Colorado resorts expect next ski season to be pretty normal, but some coronavirus changes may stick around |

Colorado resorts expect next ski season to be pretty normal, but some coronavirus changes may stick around

Jason Blevins, The Colorado Sun

A year ago this week, lift-served skiing was broken.

Ski areas around the planet ground to a sudden halt in a desperate effort to slow the spread of contagion. Operators were distributing food from spring-break-stocked coolers and figuring out what to do with jobless workers in employee housing, all while slashing budgets and planning for what would be a historic 2020-21 ski season, upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

After a year of refunds, irked skiers, wary workers, low snow, reservations, capacity caps and long lines, it appears the resort industry is about to return to normal. And as resort operators assess the damage of the last year, the wounds are, for some, surprisingly, superficial. That’s thanks largely to drive-up skiers escaping cities and aggressive cost-cutting by resorts.

And as resorts unveil prices and plans for the 2021-22 ski season, it looks like the resort experience will soon be back on track, with a few pandemic-adjustments sticking around — but not that advance-reservation business.

“It was an amazingly difficult year on our employees and an amazingly successful year when you consider the headwinds,” Alterra Mountain Co. chief Rusty Gregory said. “The fear that struck our hearts shortly after we closed down last March — and the fear we had really all summer —(the reality) was much better than the various catastrophic scenarios we had worked up.”

Alterra competitor Vail Resorts also emerged from the pandemic in better shape than expected, with earnings and revenues for the start of 2020-21 down 27% compared to the previous season. That was a smaller loss than projected and Wall Street responded favorably, with Vail Resorts’ stock at all-time highs for the last two weeks.

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