While many people were concerned about their summer and autumn plans being canceled due to the current pandemic, many have another concern on their minds: Winter, and all the recreational sports that go with it. While major ski resort towns such as those in Vermont and Colorado were concerned about how they'd proceed considering all of the new safety guidelines that now need to be in place, some have managed to find a way to remain open while enforcing tight restrictions.

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To start with, skiing and snowboarding are somewhat socially distant as it is. However, the trouble arises when it comes to sharing ski lifts, dining indoors, and being in close quarters such as a ski resort. The concern for the winter is due to the fact that rather than being outdoors like you can in the spring and summer months, winter makes it a challenge to keep groups of people from congregating inside where it's warm. With many ski resorts committing to safety first, those who anticipate hitting the slopes for the season and the beginning of 2021 should expect some significant changes. Each state has its own guidelines and within that, each establishment does, as well - contacting the resort to get their policies should be the first step to any potential vacation, and this is what we know so far.

Ticket Reservations

This year, the biggest difference will be the need for reservations - not just for the resort, but for everything a ski resort entails. This is also the biggest thing that will vary from resort to resort - some resorts will be restricting ticket sales and limiting capacity while others will not, and you won't know unless you call ahead or visit a resort's website. The reason many resorts are restricting tickets this year, as well as capacity, is to keep the mountains free and clear, with enough space between skiers and snowboarders to allow for adequate social distancing. By controlling how many are up on the mountain at once, the resort staff will have an easier time delegating lifts and restricting how much contact guests have with one another outside of the resort walls.

For some resorts, even things such as parking and equipment rentals are by reservation only. This means that guests will need to call ahead and book early if they are looking to score a spot on the slopes this year, as there will be limited reservations for almost everything. Additionally, many resorts are switching to strict online-only reservations - meaning in-person ticket sales will not be an option.

Gondolas And Lifts

Lifts and gondolas have been a tricky territory for many ski resorts. Most of them have devised a way to keep guests separate as they use lifts with special socially-distanced line markers in place. Others, like larger resorts that have a larger capacity, are simply restricting how many people can ride up and down the mountain together. Some resorts are even keeping their ski lifts and gondola restrictions to those who came in a party together, while others are allowing no more than two people in one lift or gondola at a time. Again, the best bet is to check the website of the resort you're considering or to call ahead and see exactly what the resort's safety policy is, and if you're comfortable with it.

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When in doubt, in the event that there is no policy in place, guests should always take it upon themselves to maintain a six-foot distance at least. If a location on the mountain seems crowded or the lifts are too close for comfort, opt for another way or simply just wait it out. It's better to be safe than sorry, even outdoors in the winter.

Dining Options

Another major question on many minds regards dining and how resorts will continue to cater to guests during a pandemic. The answer to this, just like the ski lifts, will differ based on the resort. For smaller operations, dining establishments are at a very limited capacity and will only allow diners in according to their ability to distance each table. Others are allowing guests to bring their own meals and order through delivery services, as well as producing apps that allow guests to order food from the resort ahead of time. Additionally, most full-service bars will be closed at resorts and all transactions will be cashless to prevent excessive money handling. As always, masks are required even inside of restaurants, except for when a guest is eating - it should be replaced as soon as they're done and whenever a server comes over to the table.

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