Two of the saddest words in the English language.
And that usually pertains to the ski and snowboard season as we sadly watch the dirt and mud creep higher up hill and realize the lifts will soon stop spinning and our on-snow fix will have to wait until the next Thanksgiving weekend … or so.
But this year, as the calendar flips over into April and we start to bid adieu to the 2020-21 season, perhaps it’s for the best, as this was a very peculiar, sometimes surreal and often challenging winter for your average snowsports enthusiast.
Restrictions and Reinventions
The pandemic that, um, rearranged most of our daily habits and rituals caused the ski industry to almost re-invent itself as far as day-to-day on-hill operations were concerned:
- Face coverings and social distancing were mandatory as resort operators strived to keep the virus at bay — and their lifts in operation.
- On-line reservations, either for parking or for lift tickets or for both, were the norm at many resorts, and being able to buy day-of tickets at walk-up windows was rare.
- The dining options were extremely limited, and the apres scene was pretty much non-existent,
- Some states — even whole nations — had restrictions on out-of-state skiers and boarders coming to their hills.
These restrictions led to a surge of interest in back-country skiing, which, in turn, led to a lot of neophytes getting in way over their heads in avalanche-prone terrain. As a result, there have been 37 avalanche deaths — a dozen alone in Colorado — so far this season compared to the per season average of 28 over the last decade.
Glass Half Full
Despite the weirdness, it wasn’t all doom and gloom this past season.
One bright spot: Many Western skiers and boarders, generally unused to wearing facial coverings due to more benign weather conditions, found that wearing COVID-19 mandated face masks actually kept you toasty during frigid days.
OK, two bright spots: Having the option to go solo on the chairlift led to quiet, contemplative rides up the hill without certain on-seat neighbors (incessant chatterers, music-blaring backpack wearers, etc.) breaking your reverie.
So as time winds down toward the end of the season, here’s a look at some anticipated closing dates at select resorts around the country:
Rockies — Telluride on April 4; Steamboat, Vail/Beaver Creek, Jackson Hole, Deer Valley, Snowbasin and Park City on April 11; Big Sky and Sun Valley on April 18, and Aspen/Snowmass and Alta on April 25.
West Coast — Heavenly, Northstar, Stevens Pass and Snow Summit on April 18; Mt. Bachelor and Summit at Snoqualmie on April 25; Mammoth and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows into late May, and Timberline into September.