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Monday brought two welcome indicators—one timeless and one a sign of the times—that the 2021/22 ski season is almost here: Fresh snow fell in Colorado’s high country and Vail Resorts Inc. unveiled a fresh set of Covid-19 guidelines for its 34 resorts around the globe.
And while we won’t know what Ullr has in store for skiers and snowboarders this winter until the slopes see measurable snow and lifts start spinning, we now know how the world’s largest ski area owner will manage its mountain operations.
Broomfield, Colo.-based Vail’s new round of safety protocols includes some big changes from last year like eliminating ski reservations, adding some vaccination requirements, and increasing seating capacity at restaurants. Here are the highlights:
- Reservations are no longer needed to ski.
- Face coverings are required indoors, including in restaurants, lodging properties, restrooms, retail and rental locations, and on buses.
- Face coverings are not required outdoors, such as on lifts and gondolas, except on gondolas at Whistler-Blackcomb.
- Reservations are required at many on-mountain restaurants, though capacity has increased.
- Guests 12 and older will be required to show proof of Covid-19 vaccinations to dine at indoor, on-mountain quick-service restaurants. (More details will be released on this measure in advance of the season.)
- All Vail employees are required to be vaccinated.
“We are fortunate that the core of our experience takes place outdoors in vast mountain settings,” said Rob Katz, chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts. “However, as we welcome guests from around the world to the indoor experience at our resorts, we feel it’s important to do our part to combat the spread of Covid-19. We all need the opportunity to enjoy and experience the great outdoors, and we could not be more excited to welcome guests back to our resorts for the 2021/22 ski and ride season.”
Read more: Vail is getting a new CEO
Safety protocols are posted online at Vail Resorts’ 2021-22 Winter Operating Plan. The company said the measures are “subject to change based on the evolving nature of the pandemic as well as federal, state and local public health guidelines.”
The investment community reacted positively to Vail’s announcement. Shares of Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN) were up about 7 percent from late last week to about $313 in midday trading Tuesday.
Analysts are also bullish on the company. In a note to investors, Brett Andress of KeyBanc Capital Markets upgraded the company based on what he and his team see as strong demand for Vail’s portfolio of products—which includes lift, lodging, and retail revenue—heading into the ski season.
“Looking into FY22, destination demand indicators for this upcoming season are above pre-pandemic levels, even with Delta in the background, and more importantly, metrics we use to track intra-quarter pass sales appear robust, painting a path for unit sales to comp healthy vs. FY20 levels,” Andress wrote. “All in, we see a favorable event path in the near-term (pass sales, ski demand setup, est. upside potential).”
Vail reports earnings for its 2021 fiscal year ended July 31 after market close on Thursday. We’ll analyze the company’s revenue and income comps in our quarterly earnings recap next month.
The company’s season is expected to kick off at Keystone in October—“as early as possible, as weather and conditions permit,” Vail said—which is earlier than normal thanks to recent snowmaking improvements. Breckenridge and Vail will open on Nov. 12, followed by eight more resorts from the West Coast to the East on Nov. 19.