All North American ski mountains operated by the continent’s biggest resort companies, Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company, will close Sunday — a dramatic move that comes just days after resorts vowed to remain open as the coronavirus spreads through the state.
Vail Resorts — which owns Vail Ski Resort, Beaver Creek Resort, Breckenridge Ski Resort, Keystone Resort and Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado — said it will reevaluate in a week to determine whether its mountains would reopen before the end of the season.
The announcements came shortly before Gov. Jared Polis on Saturday evening issued an executive order suspending all downhill skiing operations for one week.
“We have made the difficult decision to suspend the operations of all our North American mountain resorts and retail stores … and will use that time to reassess our approach for the rest of the season,” Rob Katz, Vail Resorts’ CEO, said in a news release. “Our lodging and property management operations will remain open to service the guests we have on location or those with existing reservations, but we will not be taking new reservations for this upcoming week.”
Alterra — operator of Winter Park Resort and Steamboat Ski Resort — will shutter indefinitely. Arapahoe Basin’s chief operating officer, Alan Henceroth, said on his blog that the beloved local mountain will also close Sunday for an “undetermined amount of time.”
“After careful thought and deliberation … and in what I believe is in the best interest of our guests, employees and local communities, Alterra Mountain Company will suspend operations at our 15 North American ski resorts,” Rusty Gregory, Alterra’s CEO, said on the company website. “All lift operations, food and beverage, retail and rental services will be closed until further notice.”
Loveland Ski Area announced Saturday night they will be closed indefinitely starting March 15. They also announced they will be refunding date specific lift tickets, rentals and lessons during their closure.
Aspen Snowmass and Loveland Ski area announced they would be closing indefinitely.
“Never would I have believed that a global pandemic would force the temporary closure of our world-class ski resorts,” Polis said in a statement announcing the order. “I have been skiing since I was four years old. Our family has had a place in Vail for three decades. And, like so many Colorado families, we were planning a ski trip with our kids over their spring break next weekend.
“For those who depend on employment in our Colorado high country, the uncertainty of how long they will be out of a job is terrifying. It is with a profound sense of pain and grim responsibility that I take the agonizing action that this moment demands.”
Seasonal and year-round Vail Resorts workers will be paid during the eight-day period without needing to use vacation or sick time, Katz said. The company will close its corporate office and ask employees to work from home.
Ski resorts under Vail’s ownership outside Colorado include Park City in Utah, Heavenly in the Lake Tahoe area and Whistler in British Columbia.
“This decision provides a pause for the entire ecosystem of our mountain resort communities,” Katz wrote in his letter. “It gives everyone the time to assess the situation, respond to ever-changing developments, and evaluate the approach for the rest of the season, if we believe it is advisable or feasible to re-open. This was not an easy decision to make, as we deeply considered the impact it will have on our guests, employees and the people and businesses in our communities.”
Katz said he would give updated information on the remainder of the season by Friday.
“I commend Vail Resorts for taking this difficult, responsible step and urge other mountains and resorts to do the same,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement. “Coloradans and our business community must continue to rise to meet the demand of these challenging times, and everyone must do their part in stopping the spread of this virus.”
The company said it will refund any pre-purchased lift tickets for March 15 to 22, as well as lodging reservations at hotels owned by Vail Resorts for that time period. The company is also waiving cancellation fees for hotel stays through May 31, 2020, for guests traveling from international locations to Vail Resorts destinations.
Existing reservations beyond March 22 are still valid, the company said.
A full list of Frequently Asked Questions can be found on the company’s website.
The timing of Vail’s announcement shows the remarkable speed at which COVID-19 is changing the landscape of every sector of society.
State health officials as recently as Thursday said there “were no plans to close ski resorts at this time.”
The day before, Polis advised anyone over the age of 60, as well as those with underlying health conditions, to avoid travel to the high country due to limited medical facilities in those communities.
Pitkin and Eagle counties have already announced community spread of COVID-19 in its counties — meaning health officials can longer trace the virus back to its source.
This content was originally published here.