Vail, Beaver Creek to open for summer operations on July 1
Vail Resorts will start opening its Colorado resorts on June 26 beginning with Crested Butte and Keystone
- June 26: Keystone, Crested Butte, Okemo, Mountain Snow.
- June 29: Whistler.
- July 1: Vail, Beaver Creek.
- July 2 – 4 (in order): Park City, Heavenly, Breckenridge.
Vail Resorts Thursday announced summer opening dates and operating plans at its North American resorts. The plan includes the July 1 opening of Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek. That was welcome news in the Vail Valley.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” Park Hyatt Beaver Creek general manager Herb Rackliff said. “The more activities and options guest have will continue to drive demand.”
The Park Hyatt reopened June 12. Due to current public health orders, the hotel can only fill half of its rooms, but Rackliff said demand is increasing “day by day.”
In Vail, Bryan Austin, general manager of The Sebastian hotel said that property is also seeing increased demand. Opening Vail Mountain should help that.
Austin said everyone who’s made a reservation receives a pre-arrival letter from the hotel. Staffers were busy Thursday working the information about Vail Mountain into those letters.
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“It’s a big deal for our guests,” Austin said, echoing Rackliff’s belief that more activities will lead to more people in the resorts.
To meet that demand, Austin and other lodge managers are hoping that Eagle County can quickly move to the “black diamond” phase of reopening, which includes a request to operate lodges at 100% of capacity.
Opening the mountain, even for just some activities is the difference “between a really good vacation and an outstanding vacation,” Antlers Lodge assistant general manager Kim Rediker said.
A release from Vail resorts noted that different operations and activities will vary by location.
The announcement also detailed Vail Resorts’ efforts to maintain both guest and employee safety. Those efforts include physical distancing protocols, face covering requirements, enhanced cleaning measures, employee health screenings and safety training, cashless transactions, and revisions to regularly offered programs and services.
While details vary between resorts, Vail Resorts is asking guests and employees to take on a new level of personal accountability to ensure the safety of its mountain communities.
“Summer is a special time in the mountains and we are excited to welcome guests back to the outdoors to have fun, refresh and recharge,” said Pat Campbell, president of Vail Resorts’ mountain division. “While we are offering limited summer activities, we are lucky that our beautiful outdoor settings provide a landscape to experience nature and to easily practice physical distancing so we all can safely return to the mountains we love. It is our expectation that guests help us ensure the experience is safe for them and for our employees by following our new guidelines. As summer progresses, we look forward to opening more activities and adventures at our resorts.”
In addition to complying with local orders, the release stated that Vail Resorts is enforcing its own safety measures.In the base areas and other locations where physical distancing is difficult, there will be signs and decals to ensure guests remain six feet (two meters) apart.
- Guests will be required to wear face coverings in certain areas. This includes in lines, when loading and unloading chairlifts, when loading and riding in gondolas or bubble chairs, on activities including the alpine slide or mountain coaster, and in indoor resort facilities. Guests are strongly encouraged to bring their own face coverings, but resorts will have them available upon request, subject to availability. Employees will be required to wear face coverings at all times.
- Plexiglass barriers have been installed in areas where physical distancing measures are not possible, including at points of purchase.
- Capacity of lifts and gondolas will be reduced to allow for physical distancing. Guests will only be allowed on lifts and gondolas with travelers in their party.
- Employees may limit the number of guests in any area of the resort to ensure proper physical distancing.
- Dining facilities will run at reduced capacity with updated floor plans in common areas. Outdoor seating will be available.
- On-mountain dining will only offer grab ‘n go food and all transactions will be cashless.
A mental health boost
Larry Leith, owner of the Yeti’s Grind coffee shops in Vail and Eagle, said the reopening announcement is “terrific” news.
“This is a huge mental health boost,” Leith said. “It’s good for us to be out doing things and having some normalcy in our lives. Mountain biking down Vail Mountain, or riding a lift, or a gondola with the windows open, is a great thing.”
Leith added that he’s confident that local businesses and guests can handle expanded activities. That’s essential.
“We do have to coexist with this,” he said of the COVID-19 virus that shut down much of the local and national economy.
And, like the lodging managers, Leith said he’s seeing more activity in Vail over the past few weekends.
“It’s not going to be anything like last summer, but (Yeti’s in Vail) was busy this morning,” he said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com.