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Vail Resorts decides to end ski season at Vail, Keystone, Crested Butte, Beaver Creek; Loveland, Buttermilk also shut down

Vail Resorts decision could impact other Colorado ski areas that want to reopen

Skiers and snowboarders are pictured at the base of Vail Mountain's Eagle Bahn gondola on December 18, 2019. (Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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Vail Resorts said Tuesday morning that it won’t reopen the majority of its North American ski areas — including Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Crested Butte — for the rest of the 2019-20 season because of the new coronavirus.

That could affect other ski areas in the state that were hoping to reopen.

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“Our decision to end the season now is evidence of the fast-moving situation involving COVID-19, and it was not an easy one to make as we deeply considered the extended impact it will have on our guests, employees and communities,” Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts, said in a written statement. “While it is incredibly disappointing for our company to mark the end of the season so early, we know it is the most responsible path forward.”

The resorts, which closed Sunday, expected to reopen on March 22, according to an announcement from the company on Saturday. Gov. Jared Polis followed hours later with an order closing all Colorado ski resorts for at least a week.

The extended closure decision affects all of Vail Resorts North American properties, except Breckenridge Ski Resort, Heavenly Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe, and Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia. The company says it may reopen those in late April or early May, dependent on the situation with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, as well as weather conditions. 

The company says guests can process refunds and credits on pre-purchased lift tickets, lodging, ski and ride school, equipment rentals and more.

MORE: Coronavirus is running so rampant in Colorado’s mountains residents, visitors should “minimize all contact with other people”

Loveland Ski Area announced on Monday that it was shutting down for the rest of the season. Telluride says it’s done as well. Aspen Skiing Co. closed its Buttermilk Ski Area for the rest of 2019-20, but said it was hopeful it could reopen its three other mountains.

“If we can reopen our ski operations, we will,” Aspen Skiing Co. said in a statement, according to The Aspen Times. “Of course we would only do so if all of our agencies locally and the governor are comfortable with the decisions and precautions that we would implement.”

Other resorts, including Arapahoe Basin, are holding out hope that they may be able to reopen at some point.

“We have every intention of reopening. The very best skiing at A-Basin is yet to come,” said Arapahoe Basin chief Alan Henceroth on his blog. “As soon as it makes sense to reopen, we will reopen. It is unclear when that will be.”

Skier Nathan Hahn makes his way drown a run at Arapahoe Basin on Feb. 9, 2019. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Vail Resorts’ decision, however, could impact other Colorado ski areas.

On Monday, Polis told reporters that when one place closes and others stay open, that forces crowds toward their only available option. With social distancing crucial to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Polis said that’s not a viable option.

That’s part of the reason he ordered all of the state’s ski areas closed on Saturday after Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company announced they were shutting down.

“When you close some, you can’t have more and more people congregating on fewer and fewer open places,” Polis said. “Let’s say Denver closes restaurants and a couple of other cities, but Sterling, Colorado, tried to keep them open. You can’t have hundreds or thousands of people driving to Sterling to go to a bar and infecting the people of Sterling. You have to look statewide.”

Alterra Mountain Company has not said what its plans are for Winter Park. There’s been no word, either, from Copper Mountain.

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