Owner Announces Covid-19 Plans

Itching to return to the slopes at Stevens Pass and play in the snow? Here are two bits of good news for you!

First, the parent company of Stevens Pass Resort, Vail Resorts, recently announced its 2020-21 winter season opening plans that involve implementing new guidelines to mitigate Covid-19 spread. These protocols are planned for all of Vail’s 34 resorts in North America.

The key element in the Covid-19 mitigation plan is a reservation system to help manage crowds. Other plan key changes include:

  • Guests will be required to wear face coverings to get to the slopes and all parts of the resort.
  • A mountain access reservation system and limits on lift ticket to prioritize its pass holders to limit capacity. To make a reservation: https://www.stevenspass.com/Plan-Your-Trip/Lift-Access/Passes/Stevens-Pass-Select-Pass
  • Those who held season passes last winter when the season suddenly ended received credits that can be credited until Sept. 17 for this season.
  • Chairlifts and gondolas will only be seating related parties together, and separate individuals will be spaced in order to maintain physical distancing.
  • Classes and private lessons will be limited to six people maximum.
  • Limited capacity in dining areas.
  • Employees will go through required health screenings before coming to work.

Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said in a new release, “There is no doubt this season will be different but we are committed to what matters most: working to protect our guests, employees and communities, and doing everything we can to provide great skiing and riding all season long.”

According to current plans, the Stevens Pass Resort season will run from December 4th through April 4th, 2021, and guests must make reservations before obtaining access to the mountain. Vail Resorts say Stevens Pass guests can purchase season or day passes, but again will have to book reservations in advance.

There is one fly in the ointment at this point though. Washington state has not yet issued specific guidelines for skiing. Mike Faulk, Governor Inslee’s spokesperson said, “We look forward to working with the industry, users and public health officials to arrive on the best guidelines for the winter season. Specific guidance for skiing is still being developed.”

The other bit of good news is that the upcoming winter weather season outlook involves La Nina. La Nina winter seasons typically bring a healthy snow pack to Washington mountains.

La Nina is one of the three phases of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) – the other phases involve El Nino and neutral conditions. In this case, the trade winds – the winds familiar in the Hawaiian Islands – are stronger than normal and as a result, the tropical sea surface temperatures in the central and Eastern Pacific are cooler than average, and much warmer in the Western Pacific. The tropical water conditions adjust the jet stream that powers the storm track across the Northern Pacific northward, resulting in a cooler and wetter than average winter season in the Pacific Northwest.

The latest winter season outlook for the Pacific Northwest this winter shows even odds on above, near or below average temperatures and increased odds on above average precipitation. Regarding significant storms with these three ENSO phases, La Nina winters are number one for lowland snow in Western Washington, and number two for strong wind storms and flooding events. Now is the time to prepare for what may be an active winter weather season.

Yet for the mountains, La Nina promises a healthy mountain snow pack, providing plenty of snow to enjoy this winter.

North Sound Meteorologist Ted Buehner worked more than 40 years for the National Weather Service (NWS) from 1977 to 2018. He is now an Everett Post Media team member. Together with Everett Post Weather Minute Podcasts, he provides morning and afternoon commute traffic and weather updates on both KRKO and KXA Radio, and sports reporting on KRKO.