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Now that we are well into ski season, it's time for a little update on what's happening at a few of our favorite Western resorts. There is no question this season looks a little different than previous years (see: social distancing, face-mask requirements, and on-mountain reservations), but the good news is the mountains have remained open. We're crossing our fingers it stays that way. And with recent storms bringing some much-needed fresh powder to several of the best skiing destinations on the left side of the country, this is the time to safely and intelligently find your way to the nearest mountain for skiing, snowboarding, and general cold-weather revelry.
Since Vail opened this past November, it has been requiring reservations to go skiing or snowboarding. Reservations have basically become the theme of the 2021 ski season. In case you haven't had to deal yet, here's the process: Log in online and reserve every day you plan to make turns. Pass-holders get priority. If you bought an Epic Pass, you can book seven specific days throughout the season. After that, as a pass-holder, you can book as many week-of reservation days as your pass allows. The inventory will be released each Wednesday for the following week. One thing to note: Repeatedly missing or cancelling week-of reservations could result in the loss of the ability to make one for a period of time, so this is no time to be flaky. Daily lift tickets are also still sold online, but there is no guarantee of availability. And don't forget: Face coverings are required to access the mountain, as well as in all indoor spaces, in any line, on chairlifts and in gondolas, and whenever you are unable to maintain physical distance.
So, what about on-mountain dining? We get it. The last thing you want to do while carving turns or ripping through powder is bonk. While operating at a limited capacity, most restaurants in Vail are indeed are indeed open for dine-in service, and as an added safety measure, they're cashless. (As are lessons, rentals, and retail locations, and all other points of sale). It's highly recommended that you book and pay online in advance.
Refusing to go with the pack, Aspen Snowmass has taken a different approach to the 2021 ski season, and they've committed to their line (see what we did there?). They have not resorted to a reservation system and don't seem to have any intention of doing so—that is, unless you are an Ikon Pass-holder. That's right, if you have an Ikon pass, a reservation for any of Aspen/Snowmass' four mountains has to be made ahead of time on ikonpass.com. Otherwise, pass-holders can acccess the mountain as much as their pass allows, and pre-purchased lift tickets are still available as well. When it comes to gondolas and chairlifts in Aspen/Snowmass, it's really all about what you feel comfortable with. You can ride with the group you came with or ride solo. Up to you. Also, take note: Both the City of Aspen and Town of Snowmass Village have mandatory face-mask zones in place, which include Gondola Plaza at the base of Aspen Mountain, the Snowmass Mall, and Base Village and the transit hub/base area at Aspen Highlands. And no surprise here: Face masks are required in line and on all lifts and gondolas.
The Aspen/Snowmass area has had a lot of ups and downs this winter, causing a stop to indoor dining for a few weeks. But recently the restaurants—including those located on-mountain—got to return to indoor dining at 25% capacity. In addition, outdoor seating on decks was expanded, and open-air tents were added to allow more places for people to safely eat while riding. To save time and stay safe, download the Aspen Snowmass App where you can order contactless grab-and-go options from on-mountain restaurants. The app has also added the feature to purchase lift tickets, lessons, and rentals to cut down on in-person interactions.
Mammoth recently got the snow it much needed (nine feet of it to be exact), so this is a good time to plan your trip, and—even better—there is currently no reservation system in place. However, walk-up day tickets have been eliminated, so grab your phone and reserve day tickets online in advance to ensure you get your turns in. This season, Mammoth has chosen to prioritize access to Ikon Pass-holders so know that before you go, especially if you don't have an Ikon. In the interest of extreme safety, the resort has invested $1 million dollars in Covid-19 related enhancements, including new technologies and sanitization procedures designed to encourage physical distancing and to reduce contact points.
As we all know by now, the new normal requires masks while indoors, in lift lines, on lifts, in gondolas, and while on shuttles. Perforated, ventilated, or single-layer neck gaiters will not (repeat after us, not) suffice as a mask, so be sure to bring an additional mask or face covering. Additionally, lifts and gondolas aren't operating at full capacity (ride with your own household or sit at least one seat apart from members of a different household). Regardless, make sure to layer up though because the gondola windows remain open at all times to increase airflow. To accommodate the strange times, cancellation policies have been adjusted to allow you to plan a trip without worry.
Restaurants are operating with all the necessary precautions, including limited capacity and social distancing. Outdoor seating has been expanded when the weather allows, so when the sun is out and the temps aren’t freezing, you can enjoy your meal al fresco.
Season-pass holders of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort rejoice: There is no reservation system in place, and pass-holders have full mountain access without limitations. However, Ikon Pass holders planning to visit will have to make advance reservations, which are currently available online. While there is no reservation system for day tickets, the mountain did establish a max capacity for guests each day to enable for social distancing at base areas and in buildings, so it's imperative you purchase tickets ahead of time so as not to left out in the cold—literally. And, of course, have your face mask ready and make sure it's not a single-layer buff, bandana, gator, or scarf.
Like the other resorts, Jackson’s restaurants remain open this year, but unsurprisingly capacity is limited. Online ordering will be available at some spots via the JH Insider App, which will also allow you to check occupancy at some of the on-mountain dining locations. If you prefer to brown-bag it, warming tents and additional outdoor dining options have been added to the base of the mountain and on-mountain so you can enjoy your homemade meal safely.
File this under good things to come out of a bad situation: The Teewinot, Sweetwater, and Après Vous lifts open at 8:30 a.m. this year to help disperse crowds at the main base area. While technically a COVID-19 safety protocol, the earlier start times allow for extra morning turns, which feels like a small silver lining in a tough season.
When planning your ski or snowboard adventures this winter, make sure you're equipped with all the necessary gear. You can explore our women's snow collection here and our men's snow collection here. Now all that's left to do is pray for snow.