Vail, Beaver Creek gondolas now running for summer
Vail Resorts shops also open with new policies in place
VAIL — Gondola One began ushering guests up and down Vail Mountain, kicking off the start of the summer tourism season on Wednesday.
Beaver Creek also opened for the summer season on Wednesday.
All lift ticket sales occurred outside, where an enlarged line formation occupied more space in front of the ticket windows than in years past. Those purchasing tickets to ride the gondola were asked to wear masks in the gondola and the gondola line, where they were directed along a one-way path to the ticket window and the gondola.
Those who already had lift tickets and approached the gondola line without a face covering were asked to wear one before boarding the gondola, and those who did not have face coverings were provided one by Vail Resorts. Vail workers used tongs to pass masks to guests.
Communications manager John Plack said guests were happy to comply with the new policies.
“I’ve been out here all day, and everyone is walking up with a mask on, and if not, they’re being asked, and it’s no issue,” Plack said.
Once atop the gondola, visitors who wished to enjoy a grab-and-go meal from Vail, or a sack lunch from home, were treated to individual picnic tables, where they were asked to leave their garbage upon leaving, in an effort to avoid congregation at trash cans. Workers removed garbage from tables after guests left.
“Safety is service,” Plack said.
While bike hauls were not being offered on the gondola in Vail, mountain bikers are still welcome to use the trails on Vail Mountain, and all hiking trail areas are open, as well. The trails on the back side of the mountain all opened for the season on Wednesday, as well.
Hikers who climb to MidVail are welcome to take the gondola back down, free of charge, and dogs are also welcome to download on the gondola.
Gondola One will run every day from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead is expected to start running in mid-July.
Happy to be open
In Vail and Lionshead villages, Vail Resorts-owned stores also opened Wednesday with new precautions in place. Two Patagonia shops opened, two North Face shops, an Oakley shop as well as sporting goods stores Vail 21 and Vail Sports Marriott.
Outside the Patagonia shop on Bridge Street, Lynne Rossman — a greeter with 36 years of experience working for Vail Resorts — checked guests as they entered the store, briefing them on the face-covering policy and ensuring the shop had not reached its maximum capacity before letting in more people.
Guests entered the Patagonia storefront from the main entrance, traveled in one-way aisles while shopping and exited through a set of doors in the rear of the store. If they tried on an item, that item was taken out of circulation and sanitized.
Dave Nicknair, the shops’ regional director, said it took about two weeks to get everything ready with the new protocols in place. But they had been thinking about it for a lot longer than that.
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“We’ve been thinking about it since, probably, when we closed,” Nicknair said. “How to open again.”
At the Oakley shop, “We have a very strict procedure of how to try (sunglasses) on,” Nicknair said. “And then, before they go back into circulation, cleaning them.”
Nicknair said the new processes are more labor intensive, with the greeters out front and the extra cleaning procedures in place, and the shops also have less opportunity for high-volume sales traffic, so it’s a tougher sales environment. Nevertheless, they were happy to be open, Nicknair said.
“We’ll slow down, and we’ll take in less guests, and we’ll make sure the safety is there first, always,” he said.