People (and your favorite skiing frogs) are flocking to outdoor- and mountain-based vacations this year. Fresh air and plenty of space make ski destinations a great vacation choice during a pandemic. Plus skiing and snowboarding are the ultimate physically distanced sports, as you are rarely within 6 to 10 feet of others while doing it and your equipment naturally spaces you out from others. The phrase “no friends on a powder day” epitomizes the anti-social nature of the sport right there!
The 2020-2021 season was the year to break away from the pack and we are looking forward to doing it again in 2021-2022. A lot has changed since last season, with vaccines being widely available. The popular family ski resorts are still doing a lot to protect employees and guests from COVID-19, but have made modifications. This post walks through the Vail Resorts' current COVID safety rules and protocols. As we sip our pumpkin spice lattes this fall, we're looking ahead at what's to come for next season. Let's hop to it and learn about the safety measures in place to keep guests and employees safe while hitting the slopes.
One way to find resort-specific details is to use the EpicMix app. You can look up your ski resort to find hours, parking, restaurants (including making reservations), rentals and other hopful information. The biggest changes relate to dining indoors at on-mountain quick-service locations.
Before we get going, did you get your 2021-2022 Epic Pass? If not, hop back in spring, summer or fall for next season's pass! If you are looking for a breakdown of Epic Pass benefits and new closing dates for the 2020-2021 ski season you can find all the hopful details in our Epic Pass post.
What to Expect When Visiting the Vail Resorts
First, the hopping good news! Vail Resorts fully reopened with lifts and terrain, as weather and conditions permitted last season and is moving back to more normal operation in 2021-2022 with safety enhancements in place. Vail Resorts owns 37 family ski resorts, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood! Now that lifts and gondolas are filled to capacity, we look forward to shorter lift lines this year.
First of all, the mountain access reservation system is over, and there's no more physical distancing in lift lines. You no longer need reservations needed to ski (except you'll want to reserve your hotel, rental car, lessons and possible flights of course). This makes a last-minute trip a lot easier if you like to chase epic powder days.
Let's take a brief look at the safety protocols for the Epic Pass destinations this winter:
- Focusing safety efforts on indoor spaces.
- Face coverings required required in indoor settings, including restaurants, lodging properties, restrooms, retail shops, rental locations and on buses regardless of vaccination status. Masks are one again required on gondolas and in gondola holding areas. No eating or drinking in gondolas, and keep the mask on for the entire ride.
- Gondolas are loaded at normal capacity.
- No face coverings required outdoors, in lift lines or on chairlifts, unless
required by local public health authorities.
- Face coverings are only required in indoor portions of ski and ride school.
- Kids 12 and older will need to be vaccinated in full-day programs that include lunch. If your tadpole 12 and over is not vaccinated, book a half-day lesson without lunch.
- Dining Vaccinations — Guests 12 and over are required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations to dine at indoor, on-mountain quick-service (cafeteria-style) restaurants. This requirement includes those guests 12 and over in ski and ride school programs that include lunch. More details on the verification process will be released ahead of the season. Boosters are not required.
- Dining reservations — Use the EpicMix app to book dining on the mountain.
- Cashless transactions — For guest and employee safety, all transactions are cashless unless otherwise required by local law. This includes hotels, restaurants, ski and ride school, and all other points of sale. For the best experience, book and pay online in advance.
- Hand sanitizing stations provided throughout the resort.
- Frequent use of EPA-approved products that kill the COVID-19.
- Daily employee health screenings.
- Employees are required to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
Epic Pass (and Epic Day) Holder Benefits
Do you have the Epic Pass? There are some benefits to using the Epic Pass this year (besides saving up to 50 percent off daily lift ticket prices). It also offers some peace of mind.
The Epic Pass includes Epic Coverage. Epic Coverage provides refunds for certain personal events, including illness, job loss and injury. It also expands coverage to protect you from certain resort closures and travel restrictions, such as any due to COVID-19. Best of all, you don't need to sign up. It's included for free when you purchase your pass! We are selling a variety of discount Epic Passes for 2021-2022, both restricted and unrestricted, so be sure to check it out — there really is a pass option for every skier! Certain eligible Epic Passes that were purchased before Sept. 17, 2021, come pre-loaded with a set number of Epic Buddy Tickets and Ski-With-A-Friend Tickets that give discounts for friends and family. Nice! You can buy them online or at the ticket window. Online saves time.
Lift Ticket Buyers
You can purchase same-day lift tickets this year both online and at the ticket window. Keep in mind you'll want to book seven days in advance to save more money. Lift tickets are refundable.
It would be irresponsible of your froggy frogs not to mention that purchasing single-day lift tickets like this is the most expensive way to buy lift tickets. If you are planning to ski at least four days this season, consider an Epic Pass to get priority reservations and the most flexibility.
Vaccinations for Dining and All-Day Ski School With Dining
Bring those vaccine cards for skiers and riders ages 12 and up and credit or debit cards if you want to eat indoors on the mountain. You are required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations to dine at indoor, on-mountain quick-service (cafeteria-style) restaurants. This requirement includes anyone 12 and over in ski and ride school programs that include lunch. More details on the verification process will be released ahead of the season. You do not need to show proof of vaccination at full-service restaurants. Yes, you can still use the bathroom without a vaccination card.
You'll need to carry the card with you in an easy-to-access spot and show it every time you enter an indoor, quick-service restaurant. Vail Resorts will not store your vaccine information anywhere. Proof of a negative COVID-19 test will not be accepted. You can find dining information in the EpicMix app.
Why the strictness with on-mountain, quick-service locations? Indoor, on-mountain quick-service restaurants are higher volume, higher density locations with cafeteria-style settings and multi-party seating options. The vaccine requirement may reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 in these unique settings and protect guests, their families and employees. Full-service restaurants are more spacious with party-specific seating, providing natural physical distancing and capacity management.
Last season, large, quick-service restaurants were reconfigured for a cafeteria-style approach, with guests in a single line that passed all food areas on the way to the register. (This reduced the scramble of people heading in different directions.) All restaurant transactions remain cashless unless required by local laws.
The resorts are continuing and expanding the use of Time to Dine on-mountain reservation services, available via the Epic Mix app and through onsite QR signage. Reservations are available at 7:00 a.m. local time the day before and are required for the largest quick-service restaurants. Plan ahead or you might go hungry.
In the interest of safety and reducing contact points, you may want to bring food, snacks and water. We always stash a sandwich and some snack in our pockets anyway to save money at the ski lodges. If you froget your vaccine card, then remember to pack a lunch and eat outside.
Try dining at less popular times, getting an early or late lunch to avoid the rush. Bad weather days that make outdoor dining unavailable will definitely create more demand for indoor seating, so choose your breaks wisely those days. Whenever weather permits, choose outdoor seating.
As we’ve seen with theme parks and restaurants, ski resorts implemented enhanced cleaning and disinfecting. The gondola cabins are disinfected daily. Employees will frequently clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces with EPA-approved products that kill the COVID-19 virus.
Ski School Protocols
Group and private lessons are offered this year, including lessons for younger kids. The ski school limits all class sizes to six people. All participants undergo an online self-health screening (and sign a COVID-19 waiver) prior to participating in lessons. Instructors also undergo daily health screenings.
We always recommend making advance lesson reservations to save money and to ensure availability. Purchase all ski lessons in advance — no walk-up, day-of lessons are available. All sign-ups have to be online or through the EpicMix app.
Employees undergo a daily health check. Vail Resorts is ensuring employees stay home if sick. Employees must get vaccinated.
The mountain equipment rental locations are open this winter. Each mountain’s procedures and rules may vary according to local regulations. Guests and employees wear facial coverings in the shop. For close interactions, employees may wear eye protection and gloves. The employees sanitize and disinfect equipment between use. Look for an expanded rental delivery service, as well. It’s a good idea to reserve equipment in advance.
As you can expect, the resorts have instituted property-wide enhanced cleaning measures. They have limited touchpoints at check-in, and have moved to cashless transactions. Being flexible is important when traveling this year. Vail Resorts have relaxed lodging booking and cancellation policies so guests have the ability to change plans without penalty.
If you are flying to the mountains, be sure to find out your airline’s cancellation policies before flying. We have more tips for flying with skis and on ways to save when flying to Colorado, flying to Lake Tahoe or flying to Utah.
Non-Skiers in Your Party
What about non-skiing family members? If you have non-skiing family members coming with you on your trip, the resorts are asking that non-skiing and non-riding guest limit their time in the lodges. Non-skiers should find other things to do. How about any of these ideas for winter family fun beyond the ski slopes. Do your research this year to check on availability in advance and even make reservations if needed. You can never go wrong with good old snow play, sledding or building a snowman. We love free outdoor entertainment!
Closed or Unavailable Programs in 2021-2022
You may find some services are not operating this season. The ski resorts were not offering childcare for guests the 2020-2021 winter season. We have not heard if it returns for 2021-2022, so plan accordingly if you have small tadpoles.
A few other fun extras you might usually get to enjoy on the mountain did not take place in 2020-2021. Tost and S'mores return for 2021-2022! We love the champagne toast at Tost on the mountain and free s'mores at Northstar, and warm chocolate chip cookies at Beaver Creek. Be sure to check ahead of time to find out when and where to take advantage of these tasty offerings.
Hopfully, we’ve answered any questions you have about what to expect during the Vail Resorts reopening for skiing in relation to COVID-19. If you need to purchase the Epic Pass (for next season), discount ski hotels or car rental, you can get a hoppin’ deal when booking with your little green froggy friends.