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Despite low snow and reservations, Vail had a busy December holiday

A crowded liftline at Beaver Creek on Dec. 29, 2020. Snowy conditions brought out crowds for the week between the Christmas and New Year's Day holidays
Chris Dillmann cdillmann@vaildaily.com

While things were different this holiday season, the town of Vail was still busy with full parking structures and crowded lift lines.

Vail raised day-of lift ticket prices to $229 per day for Sunday, Jan. 3 and Monday, Jan. 4, a new record in the U.S. Day-of lift ticket purchasers do not need a reservation to ski, and ski reservations were indeed full most days throughout the holiday. For pass holders trying to access the slopes, Vail issued a reminder that if at first they don’t succeed, try again.

And more reservations did become available on a daily basis. Many guests who weren’t able to book ski reservations in advance were able to day-of.

But that didn’t stop some from thinking twice about visiting. Local ski rental shop owner Jay Lucas said while his business was busy, he did have cancellations due to the reservations system.

“I know one guy from Mexico City who didn’t come because his brother was having trouble getting a reservation,” Lucas said.

Lucas said his family-owned shop, Ski Base in Lionshead Village, had a lot of customers from the Midwest and Texas, and knew of a few regular customers from California who didn’t visit this year due to travel restrictions.

“It was busy, not as much as a normal Christmas, but still busy,” Lucas said.

Lucas’ son Halsey, who also works in the shop, said low-snow conditions, surprisingly, didn’t contribute to a lack of interest in skiing at Vail as much as he had assumed.

“Even with low snow before Christmas, people were still coming,” Halsey Lucas said.

Parking structures full

The town of Vail reported six days of full parking structures, with both the Vail and Lionshead structures filling every day from Dec. 29 to Jan. 3. On Dec. 29, 180 cars lined the road; 326 on Dec. 30; 242 on Dec. 31; 405 on Jan. 1; 388 on Jan. 2; and 289 cars lined the road on Jan. 3.

The 2019 holiday saw only two days of full parking structures – 171 cars were parked on the Frontage Road on Dec. 27, 2019, and on Jan. 2, 2020, the street was lined with 402 cars.

Ski rental shops reported steady business, and restaurants – operating at a limited capacity – were forced to turn away guests during peak hours.

Local resident Sam Otteson said dining out on New Year’s Eve, “during the peak times, everywhere was pretty much filled.”

Otteson was able to get a reservation at Yama Sushi, and said he watched person after person turned away at the door for not having a reservation. He said it was hard to watch, knowing the restaurants could use the business, but also was accepting of the fact that COVID-19 spread can be limited by preventing dense crowds at restaurants.

“Most people were fortunately understanding, but some people were confused or expecting, it seemed, to get seated,” he said.

Vail Mountain’s reservations calendar is currently showing full reservations for Saturday, Jan. 9.

“Always check back to see if more reservations become available,” said company spokesperson John Plack.

More positive cases, more quarantine notices for schools in Eagle County

A COVID-19 diagnosis at Homestake Peak in EagleVail has sent students and staff members into quarantine.

Eagle County Schools announced Thursday that COVID-19 notifications were sent to families with students at Avon Elementary School, Brush Creek Elementary School, Edwards Elementary School and Homestake Peak School.

At all four schools, quarantine notices were sent after a single positive case. At Avon Elementary and Brush Creek, the positive case was last in school on Tuesday. Contact tracing determined that those in close contact with the positive cases should quarantine. Those needing to quarantine were contacted directly and provided with quarantine orders from public health officers.

Avon Elementary School families were informed of a positive student case Wednesday night. Thirteen students and three staff members will quarantine, with an additional three students transitioning to remote learning. Brush Creek families were notified Thursday afternoon that a student tested positive for COVID-19. Twenty-two students and one staff member will quarantine.

At Edwards Elementary, a staff member tested positive and was last in school on Tuesday. Four staff members, including the principal, will quarantine through December 15.

At Homestake Peak, a student tested positive and was last in school on Monday. Seventeen students will quarantine. However, three staff members and 21 students in an 8th grade pod will transition to remote learning for the length of the quarantine. The quarantine runs through December 14, with all students and staff returning to school on December 15.

In addition to the school cases and quarantine orders, a positive case in the transportation department has resulted in three transportation staff members in quarantine. Consequently, Bus Route 2 has been canceled until December 14. Bus Route 2 serves Red Sandstone Elementary School, Battle Mountain High School, and Homestake Peak School. Families of students who ride this route were notified via telephone calls and through the SmartTag app.

Public Health notifies the school district of a positive case with ties to the schools, either as a student or staff member. Working collaboratively, public health officials and the district pull relevant schedules and seating charts, and begin interviewing the positive case and those who might have been in close contact with them while infectious. A careful list is developed of those students or staff who need to quarantine to contain the potential spread. Those needing to quarantine are called and emailed promptly, including in the evenings and over weekends.

Quarantine orders protect the broader population from those who may be contagious, asymptomatic, or most likely to develop symptoms. The layers of protection at schools, mainly wearing face coverings and social distancing, help significantly reduce the risk of contracting the virus. So far, only a few cases have developed from those directed to quarantine.

As positive cases mount, the challenge of keeping schools operational in-person also climbs. Staff members may be out due to a positive case in their household, their child being on quarantine, or because they are positive or in quarantine themselves. System-wide staff absences can strain the district’s ability to remain open.

Eagle County election results certified

Eagle County’s Nov. 3 election results have been formally certified, Clerk and Reporter Regina O’Brien announced Tuesday.

“Once again, Eagle County passed the post-election risk limiting audit with zero discrepancies,” O’Brien said. “A big thanks goes out to our voters, our citizen election judges, my elections team, and the Eagle County government departments that support elections. We could not do this without all of them.”

The final numbers showed an 86.14% turnout with 29,506 residents casting ballots. There were 34,255 registered voters for the last election.

The final Eagle County numbers in the presidential race show 18,588 (63.79%) votes for Joe Biden and 9,892 (33.95%) for Donald Trump.

A complete list of the county’s certified election results can be viewed here.



Eagle Valley High School transitions to remote learning for remainder of the week

Eagle Valley High School notified parents, students, and staff Tuesday that learning will transition to full remote for the rest of the week. Students and staff will learn online and follow their normal schedules from home beginning Wednesday through Friday, Nov. 20. The following week is a holiday, so in-person learning on the hybrid schedule will resume on Monday, Nov. 30.

The school district cites steady increases in the number of quarantined staff and students as causing the shift. It created a scenario where Eagle Valley High School ran short on teacher coverage for classes because teachers are out. In addition, many classrooms had a majority of students joining online because they are either quarantined or being cautious.

The transition also means Eagle Valley High won’t play Friday’s football game with rival Battle Mountain High School. With Eagle County now in the orange, high-risk category of the state’ COVID-19 dial, the last game of the season was going to be played without any spectators.

Battle Mountain has resceduled and will play Summit County with the game starting at 6 p.m. Friday in Edwards. No spectators will be allowed to attend.

Students of Eagle Valley High School are expected to continue with their regular schedules, logging into classes from home for the rest of this week.

Since before the Halloween weekend, incidents have continued to rise and force more quarantines at schools across the district. Most schools are fearful of staffing shortages if case counts continue to rise.

“The second layer impact of rising cases in the community is tripping us up. We have teachers who have to quarantine because of a positive household member, or stay home with their children who are quarantined,” said Superintendent Philip Qualman. “We’re hopeful the holiday break and increased restrictions will help the community fight back the virus one more time so we can continue to safely keep students in school.”