If you’re wondering what’s in store for the 2020–21 winter season, you’re not alone. The good news is, in spite of ongoing restrictions due to COVID-19, there will be a ski season. But according to Colorado mountains and resorts that have announced operating plans, it will be different than we’re used to. You should expect to wear a face covering at all times, ride chairlifts mostly with your own crew, and prepare for limited indoor crowds, gear rentals, and group lessons. Moreover, reservations will be in place for parking and slope access at some areas—especially during peak periods at larger resorts.
Over the past several weeks, we’ve been learning more details about mountain-specific operating plans, which include expected opening dates and new public health protocols. Here, we’ve rounded up what we know so far:
Editor’s note: This article will be updated as more information and opening dates become available.
Arapahoe Basin: Often the first resort to open, Arapahoe Basin quietly kicked off the 2020–21 season on November 9. High Noon is the only run open at the moment. A-Basin season pass holders will have no restrictions. Possible regulations for Ikon and Mountain Collective pass holders are still to be determined. Tickets will be limited during peak periods and must be purchased in advance online. The resort will have contactless kiosks at the base area for visitors to pick up pre-purchased tickets. The terrain park and beginner terrain are closed. Restaurants will be open with limited seating, but bars will be closed. The Beach will be closed with no tailgating or large group gatherings allowed. No shuttle service will be available from parking lots, and rentals are not available.
Aspen/Snowmass: At the start of the season, Aspen Snowmass season pass holders will not need a reservation to ski at Aspen’s quartet of resorts. Ikon pass holders, however, will need a book their spot on the chairlift in advance. Each ski area will also sell tickets onsite at walkup windows, but pre-purchasing online is suggested to ensure access. Retail establishments will have capacity limits, and outdoor dining and grab-and-go food options will be available at all four mountains. Ajax and Snowmass are both scheduled to open November 26, Aspen Highlands on December 12, and Buttermilk on December 18.
Ski Cooper: When this Leadville resort opens on December 9 (weather permitting), every visitor will be required to arrive at the Cooper Port of Entry. After coming through that access point, guests will rarely have to scan tickets again, allowing for less points of contact throughout the day. Day tickets must be bought online in advance and can be purchased 10 days prior to the desired booking date (including opening day). Tickets purchased 48 hours prior to the booking date will be discounted.
Copper Mountain: Opening November 30, later than usual, Copper will provide access to more terrain to allow for physical distancing. Face coverings are required indoors, in lift lines, when waiting for a shuttle, and on the shuttles. Copper’s most important new protocol is that all day-trip visitors must reserve parking online in advance. As of November 9, guests have the opportunity to book up to seven advanced reservation days for any point in the season. Once Copper officially opens you can make unlimited parking reservations within a seven-day rolling window.
Eldora: Opening November 23, Eldora is following Copper’s model with a later opening date, more available terrain, and a parking reservation system. The guidelines for securing a parking space are also identical to Copper’s.
Vail Resorts: Face coverings are required in lift lines, on lifts, and in gondolas, but the big news across all Vail-owned mountains is that pass holders must make reservations for their days on the mountain. Pass holders will have the slopes to themselves until December 8, when other visitors can purchase lift tickets. Pass holders can also reserve up to seven days in advance beginning November 6 and make as many week-of reservations as they are able to. Keystone opened November 6. Breckenridge opened on November 13. Vail is expected to open on November 20 and Beaver Creek hopes to get lifts spinning on November 25. Additionally, in an effort to spread winter visitors out, the Town of Breckenridge is building a new sledding hill and offering free groomed trails around town for snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, fat biking, and hiking.
Loveland: Historically another early season frontrunner, Loveland opened on November 11. All lift tickets, rental equipment, and ski school reservations must be purchased online ahead of arrival. Full-day lessons will not be available and half-day group lessons will only be available for guests seven years of age and older. Season passes purchased after February 15 last season will be valid this season. Loveland’s Ridge Cat will not operate and on-mountain cabins will not open this season.
Monarch: Opening day is slated for November 20. Advance tickets are required for every Saturday and Sunday starting December 12, as well as December 19 through January 3, 2021. Pass holders are not required to make reservations.
Powderhorn: Opening day slated for November 27. The resort doesn’t currently have plans for a reservation system, but will limit visitor capacity based on county restrictions, if needed. Dining options will include online ordering and grab-and-go opportunities.
Purgatory: Opening November 21. Similar to Cooper, the mountain will have a general admission plaza, which will be the only place guests will need to scan their pass.
Silverton: Opening December 26. The mountain will have a daily reservation system in place.
Steamboat: Opening November 21. At the start of the season, Steamboat will not require any reservations for pass holders. Lift tickets and other packages must be purchased ahead of time online. Reservations will be required for ski-and-ride school and rentals. Night skiing will only be available on Fridays. In an effort to better spread guests out, first tracks will also be available starting at 7:45 this year.
Sunlight: Opens December 11. No restrictions other than limited guests inside base area lodge. Grab-and-go dining options will be available. The mountain is asking guests to use their cars as base camp.
Telluride: Opening November 26. Twenty refurbished gondolas spread throughout the Mountain Village will be available for dining.
Winter Park: Opening day to be determined, but will not be before November 30. Lift tickets, lessons, rentals, tours, and tubing must be pre-booked and guests can expect contactless dining and lodging check-ins. The resort will not start the season with a reservation system. A brand new mid-week pass, which gives guests unlimited access on non-holiday weekdays, will be available ($539 for adults, $299 for children).
Wolf Creek: The Pagosa Springs resort beat out all the Front Range ski areas to become the first to open this season, as three lifts started turning on October 28. While there are no amenities besides restrooms at this time, the resort does hope to expand its offerings once its phase two opening is approved by the Silver Thread Public Health District.
Additional reporting by Crystal Medrano