Skiing and riding will be one of the best ways to get outdoors during this extraordinary winter. For those new(er) to these sports, or looking to improve, you are likely wondering how lessons will work. We tapped our ski instructor friends to bring you the inside scoop. Keep in mind that each resort operator may have its own protocols, so make sure to check with the mountain before you go! For more details on what this season will look like, see our Winter Preview.
Initial details on lesson protocols
All lessons must be pre-booked. No real surprises about this, but as of now, no walk-up lessons will be allowed. This may change over time, but don't bank on it.
Some resorts are canceling lessons for the youngest guests all together. Vail Resorts is only planning to offer one-hour one-on-one private lessons for 3 - 4 year olds, given the amount of time this age group generally spends indoors. Check with the resort your plan to visit ahead of time.
Daily health checks will be conducted on staff. Participants should expect that they will need to complete a self-health screening on the day of the lesson.
Face coverings will be required throughout the lesson for students and instructors.
Families will be encouraged to participate in multi-person lessons within their family. This means instead of your 7-year old going alone with the instructor, maybe mom and/or dad and/or additional siblings join too.
Guests booking private lessons should expect alternative approaches for meeting up, such as an email or phone call from their assigned instructor prior to the lesson to arrange a mutual meeting location.
Insider Tip - Not all resorts are broadcasting this, but if you make a ski school reservation, it will likely ensure that you can access the lifts (provided you have some form of season pass). Vail Resorts has explicitly said that ski school reservations will include the required mountain access reservation. You'll still need to buy a lift ticket just like normal (if you don't have an Epic Pass). Of course, check with the resort you plan to visit ahead of time.
Other protocols instructors will follow to promote a safe and healthy environment
Morning meetings will be delivered by electronic means rather than the usual live group huddle outside ski school locker rooms.
Locker rooms will not be in normal use. One northeastern resort told its instructors "your car is your new warming hut!”
If locker rooms are used, it will be for ski storage only. We've heard ski instructors can store 2 pairs skis at locker room, so it's basically just a 'ski check.'
All of these policies are geared towards keeping ski instructors and guests socially distanced and safe.
Initial plans for lift operations
Gondola use will be restricted. Generally, only one “family”, or “germ pool” will be allowed per gondola. Pro tip – even if you’re not skiing with your child who is taking lessons, you might want to piggyback onto gondola rides to cut time off of the lift line. *Subject to resort rules
Friends staying together count as your “family,” since everyone’s in the same “germ pool!” So ride together on lifts!
For riders from different "germ pools," initial plans at some resorts will allow a total of two riders per chair seated on opposite sides of the chair on a four-person lift. Six-pack or eight-pack lifts will allow up to two "germ pools" of two people each (for a total of four riders) on each chair. Two-person chairs will be single use.
Stay patient! Resort operators are trying to implement general policies, but each resort will probably have to adjust based on staff, crowds, and lift configurations. Just because one resort decides to pack every chair doesn't mean a different resort down the highway will do the same.
Gear recommendations to be prepared
Bring a backpack! With reduced access to base lodges for changing, this may become the “year of the backpack.” We would not be surprised to see many ski instructors wearing backpacks with gear to be ready for weather changes throughout day, and possibly some extra room for a child’s extra items (depending on local resort rules).
Dress in layers. Bring a hat. Throw an extra fleece in your backpack. Instructors can tell when kids are over-heating or shivering, but access to indoor lodges for warming breaks or wardrobe changes will be limited. Be ready to adjust on the mountain.
Hand warmers – hand warmers – hand warmers! These things work better than ever, many will give off heat for 7 hours. Lodges will also run at reduced capacity so bring lots of them to avoid needing to go inside to warm up.
Key questions to monitor
How will lift loading look for ski schools? What percent of full capacity will lifts and lessons, generally be?
How will the President's ban on J-1 visas impact ski resort staffing? Many ski areas have used J-1 visas to bring in young, temporary worker, often foreign. Is it time for the return of the ski bum?
How will ski areas, deal with constantly changing state-level regulations regarding which travelers to a state must quarantine (due to their home state's high COVID infection rate vs the infection rate of the ski resort area)?
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