January 13, 2021 / Comments (0)

The Three-Mask Rule and other Tips for Skiing in a Pandemic

Photo by Grant Myrdal

We’ve all had to make significant changes to how we approach heading up to the mountain to ski and snowboard in the midst of a pandemic.

With COVID cases and deaths spiking, we would be fools to pretend that there is no risk in gathering to enjoy the mountain we love. Several mountain friends have tested positive for the virus, and that includes one family that was social isolating other than trips to the mountain – making it likely that they were infected while skiing.

Still, if you are like me, you NEED that time on the mountain, now more than ever. And you also need to stay healthy.

Here are some tips for staying safe and having fun while skiing during a pandemic.

Bring three extra masks: Let’s face it, wearing a mask all day while skiing or snowboarding can be a pain. Especially if you are exerting yourself and breathing hard. The mask gets soggy and then it freezes up solid. Not pleasant. That’s why I bring two extra masks in my pocket and leave a third in my car. When my mask gets wet or nasty I just switch it out (on the hill, NOT in the lift line) and move onto the next.

Don’t ride the bus unless the windows are open: The buses that ferry people from one parking lot to the next strike me as a seriously bad idea. Especially if the bus is crowded and the windows are closed. I found myself parked out of the main lot at Mt. Hood Meadows the other day, and one quick look at the inside of the idling bus convinced me to suck it up and walk the half-mile up the trail to the slopes. It was a beautiful walk through the woods and it felt good NOT to be crowded into a confined space with stagnant air.

Resist the temptation to tailgate: I miss my mountain friends. I would love to catch up with all the folks I would normally socialize with in the lodge or in the restaurants and bars. I just don’t think gathering in the parking lot is a great idea right now. You have to take your mask off to eat and drink, and let’s face it, people get louder and more effusive when they are tailgating. Which makes it easier to spread the virus.

Pour some water into that flask: I don’t know about you, but I have gotten pretty spoiled by the many drinking fountains at all the Mount Hood resorts. Those are off limits this year, and I was finding that one limiting factor to non-stop skiing was the basic human need to stay hydrated. That’s why I’m loading my flask with water this year and stashing at least two or three water bottles in the car as back-up – along with plenty of food for the day.

Get yourself a good Thermos or two: It’s a little embarrassing, how much money I have spent over the years on food and drink on the mountain. Not this year. You couldn’t line up for overpriced lunch in a crowded cafeteria even if you wanted to. I’ve been loading up a big Thermos with soup and enjoying it immensely while dining in the parking lot.

Keep the air clean: Speaking of parking lots, since we’re all confined to the parking lot instead of the ski lodge, wouldn’t it make sense to keep the air as clean as possible? I understand that sometimes you need to crank up the engine for a blast of heat. But do you need to leave it running for hours on end? (That question applies doubly to the drivers of resort buses, by the way.) More mountain air and less diesel exhaust, please!

Make night skiing your alternative this year: As Mount Hood regular Zeb Yaklich points out, you can get more runs in two hours of night riding than during a full day of busy weekend riding. The lack of lines and crowds decrease chances of coming into contact with others and makes the overall experience during a pandemic safer and better. You may have limited terrain but you gain peace of mind and a lot more runs.

What about you?

What tips do you have to share about making the most of a strange ski season?

Last modified: January 15, 2021