Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Top 5 Ski Resorts to Visit This Season: Pandemic Edition

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Berkeley chapter.

‘Tis my favorite time of the year, when the snow falls and the ski slopes open. However, with the pandemic, mountain fun will look very different this year. Plans will be cancelled, slopes will be blocked off, and lift lines will be socially distanced. If you are planning a ski trip for the 2020-2021 ski season, you must remain aware of these changes to keep you and your family safe. 

The season can still be a great one! You just have to pick the right resort. After sifting through databases of ski resorts from across the country, I have settled upon the top five ski resorts that have the perfect mix of winter vibes and reliable safety measures. 

#1: Steamboat Springs, Colorado

A lesser known resort, Steamboat Springs, boasts some of the best slopes for beginners and intermediate winter athletes in the country. It’s a very kid-friendly resort and offers an array of winter activities other than skiing and snowboarding. This year, in anticipation of large crowds after a great snow season, Steamboat has released new COVID-19 protocols to keep everyone on the mountain safe. 

Like most venues in the nation, Steamboat requires face coverings on and off the slopes. In accordance with most social distancing requirements, the resort is also running at a reduced capacity for the gondolas and chairlifts. Guests must self-group and load onto the lifts with only members of their own party. Unaffiliated skiers may be grouped together, but with maximum distance between them. Other individuals can request solo rides, but may experience longer wait times until demand allows chairs to open up.

Steamboat is also limiting on-mountain capacity to combat overcrowded lift lines, dining rooms, and rest areas. While no caps have been placed on season passes, the resort is limiting the sale of stand-alone lift tickets and requires advanced ticket purchases for guaranteed mountain access. The resort is also trying to enforce social distancing measures by expanding dining seating and adding parking locations to provide appropriate distancing for shuttle access.

Anna Shvets via Pexels

#2: Powder Mountain, Utah

Powder Mountain, the largest ski resort by acreage in the United States, is known for its incredible slopes and limited access. During a normal ski season, Powder Mountain caps entry at just 1,500 skiers and snowboarders. The reduced lift lines and more open slopes are a welcome relief from the crowds and lines of most other major resorts. This season, Powder Mountain has implemented a three scenario system: Green, Yellow, and Red. Each scenario addresses specific COVID-19 situations and enables the mountain to prepare for the safest environment possible when welcoming guests.

The first rule the mountain has is “No Mask: No Powder.” Much like other resorts, Powder Mountain requires all guests to wear masks in lodges, while waiting in lift lines, while riding lifts, and more. The mountain has also made sure that all ski patrollers are wearing N95 face shields when helping people and it is encouraged that those with minor injuries be treated outdoors.

Although the mountain already has a stringent cap on lift tickets, it has become even more exclusive this season. The mountain has further reduced the number of tickets available daily and has a reservation-only policy. With nearly a quarter of the visitors of most other major mountains, you can expect to be zooming through those lines faster than other resorts.

#3: Sun Valley, Idaho

Don’t be fooled by the name. Sun Valley is very much not sunny during the winter seasons. With acres of slopes, Sun Valley is known for its fresh snow and powdery downhills. This season, it has hopped on the bandwagon of COVID-19 protocols to keep its visitors safe.

Required face masks seem to be a trend, so here it is again: Face masks are required! Sun Valley Resort has also taken social distancing to heart by creating strict restrictions. “Ghost lanes” have been implemented in lift lines so skiers and snowboarders maintain the proper six-foot distance. In chairlifts, two singles can ride on opposite ends of the chair or self-identified groups can ride together. In dining areas, seating capacity will be reduced and guests must observe the six-foot distance from people not in their group. 

Dedicated to maintaining safety, the resort will also employ enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures. This will entail strict monitoring of employees’ health by checking and recording body temperatures daily. Public areas will be regularly disinfected and bathrooms will be cleaned on an hourly basis. Additionally, food stations will be cleaned frequently and “grab-and-go” meals will be promoted as a means of limiting interactions with others.

A man holding two plates of food; there is egg, a salad of some kind, and what looks to be potato and bacon.
Photo by Ready Made from Pexels

#4: Park City, Utah

Home of the largest lift-served terrain in the United States, Park City is one of the most popular ski resorts in the US. With dozens of runs for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels, Park City draws thousands of visitors every ski season. In light of the pandemic, the resort has implemented four main rules to keep guests safe.

The first rule states that face coverings are required at all times. The second rule is the pass holder reservations requirement. To manage on-mountain access and lessen the crowds, the resort is requiring reservations and providing priority access to all pass holders. The third rule limits daily lift ticket sales and permits the purchase of daily lift tickets only after December 8. 

The fourth rule requires contactless interactions throughout the mountain. This means that there will be no dine-in seating or resting in large groups. Instead, those wishing to purchase food must opt in to the grab-and-go style meals. Additionally, all transactions on the mountain will be cashless. This means all hotels, restaurants, Ski and Ride School, and other sale checkpoints must rely on card transactions. For the best experience, it is highly encouraged that guests book and pay for the majority of these services in advance.

#5: Lake Tahoe, California

Lake Tahoe: the Berkeley favorite. Just a few hours from campus, this resort is home to the world-renowned Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. In an effort to preserve the safety of guests and the community, the resort is spending a whopping $1 million to accommodate for COVID-19 guidelines. 

The money is mainly being used to increase physical distancing and sanitizing protocols across both mountains. New hand-sanitizing stations are being installed, and bathrooms will be outfitted with hundreds of additional touchless faucets and paper towel/soap dispensers. Partitions are being installed in most ticket, food, and beverage locations. Additionally, a fleet of electrostatic sanitizing sprayers will be released to disinfect areas around the resort, sanitizing up to 23,000 square feet with one tank. This will provide consistent, lasting, and widespread protection.

Another major portion of the money is being used to increase space for social distancing. Outdoor seating will be expanded, primarily for the major lodges. Hundreds of new tables, chairs, heaters, umbrellas, and fire pits will be available across the resort. Parking will also most likely be expanded to allow for social distancing even before guests reach the mountain.

With all of these COVID-19 protocols in place, the future of our 2020-2021 snow season looks bright. As long as we abide by the rules and make sure to keep ourselves safe throughout the duration of our ski week, all of us should be able to enjoy our regular fun in the mountains. As soon as I finish writing, I am going to pack up my skis and prepare for the ski season. I can’t wait to race to the slopes — this time with a mask!

Please note that the protocols outlined above are subject to change according to state health and safety measures. We advise our readers to visit each resort’s website for the most up-to-date COVID-19 rules and procedures.

Victoria Dinov

UC Berkeley '24

My name is Vicky and I am a freshman at UC Berkeley. I am currently undecided, but considering applied mathematics and/or economics as my major. I am also very passionate about writing, particularly uncovering truths through investigative journalism.
Samhita Sen

UC Berkeley '21

Samhita (she/her pronouns) graduated in December 2021 from UC Berkeley with a double major in Communication/Media Studies and Sociology. At any given moment, she may be frantically writing an essay, carelessly procrastinating by watching Claire Saffitz on YouTube or spending time with people she loves.