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Walsh's at Aspen. Photo by Lindsy Fortier

Colorado’s 2020–21 Ski Season Will Look A Bit Different

Reservation systems, parking limits, and more. Here’s what we know so far about Colorado’s upcoming ski season.

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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:

Arapahoe Basin: Often the first resort to open, the Basin is targeting mid-October to launch the 2020–21 season. A-Basin season pass holders will have no restrictions, but possible restrictions for Ikon and Mountain Collective pass holders are to be determined. Lift tickets will be sold daily, but not on site. Tickets will be limited during peak periods and must be purchased in advance online. 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.

Aspen/Snowmass: Aspen’s quartet of resorts have not mapped out a detailed operating plan for this season, but representatives say they would like to avoid a reservation system if possible. Ajax and Snowmass are both scheduled to open November 26, Aspen Highlands on December 12, and Buttermilk on December 18. Alterra Mountain Company, which was in part created by the owners of Aspen Skiing Co., just announced plans for its mountains—including Steamboat and Winter Park—placing a priority on season pass holders and eliminating walk-up ticket sales.

Ski Cooper: Opening day and operations plans are to be determined. Season passes are on sale, but four packs are not. Day tickets must be purchased online in advance.

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.

Eldora: Opening November 23, Eldora is following Copper’s model with a later opening date and more available terrain. All guests must also reserve parking online in advance.

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. Lift tickets go on sale December 8. Keystone is planning to open November 6, Breckenridge on November 13, Vail on November 20, and Beaver Creek 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 is planning to open mid to late October. Loveland’s Ridge Cat will not operate and on-mountain cabins will not open this season. 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. There is no news yet on any restrictions for season pass holders, but 4-Paks are unrestricted with no blackout dates.

Monarch: Opening day to be determined, likely the end of November.

Powderhorn: Opening day to be determined.

Purgatory: Opening November 21.

Silverton: Opening December 26.

Steamboat: Opening November 21. There will be some sort of reservation system for mountain access “when necessary,” as well as a system for contactless ordering and payment at restaurants and retail stores. See above for details on Alterra Mountain Company’s operating plan.

Sunlight: Opens November 26 or earlier if conditions allow. No restrictions other than limited guests inside base area lodge. The mountain is asking guests to use their cars as base camp.

Telluride: Opening November 26.

Winter Park: Opens November 18. Lift tickets, lessons, rentals, tours, and tubing must be pre-booked and guests can expect contactless dining and lodging check-ins. See above for details on Alterra Mountain Company’s operating plan.

(MORE: The Best Ski Runs at (Almost) Every Mountain in Colorado)

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