Hitting the slopes to cope
On May 15, Timberline Lodge ski resort reopened for the year, bringing another outlet for outdoor recreation back to Mount Hood.
That said, the Timberline experience now is very different from what visitors are used to.
Timberline closed March 16 due to COVID-19-related restrictions.
"It was devastating," said John Burton, Timberline's director of marketing and public relations. "And it's not just those two months (that will be affected). This is going to ripple on."
With the OK from the state, Timberline, the only local resort to offer year-round skiing and snowboarding, reopened with limited capacity and reservation requirements.
"Part of reopening is restricting capacity," Burton said. "It's a small fraction of what a typical day at Timberline looks like. We have to start somewhere. It's a path to losing less money today and getting back to normal."
Carving out guidelines
For the foreseeable future, all dining areas are only open for takeout or grab-and-go items, no dining in. The lodge is open for overnight stays but only booking 20 rooms a night. Those not staying overnight have limited access to the lodge and seating areas are closed.
To visit Timberline for recreation, online reservations are required. There is a checkpoint on Timberline Road where people will be asked to show proof of their reservation.
"Positivity, supporting each other and working for the greater good are at Timberline's core," Burton said in a release preceding the reopening. "Timberline was born from the Great Depression as a response and need to heal: creating jobs, mending communities and bringing back a sense of purpose to a fractured society. It is with this ethos of creation, healing and purpose that we move forward with a limited ski area reopening and modified hotel operations."
There are several guidelines for visitors to the resort to keep staff and customers safe.
Timberline's rules for visitors:
• Do not visit if you do not intend to follow these guidelines.
• Only visit with members of your household.
• Complete a COVID-19 questionnaire provided online for skiers or at the front desk for hotel guests.
• Wear a cloth face mask at all times indoors and when unable to maintain physical distancing outdoors.
• Comply with monitoring and enforcement of COVID-19 prevention protocols throughout the resort, including the current physical distancing requirement of 6 feet.
• Continue to practice exceptional hygiene.
• Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
• Use hand sanitizer when you cannot wash your hands.
• Report any confirmed COVID-19 exposure.
• Immediately notify Timberline management if you begin to experience flu-like symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 after leaving the facility.
• Voice concerns, ask questions and seek clarification when necessary.
• Any guest who does not strictly adhere to the guidelines will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including suspension of their day ticket, season pass or issuance of a notice of exclusion/trespass.
"We are in this together," Timberline's release said. "Everyone needs to work as a team to create as healthy of an environment as possible. Timberline will continue adherence to federal, state and local guidance, including the CDC and Oregon Health Authority. We have created a COVID Response Management Team, implemented COVID employee training, and developed a strategy to keep guests and employees as safe and healthy as we can."
"If people are not prepared to follow the guidelines, they shouldn't visit," Burton added. "We're being unapologetic about that."
A demand for recreation
Burton said, so far, "customers have been great."
"People are just so happy to be outside," he added. "Outdoor recreation and physical activity are good for physical and mental wellness. It's something needed at this point in time."
Timberline, with its altitude and wide-open spaces for recreation, operates year-round, and Burton said that right now the area is experiencing good snowpack and a "mixed bag" of weather.
Contrastingly, neighboring Mt. Hood Meadows would have closed for winter recreation May 2, if not for the crisis. Right now, the resort is working to plan reopening for its lodging at Cooper Spur Mountain Resort midsummer, but the staff is not planning any summer operations at this time.
Cooper Spur has a targeted reopening of July 1 for lodging in cabins and condos.
"Our focus is on reopening the ski area for winter operations next November, and re-engineering our experience to mitigate the risk of infection spread for our team and guests," said Dave Tragethon, vice president of marketing, sales and communications. "The Sahale Lodge construction project continues as scheduled — and we anticipate it being ready for the ski season. With 23,000 additional square feet it will come in handy as we develop our operational plans around social distancing measures."
Skibowl also remains closed to the public at this time, but staff are "anxiously awaiting Clackamas County's Phase 1 reopening plan and the authority to reopen," said General Manager Mike Quinn.
"We're targeting a June 24 reopening for the summer park and are in the process of turning the park over from winter to summer," Quinn said. "We're hard at work looking forward to that date."
An update on the website adds that included in that "work" is "planning precautions, developing social distancing protocols and reviewing cleaning processes to ensure we're doing everything we can on our side to mitigate any exposure."
All resort representatives — at Timberline, Skibowl and Meadows — ask that visitors take seriously the precautions taken to keep employees and customers safe.
"(Being on the mountain) is a great experience, but people need to be prepared that it is something very different," Burton said.
For more information on the resorts' availabilities or required safety precautions, see the following links:
• Timberline, www.timberlinelodge.com/coronavirus-updates
• Meadows, www.skihood.com
• Skibowl, www.skibowl.com/summer
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