Preparing for powder days with precautions
While indoor recreational spaces have been closed at least temporarily by COVID-19-related restrictions, winter sport enthusiasts will be happy to know the slopes of Mount Hood will be open soon.
Mt. Hood Meadows, Timberline Lodge and Ski Area and Mt. Hood Skibowl all have plans to be open with safety measures in place to keep customers distanced and safe.
"I think this is a year for everyone to be patient, be flexible and be kind," said Dave Tragethon, vice president of marketing for Mt. Hood Meadows. "I think we're building community here. This is bigger than any one person and we're only going to get through this if we work together."
All three resorts have webpages dedicated to explaining their own COVID-19 precautions, though the universal regulations include:
• People must wear masks at all times throughout the resorts
• People must socially distance at all times and only ride lift chairs with members of their social bubble
• While government orders require the closure of indoor seated dining, visitors are encouraged to buy food to go and return to their cars to warm up
• People are required to make a reservation before visiting.
No walk-in visitors will be allowed at the Timberline Lodge, where people traditionally are known to show up on a whim for a tour. The lodge is reserved for hotel guests only and at limited capacity.
"We're anxious to get into it and provide the best experience we can," said John Burton, director of marketing and public relations for Timberline Lodge. "We need everyone's help to follow the guidelines and keep people safe."
"We want everyone to go to our website before visiting," Tragethon explained on behalf of Meadows. "This is not the year to drive up to the ski area at 9 a.m. on a busy Saturday and try to buy a lift ticket."
Tragethon added that it was of great convenience that Meadows completed work on a new lodge this year, adding ample indoor space for people to distance in, even though at the moment executive orders discourage lingering indoors.
"Sahalie Lodge is 23,500 square feet of new space and it also allowed for us to rearrange our congested areas in the north and south lodges," Tragethon explained. "It will also provide ski services in a much more convenient location for people to access the slopes."
Mike Quinn, vice president and general manager for Skibowl, is similarly optimistic about the possibility for socially distanced fun. At Skibowl there are 1,000 acres on which to ski, snowboard and go cosmic tubing.
"We naturally physically distance through what we offer," Quinn said. "I think it's good for people's emotional and physical well-being to get out — anything we can do to bring back some sense of normalcy."
While normalcy is a goal to be strived for, Burton said that naturally, "everybody can expect things to be a little bit different this year."
Timberline, as well as Meadows and Skibowl, will have food available in a take-out fashion, at least while under the current temporary executive order. Skibowl has even arranged to bring in food trucks to expand their food offerings while offering an outdoor dining venue.
For the foreseeable future, as in line with the government's guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19, none of the resorts plan to offer their usual winter events, including the outdoor fireworks display at Meadows.
"Events are just part of the casualties of the pandemic," Tragethon explained. Meadows will even be opening with a little less fanfare this year, in order to encourage better spreading out of their visitors.
With a La Niña winter in the forecast and several feet of snow already appearing at Meadows, the resort is projecting for a Nov. 30 opening day. In typical years, the resort does a preview weekend, encouraging anyone and everyone to hit the slopes before they officially open — but with the need to distance and a need for staff to be prepared to operate with COVID-19 precautions, a Monday opening seemed safer. Plus, the resort staff will need as much snow as they can get to help keep people distanced.
"We're more concerned about sustaining the entire season," Tragethon said. "We don't want to stumbling out of the blocks to open as early as possible. We could jeopardize our ability to continue operating with a big holiday weekend opening."
Timberline plans to open to the public Nov. 25, contingent upon any COVID-19 related changes.
"Ironically, this year snow isn't the problem," Burton said. As of Nov. 18, the resort was boasting 44 inches of base snow.
"Nothing is set in stone," Burton added. "We are going to do whatever is appropriate at that moment."
Skibowl, being lower on the mountain, typically opens a little later.
"We're very dependent on snowfall," Quinn said. "We're anticipating opening Thanksgiving weekend, but that's depending on Mother Nature."
While Timberline is planning to only offer private lessons, no group format, Meadows will be encouraging those interested in group lessons to socially distance or participate with people within their social bubbles. Meadows will also offer "parent and me" lessons for kids so that any hands-on help needed by young athletes in training can be provided by parents.
"Our lesson products this year are really guided by the need to be socially distanced," Tragethon explained.
"This year is kind of back to the roots: focusing on skiing and riding," Quinn added. "Then we just hope for all of the frills to come back eventually later on."
All resort representatives are anticipating a good snow experience this season, but warn that the overall resort experience will be different than what people have become accustomed to.
"It's going to be a great experience," Burton said. "It's just going to be different."
Know before you go
For full information on each resort's COVID-19 requirements, check their websites:
• Mt. Hood Meadows — www.skihood.com/covid19-update
• Timberline Lodge and Ski Area — www.timberlinelodge.com
• Mt. Hood Skibowl — www.skibowl.com
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