Euro ski season ends early America’s ending fast Covid-19 effect

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The fallout for skiers gets worse with Austria and Switzerland joining Italy in closing ski resorts this weekend as another move to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus. As cases rise across Europe more countries can be expected to follow suit.

Skiing Mt Fort Verbier
Unless you hike all the way, it’s over at Verbier for the season © Owain Price

The Swiss government banned gatherings of more than 100 people, which is a number ski resorts would obviously easily exceed.

Verbier already closed friday, event casualties as a resuly including the much anticipated FWT World Tour final where our occasional contributor Craig Murray was a leading contender following his win in Austria last week.

Zermatt also closed Friday, others like St Moritz close today or Monday the 16th March at the latest allowed by the government regulation.

Austrian resorts close by today, Italy’s closed last Monday.

Vail last run to Minturn Saloon
Vail Resorts, includiing obviously Vail itself shown here, shut from today © Owain Price

In America several resorts have closed already for the season – including Taos and Arapahoe Basin – while Vail Resorts has announced closures of all its resorts from today for at least a week, with further updates due later in the week (Friday, but it will likely be before that) regarding whether that is final for the season. The odds have to be that it is. Vail Resort’s announcement includes Whistler-Blackcomb.

That follows Aspen Snowmass shutting down on government order yesterday.

Which all means for anyone still dealing with flight caos, travel bans and the like hoping to ski there in the next few weeks best to just cancel rather than have cancellation forced upon you, or worse, get stuck in a resort that is closed.

Start thinking about next season. Or head to Japan, where most resorts are still open and it has been snowing.

This is full statement from Aspen Snowmass

Dear Loyal Aspen Snowmass Guest,

By order of the Governor of the State of Colorado we are closing all ski operations immediately. Additionally, we will close our ancillary businesses in an orderly manner over the course of the next week, with the exception of the Limelight Aspen. We will work closely with our current guests in house as they make travel arrangements. These actions are being done out of an abundance of caution and with concern for the capacity of local healthcare facilities should community spread increase.

We understand that this impacts a huge number of people; our employees, guests and the community as a whole. We are working now to address all of these issues and will work with each of these groups to minimize the impacts where we can.

We are closing The Little Nell and Limelight Snowmass for the season on March 23 and will reopen for the summer as scheduled. The Limelight Aspen will remain open. We will work with all of our guests who are currently in resort or who had future plans to visit this season. We will be offering refunds or credits and will work with each guest for the best desired outcome. If you are a guest in this situation, please be patient as we expect a large volume of calls and we will do everything we can to get to you as quickly as possible. You do not need to reach us right away to qualify for a refund or credit.

For employees, we are working diligently to provide them with a comprehensive list of what actions we will be taking. We will be offering two additional weeks of scheduled pay to all impacted seasonal employees. Employees will retain benefits status at the same level declared at the start of the season. We ask that our employees stay tuned for further detailed communications and understand the HR department will be overwhelmed with calls.

Our plan is to conduct some limited on-mountain maintenance to potentially have a limited late season opening if circumstances allow. We are all skiers at heart and we understand the therapeutic nature of our shared passion. Extreme circumstances call for extreme actions, and we make this decision in coordination with our local and state health agencies. Let’s work together as a community to support each other and will all come out stronger on the other side.

This is the full statement from Vail Resorts:

ESORTS WILL NOT OPERATE SUNDAY, MARCH 15 THROUGH SUNDAY, MARCH 22, WITH FURTHER GUIDANCE TO FOLLOW 
 

This has no doubt been an incredibly challenging time. With 37 resorts spread across 15 states and three countries, we – like the rest of the world – have been closely tracking every new development related to coronavirus (COVID-19) and have been in constant contact with local health officials for guidance. Without question, our top priority has been the health and wellbeing of our guests and employees – and to no lesser extent the health and wellbeing of the communities where we operate. We know each decision we make has a broad impact far beyond our operations.

With each of those stakeholders in mind and with the most updated information from local health officials, we have made the difficult decision to suspend the operations of all our North American mountain resorts and retail stores beginning Sunday, March 15, 2020 through Sunday, March 22, 2020 and will use that time to reassess our approach for the rest of the season. Our lodging and property management operations will remain open to service the guests we have on location or those with existing reservations, but we will not be taking new reservations for this upcoming week. Epic Mountain Express, our Colorado shuttle service, will also continue operations to support the travel needs of our guests.  We will be closing our corporate offices and apart from essential personnel, we will be asking other employees to work from home, where possible.  

All our scheduled employees, both seasonal and year-round, will be paid during this upcoming eight-day period, without needing to use any vacation or sick time. Their commitment to our company and guests during this uncertain time has been unwavering and I am personally grateful beyond words. 

This decision provides a pause for the entire ecosystem of our mountain resort communities. It gives everyone the time to assess the situation, respond to ever-changing developments, and evaluate the approach for the rest of season, if we believe it is advisable or feasible to re-open. This was not an easy decision to make, as we deeply considered the impact it will have on our guests, employees, and the people and businesses in our communities. We understand this change may be confusing given our communications of operational changes over the past week, and as late as last night. Please know that this has been a fast-moving, constantly developing situation with new information from our communities coming to us by the day, if not by the hour, and we are trying to react as quickly as we can.  People may also wonder why we are not giving more notice ahead of this closure. We understand the challenges this creates, but our priority is to minimize any additional issues from operating in further uncertainty and to avoid potential crowding.  

We sincerely apologize to guests who are currently at our resorts – and those who were planning to come during this time. We have information on cancellations, refunds and travel credits on our websites. Many things like ski school, lift tickets, equipment rentals, and transportation can be fully refunded, and we have new credit policies in place for our owned and operated lodging properties. Please know that we will get to everyone and appreciate your patience as our most immediate priority must be the health and welfare of our resorts and communities.  I know there are a lot of questions about our season pass products and Epic Day Passes. Those products are non-refundable and not transferable to another season, however, we will be reviewing those policies and providing any updated guidance on that in the coming weeks.  Again, we very much appreciate your patience with this as well.  

We will be providing updated information on the remainder of the season by Friday, March 20, 2020. 

These are unprecedented, challenging times for everyone. We will continue to navigate these unchartered waters with our guests, our employees and our communities remaining our highest priority. I am certain that there have been, and will be, moments where we will miss the mark and potentially disappoint. However, rest assured that we will continue to listen to your feedback – and continue to make the best decisions we can for everyone’s wellbeing.  
 

Guest FAQs

SEASON PASS

How does the closure impact my season pass or Epic Day Pass?

To the extent that any of our resorts re-open during the season, your pass will be valid.

Pursuant to the terms of all season pass and Epic Day Pass products, they are non-refundable and non-transferable to another season.  We will be reviewing these policies and providing any updated guidance in the coming weeks.  We appreciate your patience during this unprecedented time. 

LIFT TICKETS

May I get a refund on my lift tickets that are pre-purchased and valid for 3/15/20-3/22/20?

Yes pursuant to the terms of Lift TicketsOur teams are currently focused on assisting our guests in resort. Please check back here for more information on how to request your refund. We are working to make this process as easy as possible with an online form. Thank you for your patience. 

I have pre-purchased lift tickets for dates after 3/22/20. Can I get a refund?

Yes. Our teams are currently focused on assisting our guests in resort. Please check back here for more information on how to request your refund. We are working to make this process as easy as possible with an online form. Thank you for your patience. 

What are my refund options for other mountain products?

We have information on cancellations, refunds and travel credits on our resort websites. Many activities – such as ski school, equipment rentals, and transportation – can be fully refunded. Please check back here for more information on how to request your refund. We are working to make this process as easy as possible with an online form. Thank you for your patience. 
 

LODGING

I’m currently staying at a hotel. How long can I stay here?
You can remain at the hotel through the end of your reservation. If you would like to extend your stay or make any revisions to your stay, please talk to your front desk.

What is your rebook and refund policy for lodging?

For lodging owned and operated by Vail Resorts, you can receive a full refund for any bookings made for dates during the resort closure period.. 

For reservations due to arrive between 3/22/2020-5/31/2020, guests can apply the dollar amount of their deposit to a future stay at the same property for up to 365 days from the date of arrival. You can also rebook the same dates at another resort based on availability and at the applicable rate.

We are waiving cancellation fees for hotel stays through May 31, 2020 for guests traveling from international locations to Vail Resorts destinations.

Cancellation and date change policies through third party lodging and booking partners will vary by property. Guests should reach out to their reserved lodging property or reserved booking source if they need to discuss changes.

Are existing reservations beyond 3/22/20 still valid? 

Yes, at this time our lodging properties will remain open

Can I make reservations beyond 3/22/20 at your properties?

Yes, we will not be taking new reservations for stays between 3/15/20-3/22/20, but we are still taking reservations beyond that time frame. 

DINING

Will your village and fine dine restaurants be open?

All on-mountain dining, including quick serve and fine dining, will be closed.  Limited dining will be available in our lodging properties.

RENTAL

Will your rental and retail stores be open?

All Vail Resorts Rental and Retail stores at the resorts will be closed. We will have some limited openings within lodging.

EVENTS 

Are resort events cancelled as well?

Check our website, or the event-specific website for all event information. Events at our resorts between 3/15/20-3/22/20 are cancelled. 

FUTURE OPERATIONS

What are the chances you will open after 3/22/2020?
We will be providing updated information on the remainder of the season by Friday, March 20, 2020. 

View up from base at Lotte Arai Resort
Lotte Arai Resort near Myoko is still getting fresh snow and still open © Carmen Price