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Idaho ski resorts prepare for winter operations during the pandemic

Posted at 4:54 PM, Oct 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-07 18:54:08-04

BOISE, Idaho — Skiing and snowboarding will be slightly different this winter as resorts prepare their plans to keep guests safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Ski Areas Association has put out guidelines to help the ski industry prepare for their winter operation.

Several ski areas in Idaho have announced their plans for the season and how they plan to minimize risks on the slopes.

Perhaps the most significant change starts with the lodges as just about every resort in the state will limit the number of people inside and require skiers to wear masks in the lodges.

Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area will implement outdoor heated areas to address this issue, but they also advise people to gear up at their cars so that people can use the restroom or grab a bite to eat inside.

Like many other resorts, Bogus Basin gained experience operating during the pandemic as they had their busiest summer ever despite opening later than expected.

"It was a great summer, and more importantly, we learned a tremendous amount on how to operate under COVID guidelines to keep our employees and guests safe," said General Manager Brad Wilson. "There is no playbook for this, so we are learning as we go."

The ski resorts in Valley County will use technology to prevent people from standing in line to get their tickets.

Both Tamarack Mountain Resort and Brundage Mountain have released their plans for ski season, and they both will have electronic means of producing tickets so people won't have to wait in line.

"You can order your pass online or on your mobile phone," said Scott Turlington, the President of Tamarack. "People will be able to use one of our four pickup box locations, scan a QR code, it will drop your pass right out of the box and you are direct to lift."

Some ski areas haven't been able to make their plans, two Idaho resorts have had to deal with other problems stemming from wildfires.

The Phillips Fire passed through Soldier Mountain Resort, damaging the magic carpet, one of their chairlifts and several other assets.

Soldier Mountain Resort's website says they will open for winter operations, but they have to do a lot of work before the snow falls.

Magic Mountain Ski Resort has been busy with one of Idaho's most massive wildfires, the Badger Fire, which has slowed down their winter preparations.

"We are meeting, and we are still going over some of the stuff that we need to do to make it work," said Gary Miller Magic Mountain's owner. "We are in all of these webinars trying to figure out what is best."

We reached out to Sun Valley Resort but didn't hear back today, but it will be interesting to learn about their plans because they face a different situation than any other resort in Idaho.

The Friedman Memorial Airport provides direct access to the area and helped contribute to the Sun Valley being ground zero for COVID-19 in Idaho.

Ski resorts believe they will not need a reservation system, they expect the safety protocols will allow skiers and snowboarders to shred the slopes this winter.

Bogus Basin has seen an influx of people in recent years with its close proximity to Boise, so they have also extended their night skiing hours to help everybody enjoy the mountain.

Brad Wilson said they might have to limit people on busy weekends and holidays, but if they do so, they will limit ticket sales in advance and have a message on a sign at the bottom of Bogus Basin Road.

Season passes holders will have priority and Wilson expects them to be able to ski all winter long, but for people looking for a day pass, Wilson recommends ordering it online a couple of days prior.

"No matter how busy the day is, if you want to come up to ski, you will be able to," said Wilson. "It may not be at 9:00 a.m. you may want to come up after three."