TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The Magic Mountain Ski Resort has faced quite a challenge these past weeks. The Badger Fire halted many of the operations to prepare for this upcoming season, and the resort is still refining its COVID protocols to keep visitors safe.
While the fire initially did not panic Gary Miller, Magic Mountain's owner, the blaze approached the resort rapidly and was right over the ridge of the resort. The fire's proximity forced Miller and staff to ditch efforts of preparing for the winter season and gather any possessions they could.
"We took a lot of the stuff, some stuff out of the lodge that was mainly our documents and paperwork. So that if something happened, we got all the paperwork for our lifts, and maintenance and all that stuff," said Miller.
Fortunately, a strong wind managed to change the course of the fire, leaving the resort untouched. While there was a tremendous relief that the fire had missed the area, the owners are now focusing on implementing safety protocols for the visitors expected this winter.
"It's been really difficult. We've been through the Intermountain Ski Areas Association. We've been doing meetings with them, with the National Ski Areas Association, we're members with them also. We're in all of these webinars trying to figure out what's best," said Miller.
While precautions are being put in place, such as making enough room for people to socially distance, sanitizing surfaces and equipment, the owners are still looking at other ways they can make the area safer for guests.
"Our ski patrol, our ski instructor coordinator, we're meeting altogether, and we're still going over some of the stuff that we need to do to put in place to make it work," said Miller.
The resort is also speaking with local schools to discuss safety guidelines since they are frequent visitors to the resort. Miller says while not all schools are welcoming students for in-person learning just yet, he's still excited and glad to see some will still be making the trip to Magic Mountain.
The resort has an average of about 13,000 visitors each year. Although the resort cannot estimate how many people will be attending this season, there could be delays for people attempting to ski. Part of the delay is expected in lines for the lift due to equipment having to be cleaned. However, the resort is trying to make its services more efficient.
"In the lodge, we're looking right now at ticketing, how we can do online ticketing. We're trying to go through that and trying to scramble real quick so that we can make it so that they can buy the tickets in advance," said Miller.
Miller is delighted to bring some sense of normalcy and is hopeful that the resort will open and be ready for visitors on December 1.
"I'm excited, there are so many things I get involved with, but my favorite time is going out and teaching lessons with the youth. That's the greatest part of this whole mountain."