DENVER – Time to dust off those boots and tune those skis. At least one resort high in the Colorado Rockies is planning to reopen after a more than two-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus.
Arapahoe Basin will open Wednesday with restrictions, offering a sign of hope for a devastated industry and for mountain communities that were disproportionately affected by the disease early in the pandemic.
The resort near the Continental Divide west of Denver will limit the number of skiers and snowboarders by requiring reservations, and guests must wear a face covering if they can't maintain social distancing.
A-Basin's “beach,” the row of parking closest to the lifts, won't host any parties this spring, and tailgating is barred in all the parking lots.
“This is going to be very different,” Alan Henceroth, the resort’s chief operating officer, wrote on his blog Sunday.
A-Basin's reopening comes after the approval of Summit County’s request for a variance from the state public health order that closed resorts March 14. Gov. Jared Polis is expected to make an announcement involving all Colorado ski resorts Monday.
But the rapidly melting snowpack in the high country means most won’t be able to reopen. So far, only A-Basin, which tops out at 13,050 feet (3,977 meters) above sea level, is planning to fire up its lifts.
The resort usually stays open until early June and sometimes into early July, depending on the snowpack.
Melanie Mills, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA, an industry group that represents 23 ski areas across the state, said reopening would do little to help financially battered resorts but would be a “a real shot of confidence moving forward.”
“It would just be a huge morale booster after this experience,” she said shortly after resorts were forced to close.
Still, some are choosing not to allow late spring skiing.
Breckenridge Ski Resort toyed with the idea of reopening, but owner Vail Resorts announced Thursday it would instead focus on getting its summer operations going in late June or early July.
“Our goal is not to win the race to reopen, it’s to look back one day with great pride in our track record on safety,” Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz wrote in a letter to employees.
He added that the “tremendous enthusiasm” to get in a few more runs this season, however tempting, could be challenging for the resort to manage.
A-Basin joins Oregon’s Timberline Lodge and Ski Area and Mt. Bachelor in reopening. The Oregon resorts opened in mid-May after Gov. Kate Brown signed an executive order allowing skiing and snowboarding to resume across the state.
“We believe that outdoor recreation, whether it’s skiing, snowboarding or otherwise, is good physically and psychologically for people,” Timberline spokesman John Burton said. “This is something that people need to move forward and be happy and healthy human beings.”
The resort opened with a new reservation system and requires guests to answer a COVID-19 questionnaire and wear glasses or goggles, as well as masks and gloves. They also must keep their distance from anyone not in their group.
Burton said the transition has been “going great” and offers the opportunity to teach other resorts how to operate if the coronavirus affects next winter's season.
“It’s a good experience, but people need to be prepared for something very, very different,” Burton said. “It’s a new world.”