"We want to be able to operate with thoughtfulness, sensitivity and compliance, but also be practical, because we can't operate with heavy restrictions," says Scott Brandi, president of Ski Areas New York, a group that represents the most ski areas of any state in the country at 50. "We've all been hit hard, but when you really dig into it, the community understands what needs to be done."
Mr. Storrs, the Vail Resorts communications manager, says the reservation system will be in place only for as long as the pandemic requires it. "People got worried when we said 'reservations' and 'capacity,' but we are still standing by the fact that on the majority of the days we are going to be able to ski everyone who wants to ski and ride," he says.
And while the habit of waking up on a bluebird powder day and darting off for some spontaneous laps may be more complicated for many this year, there are advantages to the new reservation systems, too. "People who can read weather forecasts are going to like this," he adds. "The untracked stashes may stick around a little longer."
Some changes may become permanent
In many ways, the pandemic has only accelerated changes that were already happening. Instead of walking up to windows to buy a day ticket, rent skis and book a lesson, we may soon see more resorts adding airport-style check-in kiosks, like the "Axess Pickup Box 600s" going in this year at British Columbia's Big White, Colorado's Aspen Snowmass and Pennsylvania's Blue Mountain.
Adrian Ballinger, a mountain guide and the owner of Alpenglow Expeditions in Olympic Valley, Calif., has watched interest rise over the past five years in backcountry skiing, where there are no lifts, but now interest is soaring, with more than 200 people signed up for his safety courses months in advance instead of the usual dozen or so students for this time of year.
If retailers could offer insight based on what people are buying, it'd be that we'll see more beginners, more fat bikers and more cross country skiers out there, too, as people continue the summer trend of looking for any excuse to play outside and purchase the equipment to do it.
At the very least, few people think the pandemic will translate into empty ski areas, not even at places like Cimarron, a small, private ski area in Colorado that has seen membership applications double in recent months. The opposite may be true. "We've all been trained," says Ms. Rowan of Ski Area Management Magazine. "If there's a perceived high demand, you better run out and get your toilet paper."