More than eight months later, a handful of ski resorts are open for business on Thanksgiving following pandemic-related shutdowns.
Brighton, Alta, Brian Head, Park City and Woodward are spinning their lifts on Thanksgiving, with Snowbasin and Snowbird expected to open in the coming days.
“A measure of a successful season for us this year is going to be open and stay open,” said Mark Wilder at Brian Head Resort. “We’re very fortunate to be open pretty regularly by Thanksgiving so we are thankful that we’re up and operating.”
Wilder says that Brian Head has been able to hire back roughly the same number of employees this year, despite the uncertainty lingering from the end of last year’s season as the pandemic began. Some employees have shifted their positions to a more specialized ‘health & safety’ group that focuses on sanitizing surfaces and ensuring guests are wearing masks.
“When you’re out, sniffling out in the cold air, you’re breathing hard, you’re riding hard, snow's getting in your face, you kind of go through your masks,” said Jared Winkler of Brighton Resort. Winkler recommends all skiers and riders bring a mask to wear on the slopes (like a gaiter, face covering) and bring another clean mask for you when you take a break and head to your car or the lodge.
Brighton opened for operations on Nov. 19 and has already had to make some tough decisions when it comes to annual events or festivities pertaining to holidays on the mountain.
“Just kind of slowly learning to walk this year instead of just running as hard as we can,” said Winkler, who added that all guests need to book their lift ticket reservations online. “It’s a little more work ahead of time to go up but when you’re there, the vibe still kind of feels the same.”
Resorts across the state of Utah are thankful to be back up and running at the tail-end of 2020. Winkler says Brighton is thankful for some excellent, early season snow and for the safety of their guests and employees. Wilder says Brian Head is thankful to be operating and practicing industry-wide goals for safety during the pandemic.
“Our lift lines are taking a little bit longer because one of our mandates kind of industry-wide is if you arrive together, ride together,” said Wilder, who also mentioned that additional spacing and distancing is being put in place for those waiting in lift lines at Brian Head.
Consistent with other businesses across the state of Utah, signage regarding masks, hygiene and distancing can be found at resorts both in lift lines and throughout buildings.