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Resorts gearing up for ski season amid COVID-19 pandemic


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IDAHO FALLS – Safety is the number one priority for ski resorts nationwide as they prepare to open this winter during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Wearing masks, standing six feet apart and avoiding large gathering have become the new normal for many businesses. As resort operators finalize plans to reopen safely and determine exactly what that looks like, they’re asking you to embrace whatever changes are put in place and to curb your expectations.

“We’re very optimistic about skiing this winter,” Dave Byrd, director of risk and regulatory affairs at the Colorado-based National Ski Areas Association, tells the Associated Press. “The fact that we ski outside in ultraviolet sun and in the wind, and it’s common for us to wear goggles, gloves and face coverings. All of those things bode very well for us as a sport.”

Last year’s ski season was cut short at the height of the pandemic and owners are trying to avoid a similar occurrence this time around.

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Locally, Grand Targhee is implementing a face mask mandate and making sure family members are together on the lift.

“Our mandatory face coverings will continue throughout winter. Face coverings will be required inside all buildings, while waiting to load the lifts, riding the lifts, and when a six-foot distancing cannot be maintained,” Grand Targhee wrote on its Facebook page. “We are asking you to support and respect the decisions we have made so we can continue to operate. It is going to take all of us working together to enjoy every possible powder day we can.”

Grand Targhee is also requiring reservations this year, which has irked some skiers and snowboarders concerned about getting a spot on the mountain.

Vail Resorts, which owns 34 resorts in the United States and Canada, has announced it will implement a reservation system that allows pass holders exclusive access at the beginning of the season, unlimited week-of reservations and a rolling selection of priority days.

Despite the changes, many people are still looking forward to hitting the slopes. Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz says sales of season passes are up 18% this season compared to the same time last season.

“I think people are looking to the ski areas — 470 ski areas in the United States — as a way to have a safe outdoor recreational experience,” says Katz.