Vail Resorts to shut down its North American resorts until March 22

Vail Resorts announced March 14 that operations will be suspended at all of their North American resorts starting Sunday, March 15.
John LaConte |
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Vail Resorts announced Saturday that its North American resorts will be closed through Sunday, March 22, according to a news release from CEO Rob Katz.

Alterra Mountain Co. followed within an hour Saturday with its announcement closing its 15 North American resorts.

Aspen Skiing Co. announced Saturday evening that it will close all ski operations at its four ski areas immediately “by order of the governor of the state of Colorado.”

Telluride Ski Resort tweeted that Gov. Jared Polis was planning to issue an executive order to all ski resorts in Colorado to close for a period of time.

“Vail will use the time to reassess our approach for the rest of the season,” Katz said in the release.

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All scheduled employees for Vail Resorts, both seasonal and year-round, will be paid, according to the news release. 

Polis applauded the decision by Vail Resorts.

“I commend Vail Resorts for taking this difficult, responsible step and urge other mountains and resorts to do the same,” Polis said in a release Saturday following Vail Resorts’ announcement.

‘Sincerely apologize to guests’

Returning his rental equipment in Vail on Saturday, Brett Hendricks of Sarasota, Florida, said he was planning to head to Copper Mountain on Sunday if operations are still underway there. Copper had not issued any statement on its plans to open or close as of 8 p.m. Saturday.

“We got here two days ago, got two days in, we were supposed to be here another two,” Hendricks said. “We’re disappointed, I mean I understand it, but having been here two days, the protocol that they were using worked, people could go on the gondola themselves or with family and the lines still weren’t massive. … They should have waited until Monday.”

Vail included a message to guests like Hendricks in the notice Saturday.

“We sincerely apologize to guests who are currently at our resorts – and those who were planning to come during this time,” Katz wrote. “We have information on cancellations, refunds and travel credits on our websites. Many things such as ski school, lift tickets, equipment rentals, and transportation can be fully refunded, and we have new credit policies in place for our owned and operated lodging properties. Please know that we will get to everyone and appreciate your patience as our most immediate priority must be the health and welfare of our resorts and communities.  I know there are a lot of questions about our season pass products and Epic Day Passes. Those products are non-refundable and not transferable to another season, however, we will be reviewing those policies and providing any updated guidance on that in the coming weeks. Again, we very much appreciate your patience with this as well.”

Workers exit Vail Mountain on Saturday after receiving word the mountain will shut down from March 15-22. The workers will be receiving paid time off during the shutdown.
John LaConte |

Paid time off

Vail employees were given leftover food to take home, and the atmosphere as workers were exiting the mountain was one of excitement at the prospect of some paid time off.

Vail will also suspend retail store operations.

“Our lodging and property management operations will remain open to service the guests we have on location or those with existing reservations, but we will not be taking new reservations for this upcoming week,” according to a release from Vail Resorts. “Epic Mountain Express, our Colorado shuttle service, will also continue operations to support the travel needs of our guests.  We will be closing our corporate offices and apart from essential personnel, we will be asking other employees to work from home, where possible.”

In the release, Vail acknowledged that communications up until Saturday had suggested resorts would remain open.

“We understand this change may be confusing given our communications of operational changes over the past week, and as late as last night,” the release said. “Please know that this has been a fast-moving, constantly developing situation with new information from our communities coming to us by the day, if not by the hour, and we are trying to react as quickly as we can. People may also wonder why we are not giving more notice ahead of this closure. We understand the challenges this creates, but our priority is to minimize any additional issues from operating in further uncertainty and to avoid potential crowding.”

Vail will be providing updated information on the remainder of the season by Friday, March 20. 

“These are unprecedented, challenging times for everyone,” Katz wrote. “We will continue to navigate these unchartered waters with our guests, our employees and our communities remaining our highest priority. I am certain that there have been, and will be, moments where we will miss the mark and potentially disappoint. However, rest assured that we will continue to listen to your feedback – and continue to make the best decisions we can for everyone’s wellbeing.”

Aspen Skico’s decision was a dramatic reversal of its position from Friday, when president and CEO Mike Kaplan said the company had measured all moral, legal and business factors and decided to stay open while implementing numerous safety precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

On Friday, Kaplan said, “We think it is the right thing to do. We see it as a vital public service to stay up and running.”

This story contains reporting from Scott Condon in Aspen.

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