Truckee-Tahoe resorts lay out plans for first turns
Special to The Union
As the season turns from summer to fall, Truckee-Tahoe locals are awaiting their chance to make the first turns of the season at area resorts.
Leaders from the industry, along with representatives from the region’s ski resorts, gathered for a virtual meeting last week to answer questions on guest experience heading into the 2020-21 ski season.
Resorts around the basin will make a number of changes, which include mask requirements, social distancing protocols, and in most cases, no in-person sales.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows president and COO Ron Cohen stressed that this season will be different in a number of ways, while stating that the resort will look to make the on-mountain experience as normal as possible while following local and state guidance.
“That’s kind of how this ski season will be this year — same but different,” said Cohen. “We can generally say that we would expect the differences this year to be most obvious in the non-ski experience — the downhill experience is going to be mostly the same.”
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows will look toward limiting capacity and controlling visitation by temporarily limiting walk-up ticket sales to start the season.
“That takes out a big chunk of people unfortunately,” said Cohen. “It’s obviously a big piece of our business, but it really reflects our company’s desire to strike the right balance out there for health and safety even at the cost of really one of our most profitable lines of business.”
The resort plans on tightening advanced purchase of lift tickets while also implementing social distancing protocols like limiting the amount of skiers on lifts.
Northstar is eyeing Nov. 20 for a season opener with plans to fire up its snowmaking system in the coming weeks.
Like other resorts, Northstar will be requiring face coverings while in lines, and during the unloading and loading of chairs.
“Our focus as a resort is not only to open safely, but to stay open for the entirety of the season,” said General Manager and Vice President Deirdra Walsh.
“Sometimes putting safety first is not the most popular decision, as we experienced in March right before one of the biggest snowfalls of last season, but it’s our responsibility, I think, to make sure we make these tough decisions.”
Northstar will also implement a reservation system for those looking to ride or ski this season, with passholders receiving priority when it comes to setting up dates. Lift tickets won’t be sold in-person, and gondolas, chairlifts and ski lessons will also have capacity limits.
Northstar is also returning to free parking this season at its Village View parking lot.
Along Tahoe’s West Shore, Homewood Mountain Resort is also focusing on limiting the number of skiers per acre by reducing the total season passes that are up for sale, while also capping the number of skiers per day on the mountain.
Homewood will also move toward an interaction free ticket system where guests can redeem tickets for the mountain or parking at kiosks. Food and beverages purchases will also be online in order to better utilize the resort’s lodging space.
“We’re really going to be encouraging people to use their car as the lodge,” said General Manager Jim Mitchell. “The lodging, the space indoors is constrained already … we don’t want to pack a lot of people into lodges.”
Face coverings will also be required for guests and employees.
Soda Springs, Boreal Mountain
Atop Donner Summit, two resorts are looking at late November to get the season underway.
Boreal Mountain Resort and its sister location, Soda Springs, are focusing on getting skiers and riders on the mountain early in the season and remaining open until snow melts away.
“The goal with that is to really ensure that we have adequate terrain to give everybody the room that they need,” said Amy Ohran, president and general manager. “And as much as we’d love to be the first to open in California and it’s always a race to the start line, we really feel this year it’s more important to start conservatively and preserve our operations for the remainder of the year.”
The resorts plan on reducing capacity by having guests choose skiing and riding times, but doesn’t have reservation requirements at this time.
Last year, Boreal and Soda Springs implemented hands-free ticketing, which according to Ohran, will factor into this season’s experience.
Ski and riding schools will be limited to private lessons to begin the year with the potential for adding group lessons in January.
Also sitting on Donner Summit, Sugar Bowl Resort is following suit with a number of protocols ahead of the 2020-21 season.
“Things are not going to be the same and I think we really look to the community to help express that … so that everyone knows what to expect,” said Executive Director of Marketing Jon Slaughter.
The resort plans on requiring reservations for lift tickets and rentals. No walk-up purchases of any kind will be available along with no indoor dining.
“With 25% dining right now, we kind of feel like we need that space to allow a mother and child that are blue in the face to come inside and warm up, rather than eat indoors,” added Slaughter.
Season passes sold out during Labor Day, but the resort may offer more at a later date.
Face covering will also be required when not skiing or riding, but “where there is a pinch point and you’re going to be interacting, you would need to have a mask on,” said Slaughter.
Above Incline Village, Diamond Peak Ski Resort is targeting Dec. 10 as its opener and plans to offer top-to-bottom skiing once lifts begin to turn.
“We’re really looking forward to being able to open up the resort, welcome all of our core family, and visitors back to the Nevada side,” said Director of Marketing and Sales Paul Raymore.
Diamond Peak will limit the total number of guests this season, require face coverings for guests and employees, and will implement social distancing measures.
The resort will offer indoor dining with reservations. Season passholders will not be required to make reservations to ski or ride before heading up to the mountain.
Diamond Peak will also push for most of its transaction to be completed through its online store.
Across the lake, Granlibakken Tahoe is also pushing guests toward online sales, and plans to limit the number of guests on its said hill.
“For us, we have some limitations that a lot of the bigger guys don’t,” said General Manager Eli Covell.
The resort plans on making use of time blocks for its sledding hill, and has already gained experience in procedures during the summer months with its ropes course and other offerings.
Indoor dining won’t be available at Granlibakken’s lodge this season.
Mount Rose Ski Tahoe
Mount Rose is typically among the first resorts in the area to open, but this year skiers and riders will have to wait until the there is enough coverage to open from top to bottom.
“We’ve strived to be the first the last few years,” said Director of Marketing Mike Pierce. “It will be a little different this year, we’ll still go as soon as we can, but we will open to the top before we open and with a number of ways down so we can ensure that we can spread the crowds out safely.”
The resort plans on capping the number of season passes sold while augmenting that with a reservations system for daily tickets.
Once the mountain does open, access will be initially limited to season pass holders. Mount Rose also won’t be offering its typical daily specials this season.
Additionally, the resort has added to its snowmaking capabilities, and has yet to set a date to open the season.
Tahoe Donner is eyeing Dec. 11 to open its downhill area, and will implement similar protocols as other resorts.
The ski and cross-country area will make use of online ticket sales this season and is encouraging guests to eat outdoors. The potential for indoor dining is still up in the air.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at email@example.com or 530-550-2643.
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