You wouldn’t let a little thing like the worst public health crisis in 102 years keep you off the slopes, would you? Fortunately, staying safe in Park City during COVID-19 is pretty easy once you know a few basics. Follow our guide to pandemic ski trip safety and you’ll be enjoying Park City’s world-class slopes while minimizing your exposure.
Utah’s COVID-19 Risk System
On October 13, 2020, the Utah Department of Health unveiled a new COVID-19 risk classification system. Using a new metrics-driven approach, the COVID-19 Transmission Index places each county in Utah into one of three transmission levels: high, moderate, or low. Each level is tied to a combination of active cases, testing positivity rates, and ICU bed occupancy.
Each level comes with new guidelines, new rules, and best practices. That’s great and all, but the important thing is how the Utah COVID-19 Transmission Index will affect your trip to Park City this winter. Let’s have a look at what your Park City vacation will be like in the middle of an ongoing pandemic.
You’ll need to bring a mask on your Park City ski trip. All the cool kids are wearing them, and only partially because of Summit County’s ongoing mask mandate. According to the best information available, face coverings are one of our strongest weapons in the fight against COVID-19. Wearing an appropriate mask over both your mouth and your nose provides moderate protection against infectious airborne particles from other guests and provides excellent protection to others from your gross lung germs.
There are at least four groups in Park City that are really invested in having every single guest wear a mask this year. First, the State of Utah requires masks in all high-risk counties and strongly suggests them in all other counties as well. Secondly, Summit County was operating under a mask mandate for months before Utah got the message and instituted their statewide order. Third, none of the resorts are going to let you anywhere near a ski lift without one. Park City Mountain and Deer Valley have already announced that all guests must wear masks at all times while on resort property. Every other ski area in the state is following suit. Finally, everybody around you will greatly appreciate your good sense and courtesy. Nobody wants to vacation around strangers who lack the basic human compassion necessary to protect their health by wearing a simple face covering.
Remember, when we say to wear a mask, we mean that you need to wear it. Don’t keep it in your pocket, don’t hang it over one ear, don’t wear it like chinderwear. Put it over both your mouth and your nose or you’re not wearing it. After all, nobody would say you were wearing pants if you left your junk hanging out over the waistband, so tuck in that nose.
The ski slopes are generally pretty crowded in Park City. You’ll often see long lines in front of the ticket window and the lifts. People flock to the on-site restaurants and apres ski spots. But not this year. No, a safe COVID-19 vacation in Park City includes plenty of social distance.
The newest state guidelines require at least six feet of social distance between every household group in moderate and high-risk counties. That includes outdoor recreation areas (like ski resorts) as well as indoor venues. Coupled with the mask mandates, social distancing provides the greatest possible protection against the transmission of COVID-19. Take note that we said “coupled with,” not “or.” You have to do both to get the full benefit.
At the resorts themselves, social distance is enforced through restricted on-mountain occupancy, ticketing restrictions, and reduced lift capacity. While the exact details are subject to change and vary from resort to resort, expect to see fewer faces during your time on the runs. Lines for the lifts will be stretched out to allow six feet between groups. Chairs and gondolas that usually permit 2-8 riders will be limited to household groups or 1-2 unrelated riders.
Speaking of groups, the number of non-cohabiting individuals permitted to occupy a single space depends on the current county risk level. At high risk, gatherings are limited to no more than five persons. Moderate risk permits groups of up to 25 individuals (more if everyone is wearing a mask). Low risk allows for up to 50 at a time (again, more with masks).
That includes ski groups, parties, and other impromptu social gatherings as well as organized functions like concerts. Whatever the current risk level is during your stay, this probably isn’t the year to bring all your pals along. Keep your traveling party limited, preferably to no more than just your immediate household members. Remember, minimizing exposure is the key to a safe COVID-19 ski trip.
Restaurants and Bars
First of all, yes, Park City restaurants are open. So are the bars. But they are strictly limited in how many patrons they can serve and where. As with other businesses, strict social distancing is enforced all over town. Cohabiting groups are permitted, but they must be at least six feet apart. Indoor dining occupancy is limited.
If at all possible, you should consider alternate dining options. Most eateries currently offer some form of curbside pickup, take-out, or delivery. Some even offer all three. So far, restaurants and—especially—bars have been responsible for many local outbreaks. Staying out of dining rooms and even patios will go a long way toward minimizing your chances of taking home a side of coronavirus with your order.
Safety begins at home. While you’re staying in Park City, that means picking COVID-19-safe lodging and taking reasonable hygiene precautions while staying in your home away from home. Make sure to book accommodations that are practicing enhanced cleaning protocols with certified disinfectants. That ought to take care of any leftover pathogens from previous guests.
The best thing you can do for yourself is wash your hands all the time. Really scrub them up. Make sure to get in every nook and cranny every time you come home, before and after you eat, before and after you go to the bathroom, and pretty much any other time you touch something that could carry the infection.
Resort Restrictions and Buying Lift Tickets
Actually getting access to the mountains is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish during the 2020/2021 ski season. It’s so complicated that we wrote a different blog post to explain the process. You can read all about it here.
Stay safe! We mean it. There is no substitute for good sense and careful planning. Remember that COVID-19 is serious. Don’t take any chances, practice good habits, and you will be fine. Even with a pandemic raging in the background, you can still have a safe Park City vacation this year.
Good luck out there, and enjoy the powder!