By Zeb Yaklich
Mt. Hood Meadows, Timberline, and now Skibowl have made the tough decision to suspend operations due to COVID-19.
Meadows, the largest resort on Mount Hood, had resisted the wave of closures spreading across the industry from Switzerland to Colorado to Washington State, stating in a Friday, March 13 press release that the resort would remain open daily through April 19.
However, by Sunday morning March 15th, that minority position was no longer tenable. Mount Hood would have been a major outlier in an industry-wide campaign to prevent the spread of the dangerous virus by limiting large crowds such as those that form in lift lines and especially crowded indoor ski lodges and dining areas.
Bachelor Leads the Way in Oregon
Mt. Bachelor was the first Oregon resort to recognize the immediacy the danger COVID-19 posed to Bend and the world community that frequents their resort. On the evening of March 14th the announcement was for immediate closure of Mt. Bachelor’s services and lift operations the following day Sunday, March 15th.
The announcements from Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline Lodge followed suit on March 15th. Meadows stated in its blog post announcing the closure that “the overwhelming concern for the welfare of our team members and guests has guided us to take this pause in operations.”
As of the original publication of this article on Sunday, March 15th, Mt. Hood Skibowl had not joined the other major resorts in shutting down to prevent the spread of the virus. A message on their website stated, “We are fortunate that the activities we offer are spread over 940+ acres… in the out-of-doors, naturally providing social distancing. We remain vigilant about our disinfectant routines in our lodges and public areas.”
However, within a few days Skibowl had reversed that opinion. As of Wednesday, March 18 operations at Skibowl are also suspended, indefinitely.
A Powerful Industry Wave
Shutting down an entire industry is devastating to the economies that they support and you can bet that Vail Mountain Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company the parent companies of Vail and Aspen did their due diligence prior to making such an unprecedented decision to close their resorts immediately on Saturday, March 14. Both companies halted all operations nationally and internationally at all their resorts until they can get a better handle and guidance for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes some of the world’s busiest and largest ski resorts: Vail, Whistler/Blackcomb, Aspen, Crested Butte, Heavenly, Stowe, Breckenridge, Park City and many additional ski resorts that are on the Ikon and Epic ski passes. Unfortunately on both passes’ websites, neither pass has mentioned how this affects their pass holders. We will update this article when they do make mention of where their 10’s of 1000’s of pass holders stand.
In addition, Colorado Governor, Jared Polis issued an extraordinary executive order that affects one of the largest tourism industries in Colorado by requiring ski resorts to close for at least one week. Governor Polis stated: “It is with a profound sense of pain and grim responsibility that I take the agonizing action that this moment demands. I take solace in knowing that while we will be temporarily closed for business, we will be saving the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Coloradans in the days and weeks ahead.”
Many ski area owner operators prior to the Governor’s executive order had already made the decision and took action to suspend operations for a one-week period starting March 15th with a possible re-opening date of March 22nd, 2020.
The resort management knows that just as fast as the dollars brought in at the resort disseminate into the local communities surrounding the resorts so too can a virus.
Coming up is spring break for many students and the massive revenue-generating family visits to the resorts. It is one of the busiest times and most significant financial impacts for these resorts and it is devastating to their business and the surrounding communities – yet the resorts have shown that your safety and the safety of their staff is more important than profits. For that we should all commend the teams at these resorts that I can assure you have been working non-stop to get a handle on what is the best course of action for their customers and employees safety.
We will update this article as further information comes in.
Last modified: March 18, 2020