Press Release: Vail Resorts Announces Plans for 2020/21 Ski and Snowboard Season with Comprehensive Focus on Safety

Philpug

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Vail Resorts Announces Plans for 2020/21 Ski and Snowboard Season with Comprehensive Focus on Safety

Season to Kick-Off on Nov. 6 at Keystone

BROOMFIELD, Colo. – Aug. 27, 2020 – This season, Vail Resorts’ unrivaled commitment to safety takes on more importance than ever amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz today announced the Company’s 2020/21 winter operating plan in a letter to guests, which outlines a comprehensive, out-front approach to operating its 34 North American resorts with the goal of ensuring a safe, enjoyable and successful ski and ride season.

“We are fortunate that our core experience of skiing and riding takes place outdoors, across huge mountains, offering fresh air and wide-open spaces for our guests. However, to help protect our guests, our employees and our communities amid this pandemic, some changes will be required this season,” said Katz. “It has been our goal to design an approach that can remain in place for all of the 2020/21 season. We do not want to be caught off guard or find ourselves needing to make reactionary changes. Striving for consistency will provide our guests, employees and communities with as much predictability as possible this season, which we believe is worth the extra effort.”

Key changes outlined in the plan include:
  • Guests will be required to wear face coverings to get on the mountain and in all parts of resort operations, including in lift lines and riding in lifts and gondolas.
  • To maintain physical distancing on our chairlifts and gondolas, we will only be seating related parties (guests skiing or riding together) or: two singles on opposite sides of a four-person lift; two singles or two doubles on opposite sides of a six-person lift; or two singles on opposite sides of our larger gondola cabins.
  • Ski and ride school will be offered and on-mountain dining will be open, but with changes to help keep guests safe.
  • Mountain access will be managed to ensure guests have the space they need. As such, the Company announced a mountain access reservation system and limits on lift tickets to prioritize its pass holders.

    “For the vast majority of days during the season, we believe everyone who wants to get on our mountains will be able to. However, we are not planning for the majority of days, we are planning for every day of the season,” said Katz. “We want to provide assurance to our guests that we will do our very best to minimize crowds at all times – be it a holiday weekend or the unpredictable powder day. We believe this approach will help ensure a safe experience for everyone, while prioritizing access for our pass holders.”
Full details on the pass holder reservation system can be found here. Pass holders receive:
  • Exclusive early season access (lift tickets will not go on sale until Dec. 8)
  • Access all season with week-of reservations
  • Priority Reservation Days to lock in days for the core season before lift tickets go on sale
  • Easy-to-use reservation system
To give guests more time to consider the changes, the Company’s Labor Day deadline has been extended to Sept. 17, including the deadline to use pass holder credits from last season.

Vail Resorts plans to kick off its North American ski and snowboard season with Keystone opening on Nov. 6, weather permitting. Scheduled opening dates for each of its resorts can be found here. The Company plans to open all terrain and lifts as soon as possible.

“There is no doubt this season will be different but we are committed to what matters most: working to protect our guests, employees and communities and doing everything we can to provide great skiing and riding all season long,” Katz concluded.
 

Tricia

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This is promising.
 

fatbob

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Hmm every epic pass holder in front range makes test reservations for Saturday 12 December. System computes....erm....

The system rewards booking your days early and then getting renewed picks as you use your confirmed days BUT Vail clever algo to spot gaming of the system...

My logic would say book some antipicated peak days through NY now then book 7 days per week as each week rolls around, cancelling the night before as necessary. But I'm pretty sure that's the gaming they want to avoid and possibly punish....

It's not bad and they should be applauded for doing something and being upfront about it. But it's going to have a lot of teething problems. And you'd better be able to call that pow day 7 days out or.......

Ski every day locals and longhaul roadtrippers look pretty screwed though - right year to pass on US skiing
 
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Philpug

Philpug

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It's not bad and they should be applauded for doing something and being upfront about it. But it's going to have a lot of teething problems. And you'd better be able to call that pow day 7 days out or.......
Yes and since nothing like this is in the playbook (and we know how Vail likes to work from a playbook), there has to be a lot of leeway given because there will be changes having to made along the way.
 

KevinF

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As we have all summer, we will be requiring guests to wear face coverings in every part of our operations, which includes loading and riding in chairlifts and gondolas; when inside all buildings; and during all ski and snowboard lessons. No one will be permitted on the mountain without a face covering. We will also strongly recommend that guests wear face coverings in all indoor and outdoor public spaces throughout our resort towns and will continue to encourage our communities to make this a requirement. Being safe and successful this season will require everyone’s cooperation and we believe face coverings are foundational to make that possible.
First question: where does "on the mountain" begin? Will they be monitoring just as you get on the lift? When you enter the lift maze? What about once you disappear into the lift maze? I wandered around the Natick shopping mall the other day while waiting to join a friend for dinner. Signs all over the place indicating that masks must be worn at all times; compliance was high (80% ?), but certainly not universal.

I've tried a variety of neck gaiters, etc. that are being touted by some as evidence that "skiers wear masks anyway". I have yet to find one that doesn't become a useless block of ice after you've been breathing through it for a few minutes. I doubt that the cheap cloth or paper face masks are somehow immune to ice buildup.
 

Big J

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Lots to discuss as to whether this will work or not. I will not have to be concerned about masks etc for this coming season. I need two knee replacements so will not ski this next season. I will call Vail/Epic to see if I can get our Covid credits transferred to the following year for my wife and myself. We have the Veterans passes. It will be interesting to see how the upcoming season unfolds. We are moving to Virginia from the Seattle area. This will give us a year to decide which if any pass we will go with.
 

princo

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People (primarily families) that want to ski during the spring (spring break) that are local or that do multiple trips will be challenged by this system too. Since spring break is late in the season, they will have to reserve their spring break days very early using their priority days as soon as the reservations become available. Skiing other days will be a roll of the dice as they may not have additional priority days available to block other times. It will be an interesting conversation with some out of town friends that do multiple trips, including spring break (their main one).

Also, if you are one of those that do a "trip out west", you may not even be able to reserve days in your local mountain either. Or I guess you will have to decide.
 
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pj415

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  • Pass holders will be required to make a reservation before arriving at the mountain.
  • Throughout the season, pass holders will be able to make as many week-of reservations as their pass type and availability allow.
  • The early season will be reserved for pass holders only. We will not sell lift tickets until Dec. 8.
  • In addition to week-of reservations, we will also be providing pass holders with the opportunity to book up to seven Priority Reservation Days for the core season (Dec. 8-April 4), or as many days of access as they have on their pass if less than seven. The booking window for Priority Reservation Days will open Nov. 6 and will be exclusive to pass holders until Dec. 7.
  • As pass holders use their Priority Reservation Days, they can book new ones, maintaining up to seven (or however many days of access are remaining on their pass) at any time. In addition, pass holders can always make as many week-of reservations as they choose (or however many days of access are remaining on their pass).
  • Families will be able to book reservations together if they are in the same pass holder account.
  • While still subject to change, at this time we do not believe pass holders will need a reservation to access our partner resorts (Telluride, Sun Valley, Snowbasin, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, Hakuba or Rusutsu).
  • Lift tickets (including Buddy and SWAF tickets) will go on sale on Dec. 8, with sales limited based on the number of spaces available for any given day after our exclusive pass holder reservation period. This season, lift tickets will be sold with a reservation for a specific resort on a specific date.
  • Given the need to manage lift tickets sales, they will only be sold on our websites and through our call centers. No lift tickets will be sold at the ticket window in resort – you may only pickup your pre-purchased lift ticket at our ticket windows.
  • We will be encouraging guests to purchase in advance – though guests can purchase a same day lift ticket online or through our call centers, subject to availability, and then pick up the lift ticket at the ticket window.
 

raytseng

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i think the most interesting is they are prioritizing and giving status to those that express commitment/loyalty (e.g. buy a pass) over the higher profit of walkup tickets, and how much they will continue that prioritization.
Lets see if other passes follow suit.
The folks who might be doing out their math and concluded to just do daytickets or paymyway or get a cheap spring pass may need adjust their assumptions that those options will even exist as normal. This season may even greater tightening of vr's grand strategy that you need a pass to ski.
 

Jtlange

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Boy, this is going to make things really interesting on the Front Range. I honestly have to wonder what it will do to traffic if weekend capacity of Vail, Breck, and Keystone will be limited by 50%. I wonder if it will be enough to take up the difference of nobody carpooling. Other big shoe to drop is Ikon. I cannot imagine the hostility towards Ikon pass holders at Jackson, Big Sky, or Alta/Bird if the locals cant get their days.
 

tball

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I have to say the reservation system seems very well thought out:

Reservation Details | Epic Season Pass 2020-08-27 10-11-28.png

I hope Ikon and other resorts follow Vail's lead with similar systems and also reward loyal pass holders.

Kudos to the geeks in Broomfield who put this together, and best of luck keeping it from falling over on Nov. 6th when everyone tries to make reservations for MLK and Presidents weekends.

My big question on the implementation of the reservation system is how in the world are they going to make this work at resorts they don't own like Telluride. Seems to me that agreement on the general framework and business terms plus integration with their systems could be a bridge too far.
 
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Jtlange

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Also, the junk show that will be Berthoud and Loveland pass is going to be spectacular, but we knew that was going to be like that this season anyways ;)
 

tball

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People (primarily families) that want to ski during the spring (spring break) that are local or that do multiple trips will be challenged by this system too. Since spring break is late in the season, they will have to reserve their spring break days very early using their priority days as soon as the reservations become available. Skiing other days will be a roll of the dice as they may not have additional priority days available to block other times.
Yeah, it will be tough for those of us stuck on school schedules.

My guess is we'd be alright using our 7 priority days like this:
  • Saturday and Sunday of MLK weekend.
  • Saturday and Sunday of Pres weekend.
  • Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at one end of our spring break week.
The rest of the surrounding days, hopefully, would be available to fill in 7 days out. Also, after using the two priority days on MLK weekend, they become free to be used for spring break.

I should say that while I think that would probably work at Copper on a similar system, Vail and Breck can be much more crowded, so who knows. So, maybe a trip to Crested Butte or Telluride would make sense for spring break.

One nice thing about this system is it should distribute guests both geographically and by location to better utilize available capacity.
 
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tball

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My big question on the implementation of the reservation system is how in the world are they going to make this work at resorts they don't own like Telluride. Seems to me that agreement on the general framework and business terms plus integration with their systems could be a bridge too far.
Reservations are only for Vail owned resorts. From the faq at the bottom of the page:

Reservation Details | Epic Season Pass 2020-08-27 10-39-33.png
 

mikel

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I hope Ikon and other resorts follow Vail's lead with similar systems and also reward loyal pass holders.

My big question on the implementation of the reservation system is how in the world are they going to make this work at resorts they don't own like Telluride. Seems to me that agreement on the general framework and business terms plus integration with their systems could be a bridge too far.
Well lets talk closer to home. Do you have an Ikon Pass or a Copper and A Basin pass?( rhetorical, you don't have to answer) :ogbiggrin:
Who are the loyal pass holders for these places? Shouldn't the Copper and A Basin pass holders be rewarded?

I know 2 seasons ago we went to Telluride for President's week and it was perfect. No crowding at all

I must have posted right after you. I see you answered the question at least for VR. And I just now got the email from Epic about reservations.
 

Ron

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Physical Distancing on Chairlifts and Gondolas

To maintain physical distancing on our chairlifts and gondolas, we will only be seating related parties (guests skiing or riding together) or: two singles on opposite sides of a four-person lift; two singles or two doubles on opposite sides of a six-person lift; or two singles on opposite sides of our larger gondola cabins.


Riding a chairlift is an outdoor experience, while moving quickly and taking a relatively short amount of time, and many of you have inquired why we need distancing at all, given the requirement for guests to wear face coverings. While all of this is true, in the current environment, we do not believe it is appropriate to seat guests from different parties directly next to each other, given the dynamics during loading and unloading, during chair stoppages and due the proximity between guests as they ride the lift, speak to each other, speak on the phone, eat and adjust their clothing. We believe a conservative approach is the best way to protect our guests.


This will be an on-going evolution in policy. Nothing about proximity in lift/gondola lines.


On another note, thin, single layer buffs are not protective and have been proven to be even worse than not wearing any face covering.

This pretty much is line with what we predicted and Im sure Steamboat and Ikon will release their plans now that Vail has taken the leadership on this
 

tball

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Who are the loyal pass holders for these places? Shouldn't the Copper and A Basin pass holders be rewarded?
As we saw with A-basin's reopening reservations, Ikon pass holders had the same priority as A-basin pass holders.

I suspect it will be the same for the Vail and Ikon partner resorts this coming season, as it's unlikely the partner agreement would allow otherwise.

How about employees? Will they have access to the reservation system? I doubt it, but then how do you get ski area employees to work for peanuts if they can't ski?
 

palikona

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A huge question for me is how do they keep people from reserving every single day of a week, each time the system allows for it.

Locals do seemed screwed...no more before or after work laps on a whim. Or storm chasing. It’ll all be luck. Low hanging fruit backcountry will be a shitshow.
 

Rudi Riet

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There is no guidance for larger groups and competition programs in any of this which while not surprising leaves me and my peer coaches and programs in the lerch.

Furthermore, the reservation system will create a big system of haves and have-nots for things like competition programs. The onus will be on each family to reserve as many dates as possible and hope for the best. My guess is that most weekends we won't be able to have full attendance as families miss out on reservations for their athletes.

I'm hoping that coaches are given an exemption to the system as we need to be able to maintain proper coach-to-athlete ratios for safety purposes. Again, no guidance from VR on this just yet.
 
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