Sunlight’s COVID Operation Plan will require some pre-planning on the part of skiers this season

Parking lot advised as staging, break area to avoid overcrowding at base lodge

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Sunlight Mountain Ski Tech Christian Hiller works on tuning skis in preparation of opening day on the mountain taking place Friday, Dec. 11.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Skiers and snowboarders headed to Glenwood’s Sunlight Mountain Resort this season should expect to do some advance planning and be extra prepared to work around the COVID restrictions that will be in effect.

That includes lining up any lift tickets, ski rentals and lessons online in advance, having a mask handy at all times to don when in close contact with other guests, staying within family or small, socially distanced friend groups, and abiding by a host of other restrictions and precautions.

Guests should also consider the parking lot as base camp for staging, gear storage, breaks and brown-bag lunches, due to strict occupancy limits in the base lodge.

“Our focus is a good opening and working out final details leading up to the holidays,” Sunlight Marketing and Sales Director Troy Hawks said.

“Right now, of course, we’re looking at snow conditions,” Hawks said of prospects for the scheduled opening on Friday, Dec. 11, as this fall’s dry weather persists.

As of Sunday, opening day was a go, but even the slight chance of snow that’s forecast later this week would certainly help, Hawks said.

In any case, a slow start to the season wouldn’t be such a bad thing in order to allow Sunlight to adapt to its COVID-19 Operating Plan, he said.

The plan — addressing everything from parking lot, base area, food service, lift and mountain operations to ski lessons, equipment rentals, the retail shop and snowmobile tours — gained approval by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment last week.

“The holiday period will be our initial testing ground,” Hawks said. “We are hopeful that as the season progresses we can return to more normal operations.”

Until then, from the time guests arrive to the end of the ski day, the experience will be decidedly abnormal.

Sunlight’s COVID-19 policies are being communicated through multiple channels, including the resort’s website and social media platforms. Once people arrive on site, the protocols will also be explained with instructional signs and symbols all throughout the property.

The lodge will have limited seating capacity and no standing room, in order to abide by county health guidelines aimed at limiting large congregations of people indoors.

“We will maximize food and beverage points of sale and encourage pre-ordered and grab-and-go items for pick-up,” Hawks said, adding that there will be four points of sale both indoors and outdoors for on-site food purchases.

“Personal food items will not be allowed in the lodge, to reserve space for skiers and riders patronizing our cafeteria,” he said. “Outside alcohol is not allowed on the premises.”

There will also be no personal gear storage allowed in the base lodge, and even just using the indoor space to warm up will be closely monitored.

“We are advising folks to consider their vehicle their base camp this season, particularly on the more wintry days,” Hawks said.

Even the parking lot will have limitations, with extra distance between vehicles in alternating rows, “to the extent practicable,” he said.

“We could find our parking lots filling fast on the busy days and are encouraging guests to carpool this season,” he said.

Sunlight may run a “very limited capacity” guest shuttle from its downtown Glenwood Springs shop over the holidays, but not on a regular basis. There will also be no employee shuttle for the foreseeable future.

Guests will be reminded to wear face coverings when exiting their vehicles, and at all times while not actually skiing, Hawks said.

That includes in the lift lines, which will have spacing requirements and side-to-side separation through the use of “ghost” lanes, he explained.

“It’s going to look a little different up here this season, including the prospect of us actually having lift lines,” he said. “Our mountain hosts will be reminding folks to stay 6 feet apart in the lift lines, so this will likely result in the lines stretching out farther than what skiers and riders are used to seeing up here.”

All lift operators and attendants are required to wear face coverings and gloves while working at the lift, and all lift riders are required to wear face coverings while in the lift line and while riding the lift.

Related and non-related guests who are skiing and riding together may be on the lift chairs together, but unrelated parties and singles may ask for a space between on the Tercero triple chair, or to ride alone.

Face coverings are not required while skiing or riding on the mountain, but proper physical distancing between people is still necessary, according to the operating plan.

Sunlight’s 2020-21 Season Guest Guidance

1. Stay at home if you, or anyone in your household, has any signs or symptoms of illness, or if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

2. Have a plan to isolate or quarantine if you become ill.

3. Practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently and using available hand sanitizer stations, and avoid touching your mouth, eyes and nose.

4. Plan your trip and purchase products such as passes, ski tickets, rentals and lessons on-line in advance of your visit, and try to ski/ride on weekdays and non-holiday periods in order to reduce crowding during typically busy times.

5. Arrive ready to ski/ride. Leave all personal items in your car, as personal gear storage will not be allowed in the day lodge.

6. Face coverings are required at all times whenever proper physical distancing cannot be achieved, including in the parking lot, in the day lodge and in lift lines.

7. Maintain proper physical distancing between other guests and employees as prescribed by local and state health officials. This will be achieved by using frequent and repetitive signage.

8. Be prepared to shelter in their vehicle in the event of extreme weather events.

Source: Sunlight Mountain Resort

Employees are also being asked to follow strict guidelines, including staying home if sick or testing positive for COVID-19 or being in contact with someone who does.

All employees are encouraged to receive an annual flu vaccine, and each employee will complete a daily COVID screening questionnaire, including temperature check, prior to beginning their shift.

Sunlight is not contemplating a reservation system for skiers to pre-book their ski days as other resorts have done. However, those planning to take lessons or rent equipment must reserve in advance and choose times to pick up their gear at either the downtown or on-mountain rental shop.

“We are not requiring reservations for season pass holders, but we do have the ability to cap our daily ticket sales if needed,” Hawks said.