(The Center Square) – Colorado’s public health department is seeking public feedback on its newly drafted ski area guidance, a set of standards that local planners will use when deciding how and when ski areas and resorts can open for the winter season.
The draft guidance requires resorts to develop individual safety plans in concert with local public health agencies which address topics like gondola operations, mask wearing, social distancing, employee housing, and isolation procedures.
“Ski areas are a vital driver of the Colorado economy,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). “A successful ski season will require a strong partnership between ski areas, local governments, local businesses, and the state. We can use what we’ve learned in the pandemic so far to mitigate risk in ski areas.”
CDPHE is accepting feedback on the guidance until Friday.
An economic impact study of Colorado’s ski industry by Colorado Ski Country, a nonprofit trade organization, and Vail Resorts, found that the industry contributes nearly $5 billion annually to the state’s economy.
To Margaret Bowes, executive director of Colorado Association of Ski Towns, the guidance was forged from an intense collaborative effort between local businesses and state health agencies to ensure this winter is much different than the last.
“This plan represent the consensus of multiple viewpoints and interests, all with the goal of having an uninterrupted ski season with the most reasonable and safe precautions for our communities, employees, and guests,” Bowes said in a statement.
Melanie Mills, president of Colorado Ski Country, believes continued coordination will be the key to a successful season.
“We appreciate the state’s efforts to work with the industry, local public health officials and counties to craft guidance that sets the stage for a long, successful ski season from a ski industry, public health and local community perspective,” she said. “Finalizing this guidance is an important step as ski areas across the state gear up for ski season and finalize their own area-specific plans for this winter.”
Last winter, Governor Jared Polis ordered resorts and ski areas to shut down on March 13, almost two months before the end of the season. This caused occupancy at some popular resorts to drop by as much as 23%.
Some resorts are planning to open as early as mid-October—weather permitting—while others are waiting until the end of the year.
Popular destinations such as Wolf Creek, Telluride, and Winter Park have not yet announced their opening days.