USA 2020-21 ramblings/reports

MarzNC

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I'm heading to Taos in a couple weeks. Looks like good cold winter situation in the next week. Hopefully that will last until I get there.

There is a big difference between the snow graphs between northern and southern NM. Taos has been on track all season. However, Santa Fe is at 50-60% for the snow pack. The concern is the lack of snow pack because there are drought conditions in NM.

https://opensnow.com/dailysnow/newmexico/post/21885
 

MarzNC

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The U.S. ski season seems headed to a normal finish. This weekend is essentially one year since almost all ski resorts shut down due to the unchecked spread of COVID-19. As mid-March 2021 approaches the talk is of closing dates and early bird offers for season passes. Closing dates are being driven by the usual factors of snow coverage, increasing spring temperatures, and decreasing number of customers who don't have season passes.

A few VR locations extended the season by a week, compared to the closing dates announced in the fall. The usual places will be closing in the next week or two in regions that depend on 100% snowmaking (midwest, southeast, mid-Atlantic).

Utah closing dates are pretty typical, with LCC/BCC able to stay open later.

Park City Mountain : April 11, 2021
Deer Valley : April 11, 2021
Powder Mountain : April 11, 2021
Snowbasin : April 11, 2021
Woodward Park City : April 18, 2021
Brighton : April 18, 2021
Solitude : April 18, 2021
Alta : April 18, 2021 | bonus weekend April 23-25
Snowbird : to be announced [late April or in May with limited lifts after mid-April]

Meanwhile Colorado is expecting a major snowstorm March 13-15. Some places will be measuring in feet, not inches.

Screen Shot 2021-03-12.jpg
 

summit_32

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Great forecast for Colorado !! Hopefully everyone can recover from the slow start to the season with the extended season. Vail is hinting that they may extend dates further again if snow conditions hold up through March & early April.
 

MarzNC

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Great forecast for Colorado !! Hopefully everyone can recover from the slow start to the season with the extended season. Vail is hinting that they may extend dates further again if snow conditions hold up through March & early April.
Even with this blizzard, some of the Colorado resorts will have a hard time getting the snowpack up to the average depth.

A friend drove to Colorado late last week. Good thing she is visiting a relative who lives in Denver. There is far too much snow coming down to drove on I-70 until Monday at the earliest. Airlines have cancelled thousands of flights for Denver because of the snowstorm.

There are Epic resorts in Tahoe, Colorado, and the northeast that have announced the season will be extended by a week. Goal seems to be to include the week after Easter if at all possible. At this point, any extensions have little to do with COVID-19 and are based on the usual snowpack and weather considerations.
 

MarzNC

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Here's the outcome for resorts in Colorado for the March 12-15 blizzard. National media are mentioning 2-4 feet in the Colorado mountains, mostly because Denver airport was so impacted with thousands of cancelled flights.

This isn't the entire list from OpenSnow, but mostly the better known resorts for people who travel. Having skied just over half of the list below in recent years, it's interesting to see the variation in snow amounts. I didn't have any experience skiing in Colorado until the first trip to Aspen several years ago. Wolf Creek and Monarch will be very fun for powder lovers for a few days. I had a very good time checking them out in February.

March 15, Colorado Daily Snow
Weekend snow totals + two more storms
https://opensnow.com/dailysnow/colorado/post/22089
". . .
Short Term Forecast

The weekend storm peaked on Sunday and dropped intense snow across Colorado. On Sunday morning, I saw reports of snowfall rates of 3-5 inches per hour both in the northeastern foothills and in the southern mountains around Telluride. That snowfall intensity is rare and something amazing to see.

Below are the snow totals from Saturday morning through Monday morning. The first number is the total, the second number is the 24-hour amount from Saturday AM to Sunday AM and the third number is the 24-hour amount from Sunday AM to Monday AM.

Northern Mountains
24" (12+12) Eldora (estimate, could be more based on the snow stake)
22" (8+14) Winter Park
12" (8+4) Copper
12" (6+6) Loveland
11" (7+4) Beaver Creek
11" (5+6) Keystone
11" (6+5) Vail (Blue Sky Basin)
10" (4+6) Arapahoe Basin
10" (8+2) Breckenridge

Central Mountains
24" (11+13) Monarch
21" (10+11) Aspen Highlands
18" (12+6) Aspen Mountain
18" (8+10) Snowmass
12" (9+3) Buttermilk
12" (5+7) Sunlight
5" (4+1) Crested Butte

Southern Mountains
27" (16+11) Telluride
22" (15+7) Wolf Creek
. . ."
 
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summit_32

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Here's the outcome for resorts in Colorado for the March 12-15 blizzard. National media are mentioning 2-4 feet in the Colorado mountains, mostly because Denver airport was so impacted with thousands of cancelled flights.

This isn't the entire list from OpenSnow, but mostly the better known resorts for people who travel. Having skied just over half of the list below in recent years, it's interesting to see the variation in snow amounts. I didn't have any experience skiing in Colorado until the first trip to Aspen several years ago. Wolf Creek and Monarch will be very fun for powder lovers for a few days. I had a very good time checking them out in February.

March 15, Colorado Daily Snow
Weekend snow totals + two more storms
https://opensnow.com/dailysnow/colorado/post/22089
". . .
Short Term Forecast

The weekend storm peaked on Sunday and dropped intense snow across Colorado. On Sunday morning, I saw reports of snowfall rates of 3-5 inches per hour both in the northeastern foothills and in the southern mountains around Telluride. That snowfall intensity is rare and something amazing to see.

Below are the snow totals from Saturday morning through Monday morning. The first number is the total, the second number is the 24-hour amount from Saturday AM to Sunday AM and the third number is the 24-hour amount from Sunday AM to Monday AM.

Northern Mountains
24" (12+12) Eldora (estimate, could be more based on the snow stake)
22" (8+14) Winter Park
12" (8+4) Copper
12" (6+6) Loveland
11" (7+4) Beaver Creek
11" (5+6) Keystone
11" (6+5) Vail (Blue Sky Basin)
10" (4+6) Arapahoe Basin
10" (8+2) Breckenridge

Central Mountains
24" (11+13) Monarch
21" (10+11) Aspen Highlands
18" (12+6) Aspen Mountain
18" (8+10) Snowmass
12" (9+3) Buttermilk
12" (5+7) Sunlight
5" (4+1) Crested Butte

Southern Mountains
27" (16+11) Telluride
22" (15+7) Wolf Creek
. . ."
The best thing is that it’s not over yet - snowing heavily in Breckenridge right now. Very slow moving storm...
 
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MarzNC

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The best thing is that it’s not over yet - snowing heavily in Breckenridge right now. Very slow moving storm...
That's great for the people staying slopeside. But anyone else has to deal with very snowy roads. My friend who drove to Colorado last week has been stuck at her niece's house in Denver since Saturday. Although she managed to get out of the neighborhood this afternoon. There was 2 feet on the ground, plus 3-4 feet where the snowplows had gone by. She and her ski buddy are planning to head to Keystone on Tuesday morning. Note that these are not 20-somethings but a couple adventurous ladies over 65.
 

MarzNC

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Great town to spend some time.
When were you there?

Part of the group is staying in town the first couple nights to help with altitude adjustment. Shouldn't be too hard to find some good take-out food for dinner.

Good thing we have an AWD SUV to get up the mountain road. Monday morning is looking like it could be pretty snowy. But the forecast is still changing daily.

This will be my fifth trip to Taos in a row. The Ski Weeks are addictive. We had a group of almost 20 people planning to go in early February. But we all cancelled by late November or early December because of the New Mexico travel restrictions. Plus the general sense that too many Texans weren't being careful at all. A friend who lives in Albuquerque was pretty appalled at what she was seeing on the golf courses in the fall. But when TSV was allowed to open, things seemed to run reasonably well. After the winter holidays, it's been fine.
 
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Summit

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When were you there?

Part of the group is staying in town the first couple nights to help with altitude adjustment. Shouldn't be too hard to find some good take-out food for dinner.

Good thing we have an AWD SUV to get up the mountain road. Monday morning is looking like it could be pretty snowy. But the forecast is still changing daily.

This will be my fifth trip to Taos in a row. The Ski Weeks are addictive. We had a group of almost 20 people planning to go in early February. But we all cancelled by late November or early December because of the New Mexico travel restrictions. Plus the general sense that too many Texans weren't being careful at all. A friend who lives in Albuquerque was pretty appalled at what she was seeing on the golf courses in the fall. But when TSV was allowed to open, things seemed to run reasonably well. After the winter holidays, it's been fine.
I skied there in 1994 and 2006. Had a few lessons there in 94 when they had a renowned ski school, they were big on skiing with your feet wider apart!
The adobe architecture really adds to the town experience.
Do they still transport you from the ski resort car park to the main base in a cattle truck? LOL
 
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MarzNC

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I skied there in 1994 and 2006. Had a few lessons there in 94 when they had a renowned ski school, they were big on skiing with your feet wider apart!
The adobe architecture really adds to the town experience.
Do they still transport you from the ski resort car park to the main base in a cattle truck? LOL
Quite a lot of changes since the ownership change in 2013. The current owner had the financial resources to invest the millions that were needed to bring Taos up to the level of a 21st century destination resort.

The ski school is still very well regarded. Although Jean Mayer passed away last fall (cancer, not COVID-19). The Taos Ski Week is why I and my ski buddies are heading back for our fifth Taos trip in a row.

My primary ski buddy who lives in Albuquerque is pushing 70 and was an expert skier in high school who liked bumps at Aspen. He started dealing with widening his stance during a lesson with me at Alta a few years before his first Taos Ski Week. After the first two days, his Taos instructor already had him skiing so much smoother on bumps. He was in an advanced/expert group that spent the second half of the week skiing double-blacks. It was a season with better than average snow coverage. Now he's skiing terrain at Alta during our annual trip in April that he had been avoiding (bad knee). After Taos double-blacks, makes it a lot easier to ski steep terrain with bumps and/or trees anywhere else.

Yep, same open shuttles from the parking lot. They weren't running them for a while. Apparently started up again a few weeks ago. I'm guessing that lack of staff might have been a factor.

Taos parking shuttle, Jan 2019
TR Bear parking 3.jpg


Jean Mayer serving dinner at St. Bernard, Feb 2018
We could get a reservation as outside guests relatively easily because it was a low snow season
Taos Misc Mayer Feb2018.jpg
 

Chalkie

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Ah, Taos. Very happy memories of a trip there in Feb 2000. Relentlessly blue sky days, and fresh pow overnight. I bought my favourite pair of skis ever from a ski shop there. Plus wonderful surroundings with exploring the Rio Grande and Albuquerque.
 
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sli1

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My favourite ski area in Nth America and I've skiied a lot of them. Love staying in town and love Northern New Mexico
 

MarzNC

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Don't know if April Fools Day means much in Australia, but here's what was published on April 1 on a well known ski website in New England last week.

April 1, 2021, Storm Skiing Journal and Podcast
Single-Day Lift Ticket on Vail Mountain Hits $1,566
Price is exactly double the cost of a full 2021-22 Epic Pass

https://www.stormskiing.com/p/single-day-lift-ticket-on-vail-mountain/comments
 

MarzNC

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What do you like about it? I've never been there.
For me, going to Taos is all about the Taos Ski Week. They are addictive for anyone interested in really improving technique for bumps and trees. There are bumps and tree terrain from intermediate to expert pretty much all season starting in early January with normal snowfall. Hard to beat 6 morning lessons with a really experienced instructor for about US$400.

The advanced/expert skiers I know who like Taos enjoy steep, long runs, with cold snow. They also don't mind doing a 10-20 min hike for first tracks after snowstorms. Taos is harder to reach that many destination resorts, so it rarely gets really crowded. A long lift line might be 15 min on a powder day that happens to fall on a Saturday.

The vibe at Taos is more local than destination resort. For those who know Alta, there is a similar feel. More in common with how Alta felt 15-20 years ago before the population of SLC grew and more people started using multi-resort passes to ski in Utah.
 
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MarzNC

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I'm at Alta Lodge for a couple weeks for my annual late season trip meeting up with assorted friends. Past weekend was ridiculously warm, with the temps at the base getting into the 60s F. Today the weather changed. High reached 50 but only for a hour or so before the cold wind started up. Starting snowing by dinner time. High tomorrow supposed to be 25.

There were plenty of people over the weekend. A combination of travelers on spring break and locals out for fun. Lots of costumes for Eastern, along with bunny ears on helmets. The ropes for lift lines were half the length today since it was a Monday in April.

Snow coverage is on the low side, only about 90 inches. Not the worst I've seen in the last decade in terms of exposed rocks but close. Bump skiing was fun on the Collins side this afternoon. Snow was starting to set up but was still soft.

Early morning of a warm Easter Sunday
Alta 04Apr2021-1jpg.jpg


Snow Snake was created on Ballroom during the warm days
Alta 04Apr2021-2.jpg
Alta 05Apr2021 - 4.JPG


Snow clouds moving in over Mineral Basin at Snowbird, looking over from the top of Sugarloaf at Alta
Alta 05Apr2021 - 3.JPG
 

summit_32

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We are at Breckenridge now and it was snowing lightly earlier tonight.
You are right about the heat - the past few days at Vail/BC have been ridiculously warm. Mid-60’s near the top of the mountain on Saturday. I saw a few guys skiing in shorts and T-shirts. Lots of fun though and virtually no people.
 
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MarzNC

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Had a completely different type of day at Alta today, also with relatively few people. The storm that was forecast to drop 4-7 inches did far better than that. Total was 13 inches . . . all powder. Temps stayed in the 20s all day, even after it started clearing up in the late afternoon. The Wildcat parking lot never was more than 2/3 full.

I skied in boot deep all over, including some groomers that were groomed before the snow started around midnight. Off-piste there were places that were knee deep for me. Very happy that I own DPS Zelda, 106 underfoot, so didn't have to deal with renting powder skis. The Alta Ski Shop is only renting out of the Albion base this season.

Didn't stop to take pictures much. It was snowing pretty steadily until around 2pm.

Outside the Alta Lodge locker room at 8:30am, April 6
Alta 06Apr2021 snowstorm - 3.jpg


Alf's mid-mountain lodge around 11am, near base of Supreme and Sugarloaf
Alta 06Apr2021 - 3.JPG
 

MarzNC

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The most unexpected part of the April 5-6 snowstorm was that a lot more came down after 6am. Measureable snow didn't start until 4am, although the wind was very strong by midnight. My friends and I could hear it in our rooms at Alta Lodge. The Alta website weather page includes the last 24 hours of weather data from three weather stations at the Base, Mid Mountain (Collins Study Plot), and Top of Collins. The Mid Mountain data includes the snow info, with snow density. The data has been on the website for years, but now there is an interactive graph in addition to a table.

https://www.alta.com/weather

Screen Shot 2021-04-07 at 7.15.15 AM.png


Screen Shot 2021-04-07 at 7.08.11 AM.png
 

MarzNC

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Longer lines at the Collins lift this morning at Alta. But only on the order of 5-10 minutes after 9:45 or so. Ballroom and the Backside were open first thing in the morning. Warmed up pretty fast, so the crowd was gone by lunch time. Devil's Castle didn't open, but Rock 'N Roll did. Per usual Rock 'N Roll was not groomed but had been before the snowstorm.

My friends and I dropped into Ballroom around 10am.
This is the more mellow pitch that is considered "blue."
IMG_3119.JPG


People had fun in the powder off the EBT cat track that goes between Sugarloaf and Collins
IMG_3139.JPG
 
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MarzNC

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My ski buddy who lives in Albuquerque, NM decided to finish up his ski season with a few days in May. He drove to Colorado to ski at Winter Park and Arapahoe Basin. Had a good time.

With the CDC recommendation on May 13 that fully vaccinated people don't need to worry about masking for protection of either themselves or people around them, Colorado changed the mask usage policy. ABasin is staying open until early June. Masks are no longer required, but strongly recommended for unvaccinated people who go indoors. Another change is that ABasin is going to hold late season events, including $25 lift tickets on a couple Sundays.

Colorado vaccination rate is around 75% for Summit County where ABasin is located, along with Loveland, Keystone, Breckenridge, and Copper. Only Breck and ABasin are still open. The rate is at least 60% around Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs. Eagle and Pitkin counties are around 70%, which is where Vail and Aspen are located.

Screen Shot 2021-05-18 at 2.56.56 PM.png
 

sli1

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What do you like about it? I've never been there.
Sorry, took me a little while to respond!
Our ski trips are generally road trips and we very rarely stay in the "resort". This has a significant bearing on why I think Taos is special:
1. I can't think of another ski hill feeder town anything like the town of Taos. Just a weird (in a surprising and pleasant way) hodgepodge of third world, hippies, artists, wealthy, foodies, hispanic and native Indian cultures living together in a community of Adobe (which I had never seen before) architecture.
2. It makes me different person. I'm a logical, analytical, engineer type. In Taos I end up doing stuff I wouldn't be interested doing at home - looking at the local artists work, eating in vegan Cafés and other hippie stuff.
3. The town is just surprising. No matter which direction you drive into it from, your most likely driving through dusty desert with sagebrush blowing across the road. You can't help but think what have I done? There can't be any snow here!
4. I'm sure the people that have been coming to Taos for years would disagree with me but there is at least a mindset to protect the skiing experience. When the Kachina Peak chair opens, they only allow people on every second or more chair to either preserve the cover or stop it from growing into massive mogul fields.
5. The mountain's terrain is completely bad ass and sensational. Some of the hike to terrain is just insane in terms of how spectacular (and dangerous) it is, yet there is also a very mellow vibe to the place perhaps brought about by what I would think (as a weighted average) is the oldest demographic of a ski hill I've been to, and fantastic, wide open, right gradient groomers.
6. Sunshine/whether. The arid air of the high New Mexico desert means it can feel quite warm when you're skiing but the snow condition stays tiptop.
7. Taos ski weeks. This should be listed higher but @MarzNC has done a good job in talking about how good these are. I've been on several guided/instructed courses in different locations but I think the structure of the Taos ski week is best. Dedicated lessons in the morning, each morning for 6 days leaving you the afternoons free. It really makes the mornings fun. Not to mention the quality of the instruction in the weeks that I have been is fantastic.
8. No shortage of non-skiing things to do. Check out the earth ships, Taos Plaza, Taos Pueblo, the Rio Grande lookout, or a day trip to Los Alamos if you're interested in seeing some of the history and how the atomic bomb was created during World War II.

Downsides to Taos:
-Snow cover. I wouldn't book a trip to Taos until there is an excellent cover. This is the opposite to the Pacific Northwest. The snow that falls is light and dry and therefore not very "sticky". Huge dumps are not common and a good cover relies on consistent top ups over the season.
-General rule is that everything is open and skiing well once they reach a 75 inch base
-If you're looking for powder you might get envious watching resorts of Utah get pounded while your chillin in sunny New Mexico.
-Not particularly close to any feeder airport if you're coming from Australia.
-Not at all close to any other major destination resorts if you're on a road trip
 
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MarzNC

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At this point, I've skied at Taos for five seasons in a row. Only time I didn't do a Taos Ski Week was the first trip in 2017. That's really the reason I've been returning. One reason there was very low snow coverage but I and my friends went anyway. No black terrain was open but we still learned quite a bit. My friend who was mid-60s and hadn't had a lesson in decades thought cancelling made more sense but in the end was very glad she went.

A full Taos Ski Week is Sun-Fr, 6 morning lessons. It's possible to start on Mon or skip a day midweek, but the price stays the same.

4. I'm sure the people that have been coming to Taos for years would disagree with me but there is at least a mindset to protect the skiing experience. When the Kachina Peak chair opens, they only allow people on every second or more chair to either preserve the cover or stop it from growing into massive mogul fields.
Actually that only happens in particular situations, not all the time.

-If you're looking for powder you might get envious watching resorts of Utah get pounded while your chillin in sunny New Mexico.
That's certainly true. Plus if you don't want to hike, it's hard to find the really good powder stashes at Taos. In fact, I had an instructor tell me that it was absolutely required to hike the Ridge for good powder turns. What I remember thinking was that may be true at Taos, but I also ski Alta and other destination resorts where it's quite possible to get powder turns without hiking for 20-30 minutes at over 11,000 ft.

I don't go to ski Taos for powder. I go because of the range of bump terrain from easy to very challenging. Also a great place to learn how to ski steep trees. The Ski Week and general vibe makes it worth the extra travel effort.
 

MarzNC

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Sounds like Aspen really missed guests from Australia in 2020-21.

". . .
The year started slow for Skico because Australians couldn’t travel here in droves as they usually do in January. Group business was wiped out because of capacity limits and physical distancing requirements. Numerous domestic travelers canceled trips as the pandemic worsened and Pitkin County required arrivals to sign an affidavit acknowledging they hadn’t had COVID symptoms for 10 days and have either been vaccinated or have received a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of arriving in Pitkin County. Visitors also were required to quarantine for 10 days if they were not tested before arrival.
. . ."
 

summit_32

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Sounds like Aspen really missed guests from Australia in 2020-21.

". . .
The year started slow for Skico because Australians couldn’t travel here in droves as they usually do in January. Group business was wiped out because of capacity limits and physical distancing requirements. Numerous domestic travelers canceled trips as the pandemic worsened and Pitkin County required arrivals to sign an affidavit acknowledging they hadn’t had COVID symptoms for 10 days and have either been vaccinated or have received a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of arriving in Pitkin County. Visitors also were required to quarantine for 10 days if they were not tested before arrival.
. . ."
Sadly, the same thing is going to happen again this year for their Aussie guest.... nothing substantial will change until after the next Federal election!
Pitkin County was also somewhat unique in requiring the negative COVID test for domestic tourists. I think only Taos did that too for a while.
 

MarzNC

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Pitkin County was also somewhat unique in requiring the negative COVID test for domestic tourists. I think only Taos did that too for a while.
Yep, New Mexico was the only state in the Rockies to try travel restrictions for a while. They weren't effective since there were plenty of Texans who ignored them. The travel restrictions were dropped on Feb. 11, 2021. But there were plenty of adjustments still in place for the rest of the season. Although it was allowed by state/county rules by March, there was no indoor dining at TSV. Staff shortages meant that the Whistlestop wasn't open during the week.

However, there were also travel restrictions in NY, NJ, PA, and New England (MA, NH, VT, ME) during the 2020-21 ski season. That's one reason that there were fewer people flying to the Rockies from places like New York City or Boston for ski trips to destination resorts on Epic or Ikon. Also meant that people who lived in Washington DC who normally used Epic at three ski areas in PA (2 hours drive) went skiing in VA or WV (3-4 hours drive) instead.

Given how busy the ski resorts are this summer, I think American skiers will be filling beds and lifts at Epic/Ikon resorts for the 2021-22 season.
 
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