Each winter, both locals and tourists alike flock to the mountains of Utah to enjoy the thrill of the powder slopes, but in the midst of a pandemic, that industry and its role in the economy is under threat as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise.

This year more than ever, skiers and riders have a responsibility to help protect one another and the industry.

As restrictions and precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic were implemented in Utah in the early spring of 2020, the ski industry took a big hit as almost all 15 of Utah’s resorts were forced to close earlier than planned. 

A report by KSL earlier this year estimated that skier visits dropped from 5.1 million to 4.4 million between the 2018-2019 and the 2019-2010 ski seasons. The president and CEO of the Park City Chamber of Commerce estimated a loss of about $150 million in spending due to resorts’ early closures.

Taking precautions to prevent a loss like last season, resorts in Utah have been preparing to make this season’s operations different than ever before.

According to Ski Utah, “Every ski area in the state will be adopting the NSAA guidelines and following state and CDC recommendations.” 

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Utah ski resorts preparing for a new season on the slopes in the COVID-19 era

Face coverings will be required both indoors and outdoors at all 15 resorts, as will physical distancing in lift and ticket queues. Precautions for limiting the number of people allowed in lodges will also be implemented on a resort-by-resort basis with heightened measures for cleaning and disinfection and limiting the number of overall patrons to prevent overcrowding throughout the resorts.

Resorts are doing all they can to help ensure the ski industry doesn’t succumb to the effects of the pandemic, but individuals need to ensure they, too, are doing all they can to stay safe this year, both in and out of the resorts.

One looming problem is the number of skiers looking to venture into the backcountry, a result of resorts limiting the number of skiers who can be on the mountain at any given time.

According to Utah Avalanche Center 2019-2020 Annual Report, sales for backcountry and avalanche equipment skyrocketed this year, and with early season snowfall, a high number of skiers have already been seen out on the open slopes. 

Those can be dangerous areas, especially for the inexperienced. The avalanche center has increased its education and awareness output strategies on social media and other outlets in an effort to better equip skiers and riders with the necessary basic avalanche knowledge. Riders must understand the risks and venture out with experienced companions.

Ski season in Utah this year will require a greater sense of awareness and responsibility from all involved, from patrons to the owners.

If you’re hitting the slopes this winter, do yourself and others the courtesy of helping a vital component of Utah’s economy remain viable by following the rules and regulations, respecting others and making sure you have the knowledge and equipment necessary to safely ride beyond the barriers of the resorts.