Ski reservations fill for Thanksgiving week at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte

Ski reservations fill for Thanksgiving week at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte

Vail Resorts ski reservations system is now fully underway with three Colorado resorts using the function and two more set to open in the coming days.

The reservations system limits Vail Resorts ski areas to pass holders in the early season, and sets an undisclosed cap on the number of pass holders allowed on the mountain. The system debuted in November as a way of limiting crowds during the coronavirus pandemic.

Beaver Creek and Crested Butte, which open on Wednesday, were quick to fill their first weeks of available reservation slots. Breckenridge and Keystone both filled their first week of reservation slots upon opening earlier this month, as well.

Screen grab from Nov. 21, 2020

Additional reservations can and do become available on days that are already booked, however, and a new cancellation feature also enables pass holders to change their minds, which keeps reservation availability in flux. By Friday, Vail Mountain’s reservations had filled for Sunday, but pass holders accessing the system on Saturday reported seeing Sunday available again at points throughout the day. Sunday was booked at Vail Mountain at the time of this filing mid-day Saturday, but all other days on Vail Mountain through Nov. 29 were still available.

Pass holders are allowed to reserve seven days per transaction, but numerous transactions can be made to reserve as many as nine days out. When the system went live on Nov. 18, some guests were allowed to hold as many as 12 reservations days in advance, as Vail Resorts allowed guests to use week-of reservations through Nov. 29.

Screen grab from Nov. 21, 2020

Starting on Nov. 25, however, guests will be allowed to book week-of reservations nine days out (through Dec. 4).

The process will repeat at 2 p.m. MST every Wednesday, making that time a crucial online moment for those seeking to lock in days using week-of reservations.

Children 4 and younger can currently ski or snowboard without requiring a reservation.

Priority reservations will go into effect on Dec. 8. In addition to the nine week-of reservations released every Wednesday, guests are allowed seven priority reservations which can be booked for any date Dec. 8 through April 4. Once a pass holder uses one of their priority reservation days, they will be able to book another — allowing them to always hold up to seven priority days at a time.

Everyday skiers have been using the system without problems so far. On Vail’s Opening Day on Friday, Shawn Dawes, of Breckenridge, recorded his 15th day of the season.

“We’re just really excited to get as many days as we can because we don’t know if the next day is even going to happen,” Dawes said on Friday. “We’re doing the best we can with masks, socially distancing and whatever they ask us — just so they can stay open. We’re hoping for a full season.”

Not one of those years, so far

CEO Rob Katz has said he believes everyone who wants to ride the lifts on Vail Resorts mountains this year will be able to for the vast majority of days during the season. So far, no days on the company’s Priority Reservations calendar have been filled. But Katz also added that “if we have very poor (snow) conditions, then we may see the capacity restrictions be more frequent.”

On Nov. 17, 2018, Vail had more than 900 acres open. In 2014, Vail had more than 500 acres available on Opening Day. In both 2008 and 2010, Vail opened the entire front side of the mountain on Opening Day. By Nov. 29, 2018, Vail had more than 4,200 acres open.

This, so far, is not appearing to be one of those seasons. Vail Mountain opening on Friday with 200 acres available, thanking a massive, new-last-season snowmaking system for the assist in being able to open as much as it could.

And so far, at Vail at least, it appears to be mostly working, with only one day of available reservations booked full. Sunday, Nov. 22, was the only full day on the calendar as of Saturday.

Double-edged sword

Those big snow years also have a way of bringing bigger crowds, so the issue is a bit of a double-edged sword. The 2011-12 season, which saw record low snowfall totals, also saw a massive decrease in interest in skiing, with U.S. ski area visitation dropping by 16%, according to a 2013 International Report on Snow & Tourism.

Ski area visitation is what brought the first known case of coronavirus to Colorado and Eagle County earlier this year, so while a weak snow year could bring its own problems with not enough terrain for guests to spread out on, it could also cause a decrease in the travel — and thereby, the potential virus spread — which can come with skiing.

Regardless of what the season might bring, Vail Resorts says its goal is to keep its mountains open this season, and is looking for the help of its pass holders in doing so. That means dealing with the full reservations we’re currently seeing in Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Crested Butte and Keystone, and adhering to local health requirements including masks and social distancing.

Vail reminds guests to adhere to Eagle County’s Five Commitments of Containment:

The five commitments are as follows:

  • I will maintain 6 feet of social distance
  • I will wash my hands often
  • I will cover my face in public
  • I will stay home when I am sick
  • I will get tested immediately if I have symptoms