Traveling to ski is a time-honored tradition. There’s something special about packing your ski bag and heading out to explore a brand new mountain, or better yet, stringing together a bunch of ski resorts on a road trip. But this winter traveling is going to look a little different for everyone, including skiers. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to travel to ski, it just means that we’ll all have to adjust our expectations and plans to make sure our ski trips are organized responsibility to protect our health, and the communities we visit.
Of course, there are no hard and fast rules for how to COVID-proof your ski trip, but there are a few general principles to keep in mind that help ensure that you’re being as safe and responsible as possible. And with a little creativity, there are plenty of awesome ski trips that you can make happen this winter. So get your ski jacket out, lay out your gear, and start planning.
Get creative closer to home
The first thing you can do to make sure your ski trip doesn’t get axed is to narrow your radius a little. The closer you stay to where you live, the better prepared you’ll be to handle a changing situation. Research resorts and ski areas closer to where you live. They might not have the big-name appeal of the resorts you usually visit, but smaller resorts hold their own charm and often come with a much more enjoyable skiing experience.
And look beyond resorts. If you have backcountry gear and training, consider booking a hut or yurt trip. That’s the best way to make sure you’re not exposed to anyone outside your bubble, and it offers a refreshing change to the normal resort-based trip. Just make sure to book as far ahead as you can because backcountry yurts often sell out for the prime months.
Plan as far ahead as you can
And on that note, try to book all of your tickets, lodging, and travel as early as possible. Everything is in flux this season, which means that most areas have limited lift tickets and generous refund policies. So get your days reserved as early as possible. It’s easier to build a trip based on what days you can ski than to try to figure out what days have tickets available and work backwards. Many resorts are going to be sold out over the holidays and other popular trip times. So if you can only get away then, reserve your tickets early, otherwise you’ll end up sitting around at home in your ski pants with nowhere to go. And if you have flexibility, consider booking your trip for traditionally slower times, like midweek. There will be less crowds and more snow for you.
Plan independent transportation
If you do travel somewhere without your car, plan your transportation out and don’t rely on public transport. Most shuttles are running at reduced capacity, and are prioritized for resort employees. Either stay within walking distance of the hill, or rent a car. This is not the season to cram into a shuttle with a bunch of other people, even if everyone is covering their coughs with their mittens.
Look at lodging differently
If this season has one keyword, it would be “creativity.” The more creativity you bring to your planning the better off you’ll be. This applies to lodging too. Crowded hotels are a bad idea this season. So look at cabin options and detached Air BnB’s, or consider renting an RV or camper. You want your lodging to be self-contained. So think about ways to reduce human contact. Most resorts allow some form of car camping for a nominal fee, and that guarantees you access to the slopes, without having to breathe on anyone else. It’s just not going to responsible to cram into hotels.
Plan meals ahead
The same goes for restaurants. Even if they’re open, dining in is not a great plan this winter. Think about it this way, if you’re going to be near enough to someone that you could touch them with your ski poles, there’s a good chance their germs can touch you. So plan to be self-sufficient. Most restaurants are offering take-out, plan to order over the phone, and pick up your food. And tip well, this is a rough winter for the lower wage service industry employees.
If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, shop for groceries once at the beginning of your trip and then cook for yourself as much as possible. You’ll save money, eat healthier, and hopefully have less of an impact on the community.
Think like a local
Finally, this is the big one. It’s almost a continuation of the Golden Rule. Imagine you live in the town you’re visiting, how would you want visitors to act? How would you be affected by their actions? Consider the consequences of everything you do and don’t be selfish. Mountain towns often don’t have the hospital capacity to deal with many severe COVID cases. And their economies are based around a service industry that’s easily shut down by a spike in cases. Be considerate. It’s just skiing, it’s not worth anyone’s life. If you love visiting an area, love it like a local would, and take care of it. It’s the least you can do.