Ski area seeking approval for reopening plan

By John Finefrock
Staff Writer

Wolf Creek Ski Area (WCSA) is expected to finalize its reopening plan for the upcoming ski season this week, which tweaks operating procedures to account for the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “I strongly believe that skiing is not only a sport, but an important part of our culture. I believe that the mental and physical benefits that skiing presents to so many members of the public dictate that we do our best to mitigate the hazards of COVID-19 while providing for the public use and enjoyment of WCSA,” a Sept. 3 letter to season pass holders and guests from WCSA reads.

The letter notes that WCSA sent out a survey this summer to solicit feedback on what people would be willing to do to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 and still be able to ski this season. 

WCSA President and CEO Davey Pitcher told The SUN this month that they received about 4,200 responses that have informed their reopening plan.

This week, Pitcher discussed reopening Wolf Creek at separate work sessions with the Archuleta County and Mineral County commissioners.

“We learned a lot of things from that survey,” Pitcher told the Mineral County commissioners on Wednesday. “The real take-homes were that our guests that responded wanna ski, they’re willing to do what’s asked of ‘em and be responsible. There were things like home screening, screening before they come up the mountain, not coming up here if someone is in their party that’s feeling sick or showing symptoms of COVID, or flu-like symptoms in general, because that’s gonna be the challenge as flu season comes in, as who’s gonna know what they’ve got?”

Pitcher also noted that respondents were willing to bring their own food and eat at their cars if Wolf Creek’s restaurants are closed, and are willing to wear face masks and practice social distancing.

Pitcher also explained they have tweaked their season pass pricing.

“We’ve done some things in our season pass sale, we may get some flack for it, we created three season passes this year,” said Pitcher.

According to WCSA’s website, there are three tiers of season passes that have varying numbers of blackout dates.

Pitcher noted the blackout dates are to limit capacity during known busy periods, including around Christmas and spring break.

Pitcher also explained WCSA has added more Local Appreciation Days. A list of all the local appreciation days can be found at https://wolfcreekski.com/local-appreciation-days/.

WCSA is located in Mineral County, but many of the guests and staff stay or live in Pagosa Springs in Archuleta County.

Pitcher explained he’s working with Silver Thread Health Department Director Tara Hardy to finalize the reopening plan, and has a meeting with her today.

In the letter sent to WCSA season pass holders and guests, the ski area outlines some provisions of its reopening plan, noting that they are preliminary and subject to change, which include:

• WCSA will limit its total capacity to 5,000 visitors per day.

“This will provide for enough room in the parking lot to allow for social distancing; which is particularly important given that during peak times many guests will be using their cars for refuge (warming up) and eating,” the letter states.

• When picking up lift tickets, face masks must be worn, and social distancing required. All transactions must be credit or debit cards.

• All guests will be required to wear face masks while in the lift mazes and while riding the lift; neck gaiters and bandanas will be acceptable.

• Each vehicle in WCSA’s parking lots will have additional room for guests to practice social distancing. This distancing will make those who choose to bring their own lunch or to utilize Wolf Creek’s grab-and-go food options more comfortable.

• WCSA has constructed a significant sneeze guard in the ski rental area and all employees and guests will be required to wear face masks.

• All wolf pups will be screened for temperature and they will be placed 6 feet apart during lunch.

• Every restaurant will have limited seating and will be following all state guidelines for the food service industry.

• All restrooms will be deep cleaned nightly; there will be hourly spot cleaning which includes: spraying all surfaces with state-of-the-art ionizing disinfection machines, along with normal spraying and wipe down procedures.

“We have tried to think out of the box where we can in order to develop the necessary policies while incorporating the specific guidelines provided by the state,” the letter to season pass holders and guests reads. “We will also continue to work with our local health department to implement the safest policies possible, and we believe this should allow for the public to make an informed decision as to how they will best enjoy their visits to WCSA. By showing empathy and being respectful of the greater responsibility that the local, state, and federal government has in managing this pandemic, we as skiers and snowboarders can pursue the activity that means so much to us.”

According to Silver Thread Public Health, WCSA’s reopening plan will have to be approved by both the state health department and Silver Thread to allow Wolf Creek to reopen.

This story was posted on September 19, 2020.