Safe to Shred: Utah’s ski resorts prepared for another pandemic winter

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(ABC4) – Even as the state braces for what is expected to be a gigantic surge in positive COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks and possibly months, the show must go on in many industries.

Or in the case of Utah’s ski resorts, the SNOW must go on (bad pun, who cares).

According to Ski Utah Communications Director Alison Palmintere, hitting the slopes has proven itself to be a fantastic pandemic-time activity. Skiing or snowboarding is to the wintertime what golf is to the summertime; a great way to recreate while remaining socially distant.

“It’s one of the safest ways to recreate during the pandemic,” Palmintere explains to ABC4.com. “I know last season, it was one of the only ways that I was socializing personally, and it provides a great respite from day-to-day life.”

Not only can sliding down the slopes provide a means to see and make friends – things that aren’t easily done during a global health crisis – the exercise is also a great way to boost one’s mental health, she adds.

That doesn’t mean, however, that there won’t be some challenges in getting folks up the mountain as case counts continue to climb to record levels.

Local resorts are working to respond to the recent surge. Park City Mountain Resort, for example, will require riders to wear facemasks on their way to the lifts as part of a mandate by its parent company, Vail Resorts.

“That is one example of a protocol that’s been able to be enacted very quickly,” Palmintere says. “We’re really lucky here in Utah that all of our guests and our employees and our management all have the same goal, and that’s to keep all the resorts open.”

For the most part, facemasks won’t be required to a great extent at the resorts, except in indoor areas such as restaurants (not while eating, of course), the lodge, and any other place that gives an escape from the chilly outdoor air. Should any adjustments need to be made in the health and safety protocols, Palmintere is confident they’ll be implemented, or de-implemented, as swiftly and smoothly as a World Cup caliber skier carving up some fresh pow.

After all, the resorts have already done this before. Last year, in the first winter of the pandemic, things went off without a hitch throughout the entire skiing industry nationwide. According to Palmintere, not a single resort in the entire United Stated needed to shut down last year. She’s confident the local resorts here can pull it off again this year.

“I don’t think [the resorts] are any more concerned than anybody else is about this,” she states. “Obviously, this is something that’s facing all of us, and we’re reading about it in the news, but I wouldn’t say the resorts are any more concerned that than any other industry. We’ve already weathered a pandemic year when vaccines weren’t widely available. And so the measures that are being taken are similar to what we’ve already experienced.”

So if you’re looking to get up the mountain and carve your way down on skis or shred the park on a board, the experts, like Palmintere, say doing so is about as safe as any activity in the pandemic can get.

“Ski resorts are just listening to local health department recommendations and taking steps as deemed appropriate, but I would say skiing is an inherently socially distanced sport, so it’s kind of an inherently safe way to recreate during pandemic times.”

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