As the storms queue up in the Pacific in a La Niña year, we are all excited for the powder laps to come. Over the past several years, we have benefitted from three monster, "snowpocalypse", years resulting in week-after-week of deep powder days. If weather patterns continue, we may be in for another deep year.
Unfortunately we are also in the middle of a spiraling pandemic; how are we going to keep ourselves, our families, and our neighbors safe during these strange days? In many respects, winter mountain sports are the perfect recipe for social distanced adventures. Our local mountain, Mt. Bachelor, is taking precautions to elevate safety. Here are some of the measures they are implementing.
This year all skiers and boarders will be required to wear a mask. It’s a silly blessing; winter sports and masks are like peas-and-carrots. Save scuba diving and fencing, it’s probably the most mask friendly activity we participate in.
Many resorts will be limiting the number of people on the mountain by restricting the number of parking places. Here in Bend, Mt. Bachelor has a limited number of “free” spots they offer for online reservations in advance. Within the first five days of providing the online reservation system, all the January weekends and the choice holidays were completely booked. In addition to the free spots, there are a limited number of paid spots for $40 per day, that are also booked through January.
There is a penalty if you reserve a spot and do not use it. The rules state that, if you don't release your booked spot by 7:00 am you get a strike against you. After 3 strikes all your reservations are stuck back into the pool. This is creating a click war in the mornings. Parking passes are reentering the pool starting the day before, and up until 7:00am the morning of the booking. Wake up early and you may be able to pick one up.
Skis and boards will naturally distance mountain goers. Side to side buffer areas will be implemented between lines, the approach mazes will be extended and engineered for social distancing and line management.
Most ski areas are dropping the requirement to “quad-up” or fill every single lift. Instead, you and your party can travel up with as few as two people per chair, eliminating the chance that a stranger will hack COVID germs on you and your crew. This is causing lift line progress to be slower than normal. Despite smaller crowds, lift lines may not be faster.
Lodges will be operating at a limited capacity. Don’t expect to find a table for you and your crew; the limited access will be under health and safety guidelines. Their main aim is to provide lodges for quick warmups and to rest. However, I wouldn’t put it past them to have limited food service at twice the price 🙄. I predict that local food carts will also find a niche in the ski areas. Mountains are encouraging basing your trip out of your vehicle, so plan to boot up, eat up, and warm up in the safety of your car.
Expected restroom amenities will be available. It is uncertain if bathroom police will be enforcing social distancing 😬. In any case, expect a lot more yellow snow in the trees this year.
Protect Our Winters!
Here in the Pacific Northwest, global warming has contributed to some sensational snowfalls over the past five years, bordering on snorkel territory. Don’t get me wrong, the weather here is trending toward warming, and I’d have to check with a meteorologist, but the napkin math works like this: warmer oceans + warmer air = more evaporation. Dense moisture dense air pushing in from the Pacific and up into the higher elevations translates into more snow. It feels like winter is making it’s final stand before retreating to north. If this saddens or upsets you please consider a donation to Protect Our Winters.