By Katy Savage
If you want to ski or ride at Okemo this winter you’ll have to make a reservation first.
Vail Resorts, which owns Okemo, Mount Snow and Stowe along with 31 other resorts, released its winter operating plan on Aug. 27. Guests will be required to wear facial coverings at all times and encouraged to plan days they want to ski weeks or months in advance.
“I realize not everyone will agree with our approach – some feeling we are being too conservative or aggressive,” Vail CEO Rob Katz said in a letter to guests. “I recognize the changes we are implementing will be an inconvenience.”
Additionally, Vail’s resorts won’t accept cash anywhere and you won’t be able to walk up to a ticket window to buy a daily lift ticket unless you pre-pay. Though people seeking single day lift tickets will be welcome, season pass holders and Epic day pass holders will be given priority for reservations. Those with season passes can start making reservations starting Nov. 6 and can reserve up to seven priority days before traditional lift tickets go on sale.
“It’s a bit confusing, there are a lot of moving parts to it,” said Okemo Communications Director Bonnie MacPherson. “Ultimately we’re trying to reward our season pass holders.”
The reservation system will allow Vail to monitor crowd capacity at each resort. Though reservations are required, MacPherson said the chances of reaching capacity on any given day are low.
“Chances are pretty good there’s going to be availability,” MacPherson said.
Besides the new reservation system, there could be longer wait times to get on chairlifts, as guests won’t be able to sit next to strangers. However, two single riders will be placed on opposite sides of a four-person lift, two singles or two doubles on opposite sides of a six-person lift or two singles on opposite sides of gondolas.
There will also be dining changes. There will be fewer tables in lodges to encourage social distancing, MacPherson said. Most dining venues at Okemo will be open, but the majority of food service will be grab-and-go. Vail is encouraging guests to bring their own food and water.
Those who want to participate in the ski and ride school will be required to complete health checks. Lesson groups will be kept to six people maximum.
“Given how fluid and ever-changing the situation with Covid-19 is, it has also been our goal to design an approach that can remain in place for all of this season,” Katz said. “We do not want to be caught off guard or find ourselves needing to make reactive changes.”
Vail is offering a refund on 2020-21 season passes up until Sept. 17 for guests that don’t want to be at the resorts with all the changes.
“There is no doubt this season will be different, but we are committed to what matters most: working to protect your safety and wellbeing and providing you with great skiing and riding this winter,” Katz said in the message to guests.
Suicide Six and Killington have yet to release winter operating plans, though Killington Communications and Social Media Manager Courtney DiFiore expected Killington to release plans by mid-September.