Regional ski resorts begin to open for the season, but things will look different this year
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DRIGGS — Winter has arrived in the Rockies and with fresh snow and cold weather in the mountains, local skiers and snowboarders are already making plans to lay down fresh tracks.
But as with everything in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic is having an impact on how ski resorts are operating this season.
Idaho’s oldest ski resort, Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area in Mullan was the first northwest ski resort to open this season, according to Idaho Ski Areas Association. Grand Targhee Resort in Alta, Wyoming is not far behind as crews ready the popular family resort set to open this Friday.
Grand Targhee, tucked into the Tetons just 12 miles from Driggs is reporting a 42-inch snow base as resort staff prepare for opening day. Targhee has had a mandatory face mask order in place since July 2020 and as of last week, is requiring non-pass holders and other non-specialty ticket holders to purchase lift tickets online.
“It is going to take the cooperation of all guests and employees to keep this a safe and healthy winter,” officials said in a Targhee news release. “The COVID environment is ever-changing and could disrupt operations and our plan at any moment. We may have to make quick operational changes to comply with local, state, and government authorities.”
Grand Targhee affiliates with the Idaho Ski Areas Association because the only way to access it is via Driggs. The resort was recently ranked No. 28 among Western U.S. ski areas in SKI Magazine’s annual resort guide.
Just over Teton Pass, the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is anticipating a Thanksgiving Day opening on Nov. 26. This year the iconic resort located in Teton Village will operate the Tram at 75 percent reduced capacity.
According to an email from the resort on Nov. 5, Tram capacity was adjusted to hold 25 skiers and an operator to reduce COVID risks. The Tram can hold up to 100 skiers.
“Operating the Aerial Tram safely this winter is a key priority,” Vice President of Operations, Tim Mason said in the Nov. 5 email. “While it’s a different winter with new capacity protocols, we also recognize the importance of this lift when it comes to providing access to our upper mountain and the backcountry, and having guests physical distance while wearing face coverings when loading, riding and unloading is the only way we can operate safely.”
New for this season, skiers at JHMR can boot pack up the north side of Rendezvous Bowl from the Sublette lift.
Six other Idaho resorts — Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain, Pomerelle, Schweitzer, Silver Mountain, and Sun Valley — are expected to open this month.
Sun Valley reports chairlifts will begin turning as usual Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26. America’s first destination resort and the birthplace of the chairlift, the Central Idaho resort was recently recognized for the first time as the top U.S. ski resort in SKI Magazine’s annual resort guide.
Near Boise, Idaho’s capital city, Bogus Basin, which opened its hike-to Hike Park terrain park Oct. 31, plans to start lift operations Nov. 27 — potentially earlier if conditions allow.
Idaho Ski Areas Association cautions patrons to be extra careful of early season conditions, which require skiers and snowboarders to pay closer attention to the terrain.
Idaho’s ski areas are following the National Ski Areas Association’s “Ski Well, Be Well” guidelines for COVID-19 safety. Please visit skiidaho.us/covid for more details.
Founded in 1982, the Idaho Ski Areas Association, a.k.a. Ski Idaho, is a nonprofit association funded in part by the Idaho Travel Council via the state’s 2 percent lodging tax paid by travelers and collected by hotel, motel, and private campground owners. Visit skiidaho.us for more details.