Upcoming ski season lifts Redwood ski and snowboarders hopes

Allie Vasquez and Brooke Leslie

For some, snowfall on the Sierra Mountains in November was the best news of 2020. Plenty has changed since the last ski season with the emergence of COVID-19, and many avid skiers are eager to get back on the slopes. However, with the steep rise in case numbers around the country, ski resorts like Squaw Valley have established new social distancing regulations, cohort systems and limitations on capacity to ensure safety. 

One problem ski resorts will likely face is an excessive amount of people congregating on the slopes. Two Tahoe resorts, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, have released their future plans and regulations for maintaining COVID-19 safety during the upcoming season. The resorts will use different season pass packages in an attempt to limit the number of people on the mountain at one time. 

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Squaw Valley’s joint resort, opened for the season on Nov. 29 with COVID-19 restrictions. (Photo courtesy of Alpine Meadows website)

According to passionate skier and Redwood junior, Morgan Moseley, as of November, Squaw plans to control how many people come into the resort every day. Types of passes include the Ikon Pass, which allows one to ski on any Squaw mountain on any day, and the Blackout Pass, which limits skiing to certain days. Moseley believes the new restrictions put in place will largely affect the skier’s and snowboarders’ experiences.

I think it is going to be very difficult to get up the mountain because the chair lifts will have guidelines like staying six feet apart or only being with family,” Moseley said. 

Liftlines will have new mazes (fences for people to wait in line to get onto a chair), but because snowboards and skis already naturally space people apart both in lines and going down the mountain, there will not be many adjustments in that respect. Luckily, masks are already part of the skiing and snowboarding ensemble since they keep faces warm and protect against the harsh winds on the upper parts of the mountain. People on the mountain rarely get within six feet of one another, except for in lift lines, so social distancing will be achievable. Restaurants and bars at the bottom of the mountain will have more outdoor seating to avoid large crowds of indoor diners. 

Despite these changes, the main difference from normal years to this upcoming season will be the lift tickets. While the Ikon and Epic ski and snowboard passes will grant the pass holders access at all times, day passes will be limited on weekends and holidays, and no walk-up day tickets will be sold at all.

Squaw Valley Ski Team coach and Redwood junior Kayleigh Docherty believes that the biggest issue Squaw Valley will face will not be on the slopes themselves. 

“During breaks, everyone either goes down the mountain or to a ski lodge. It’s going to be really difficult to keep everyone outside while it is snowing because, after a long day of skiing, you want to go inside and take a breather. With numerous [kid ski teams], it’ll be hard to keep everyone outside or socially distanced,” Docherty said. 

The Squaw Valley Ski Team will function very differently from past years. Katie Kula, former manager of the ski teams, believes that instructing the ski team and running the mountain will be exceedingly difficult this season.

“The latest that I have heard is that the teams are only doing half days, from 8:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with no lunch break in the middle because it is so hard to get all of the kids in and out of the eating places,” Kula said. “KT Base Bar [a restaurant at Squaw Valley] will probably be able to stay running because that’s outdoors, but others probably won’t be open because they don’t have enough indoor seating.” 

Skiing with her dog on fresh powder last year,  Bella Miccuci prepares to be a first-year ski instructor. (Photo courtesy of Bella Miccuci)

It is mainly the coaches’ responsibility to keep the kids safe and separated from each other. Redwood junior Bella Miccuci, who is beginning her new job as a ski team coach at Squaw Valley on December 4th, believes that managing the kids will be a challenge.

“The teams are going to be smaller, and I definitely think it’s going to be hard with all of the little kids. [The coaches] have to limit the amount of times [kids are] spending inside without a mask,” Miccuci said.

Before the pandemic struck, the kids on the team would be able to mingle around inside during the lunch breaks. But with the new schedule and no more lunch breaks, the kids’ social aspect of the team has decreased.

“Usually the kids are all together and can have fun during breaks and lunch but because of the new cohort system that is yet to be implemented, the team isn’t going to be as unified and it will just be different,” Docherty said.

Although COVID-19 is going to make skiing more challenging this year, these changes will not keep people from flying down the slopes. Redwood junior Braden Cook has skied for the Squaw Valley Ski Team and has looked forward to the ski season since quarantine started. 

“I’m definitely excited to go down that first run of the season after the year we’ve had because of the coronavirus. I see skiing as a free place where you can do what you want and it has been a nice escape from school and other sports in the past,” Cook said. “I definitely think I’ll appreciate it a lot more this year because I’ll be able to get away and forget about COVID and online school for a little bit, which I think is something we all need, and I’m really excited to get to do that in the upcoming months.”