Mount Hood rec sites prepare for safe La Nina season
With fall officially upon us, many winter recreation enthusiasts in the Mount Hood area are getting excited for the upcoming ski and snowboard season.
Resorts and recreation areas on the mountain are also preparing for powder days, with COVID precautions still in mind.
At Mt. Hood Meadows, the slopes are anticipated to open around Thanksgiving. Though the VP of marketing, Dave Tragethon, is more hopeful this year because most people are vaccinated, unlike last season. Meadows is still ready for certain precautions to be in place for visitors, such as masking indoors and where physical distancing can't be maintained outside.
The resort is also taking reservations for visits this season, so it's easier to know how many to expect any given day.
Unlike last year, the resort isn't offering refunds for those who bought passes early and now don't plan to use them based on the COVID-19 pandemic conditions. However, Tragethon said, there is pass protection provided at the time of purchase, which "in the event that they need to get a refund, allows for that."
"For those who didn't opt for that, the story isn't as good," Tragethon explained. "We made it clear this year that even with the delta variant, we will be open. "We feel like there's a lot more certainty with our season now with vaccines and protocols in place. We're feeling very confident going forward with our season even with delta, (because of) the transmission rate outside."
"At this point, it's really up to each individual to make decisions about their own protection," he added. "If you're concerned, come up during off-peak times or avoid going inside."
Indoor dining and seating will be allowed and offered this year at Meadows, though masking indoors will be required as mandated by the state.
"We'll let the science guide us as well, of course, as any mandates," Tragethon said. "Worst case there will be management of visitation with pass sale limitations. There will be some similarities to last year but overall, I think we'll see a less restrictive environment."
Meadows' plans for offering (or not offering) transportation are still to be determined.
"We are more confident going into this season, because we have last year's experience, and we have a vaccine," Tragethon added. "Going into this year, we have higher expectations for ourselves because of that."
For more information about Meadows' policies and precautions and to plan a trip, visit www.skihood.com.
Tubing and takeaways
Also relying heavily on their experience from last year are the staff members at SkiBowl.
Mike Quinn, general manager at the snow tubing destination, said he's expecting the resort to require masks, but not have the same capacity limitations as last year.
"Right now, we're still kind of planning for business as usual," Quinn explained. "We will follow every mandate and restriction."
Quinn added that even prior to the requirement by the federal government that employees at companies of over 100 people must be vaccinated or tested weekly. Three-quarters of the staff was already immunized for COVID-19.
He also said that the staff already plans to implement some strategies from last year to keep people safe as they are well fed on the mountain.
Since the lodge space at SkiBowl is more limited, the resort utilized outdoor food trucks and other to-go style food services to keep people distanced while unmasked and eating.
"When you're faced with challenges, it does allow you to look at things with a fresh lens and new perspective," Quinn explained. "We'll be taking pieces and parts from last year's playbook for this season. It was a change (last year) but all in all (people visiting) showed that being outside is still important. I think the season went well."
That said, SkiBowl's passes will continue to be non-refundable, though Quinn said that exceptions are considered on a case-by-case basis.
"We've lived with (this COVID situation) for almost two years now," Quinn explained. "However, we'd work with someone if they felt we were turning backward (in terms of the pandemic situation and safety). We'll do everything in our power to make sure people feel comfortable."
Being at a lower point on the mountain, SkiBowl typically begins welcoming guests around late November to mid-December.
"We're 100% reliant on Mother Nature," Quinn said. "When the snow comes, we'll be open. I'm looking forward to a really strong winter. We're trending toward a La Nina, which leads to a strong, snowier year and strong visitation."
More information about SkiBowl and the upcoming season can be found online at skibowl.com.
Logistics at Timberline Lodge
Up near Government Camp, Timberline Lodge is still selling advance passes for the upcoming season and planning within state safety guidelines.
Timberline is following current mandated protocols," Timberline marketing director John Burton said. "Masks are required indoors (and) required outside when you cannot properly maintain six feet of social distance. Timberline has and will continue to follow all guidance and direction from OHA, OSHA and the Governor's office."
Pass information and updates on opening day at Timberline can be found online at timberlinelodge.com.
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