Governor Jared Polis issued an executive order Saturday temporarily closing all Colorado ski resorts because of the spreading coronavirus.
The order came just hours after many of the best-known ski areas announced they would voluntarily close because of the pandemic.
“It is with a profound sense of pain and grim responsibility that I take the agonizing action that this moment demands,” Polis said in a statement. “I take solace in knowing that while we will be temporarily closed for business, we will be saving the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Coloradans in the days and weeks ahead.”
The executive order directs Colorado’s ski resorts to suspend operations for one week to slow the the spread of novel coronavirus, as well as conserve medical resources in the state’s mountain communities.
Earlier in the day, Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz announced the closure of the company’s North American ski destinations, including its famed slopes in Colorado.
Vail Mountain, Breckenridge, Keystone, Beaver Creak and Crested Butte planned to shut down through March 22, Katz said in a letter in response to the country’s growing concerns about the coronavirus spread.
Alterra Mountain Co., which oversees Steamboat and Winter Park resorts in Colorado, also announced the closing of its mountains “until further notice.”
Arapahoe Basin, Loveland ski area, Echo Mountain, Telluride and Aspen Snowmass all announced closures ahead of the governor’s executive order.
Polis — who this week discouraged travel to the high country after clusters of COVID-19 cases were detected in ski hubs Eagle and Pitkin counties — applauded the closures in a statement.
“Coloradans and our business community must continue to rise and meet the demand of these challenging times and everyone must do their part in stopping the spread of this virus,” Polis said. “The slopes will still be there when this is all over.”
Though, they may not have the snow nor business plans to remain open.
Most of Colorado’s resorts have scheduled closures in April. A-Basin has historically had the nation’s longest season, on occasion hosting skiers as late as July 4. With big investments in snowmaking, Breck has in recent years pledged to remain open through Memorial Day — a key draw for Epic Pass holders.
In his letter, Katz reminded customers that those season passes are nonrefundable and nontransferable. He added: “We will be reviewing these policies and providing any updated guidance in the coming weeks.”
Reservations for dates through March 22 would be refunded, Katz wrote. For dates before then, reservations aren’t being taken, but bookings are available beyond that time frame.
For the eight days Vail’s resorts are currently set to be closed, Katz has promised to pay employees.
“This was not an easy decision to make, as we deeply considered the impact it will have on our guests, employees, and the people and businesses in our communities,” Katz wrote
In its letter, Snowmass said seasonal employees would receive two additional weeks of scheduled pay.
“Our plan is to conduct some limited on-mountain maintenance to potentially have a limited late season opening if circumstances allow,” the letter read. “We are (keeping) all skiers at heart and we understand the therapeutic nature of our shared passion.”
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