resorts, spoke of Vail Resorts plans for winter 2020/21 in the wake of mass closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In mid-March, nearly all ski resorts world-wide shut down out of concern over the virus. Many resorts have begun summer operations in limited capacities, but few have announced plans for winter of 2020/21.

Vail Resorts is a ski area conglomerate affiliated with the Epic Pass. Vail Resorts is composed of 37 individual ski resorts, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Park City, Whistler Blackcomb, Kirkwood, and Heavenly. Vail Resorts also owns Perisher Ski Resort, in Australia. Perisher is set to open for winter operations on June 24 with updated policies designed to promote social distancing.

vail resorts plan for winter 2020/21 includes social distancing guidelines
Perisher Resort in Australia has created policies to enforce social distancing. Image Credit Perisher Resort

Perisher Resort has made several changes to their operations to limit the spread of COVID-19. They are only allowing family groups to ride the lift with each other, and are limiting indoor dining. Instead, the resort will be providing additional outdoor seating and, “guests will be encouraged to bring snacks and lunch and enjoy short breaks on the mountain in the clean mountain air, taking in the never-ending views,” according to the resort’s website. The resort will also be cashless for the 2020 season. 

Perisher Resort’s plans are significant because they offer insight into a socially distanced ski season, as well as allowing Vail Resorts to streamline resort operations for the 20/21 season. 

Resorts need to adapt lodging, dining, and lift riding to social distancing guidelines. PC Joan Oger via Unsplash

Ideally, skiers and snowboarders are always at least six feet apart while skiing and riding; however, resorts need to come up with a plan to ease pinch-points. Pinch points are areas on the mountain where guests often come into closer contact, like food and beverage services, trams, gondolas, and hospitality areas. 

Vail Resorts is anticipating a drop in the number of skier visits for the 20/21 season, but still plans to fully open their resorts. Vail CEO Rob Katz says, “we want people who come to get the full experience…and that’s something we are going to do for next year.” Vail Resorts plan for winter 2020/21 includes plans to fully open resorts to create a great experience for guests.

vail resorts plans for winter 2020/21
Ideally, skier and snowboarders are at least 6 feet apart while riding. PC Joan Oger via Unsplash

Katz points to the recession in 2008 as an example of Vail Resorts’ dedication to fully opening in spite of a drop in visitors, saying, “If you look back to the ’08-’09 recession, we maintained full terrain, full resorts open, even though we had lower demand.”

The Epic Season Pass now comes with Epic Coverage, which allows pass holders to get full or prorated refunds for specific situations, including COVID-19 closures. Meanwhile, Ikon has launched the Adventure Assurance Program. This allows Ikon pass holders to defer credits from the 20/21 season to the 21/22 season.

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