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By Erika Dahlby | November 23rd, 2020
Skiing through a wide-open powder field with nothing but floating turns in front of you and snow whipping around you is one of the most incredible feelings in the world. By nature, skiing and snowboarding are safe socially distant activities. But the entire experience of skiing — waiting in lift lines, grabbing lunch in a lodge and swapping stories during après — comes with risk.
“The experience is really about skiing this year,” says Anna Cole, communications manager at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. “When it stops being safe is when you go inside and start congregating.”
Each resort has extensive operation plans in place to keep you and the community safe this year. But know that conditions and circumstances may change quickly and could disrupt operations at any moment. Resorts may have to make quick operational changes to comply with local, state and government orders.
Whether you’re looking for blue groomers, steep chutes or waist-deep powder stashes, Jackson Hole has the right experience for you with three amazing world-class resorts within one hour’s drive. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) is located in Teton Village, 12 miles from the town of Jackson and home to the aerial tram “Big Red,” world-class terrain and a full resort experience. Snow King Mountain Resort known by the locals as the town hill, is a small mom-and-pop-style ski hill with steep north-facing terrain — a racer’s playground. About an hour away, over Teton Pass through a blip of Idaho and back in Wyoming, Grand Targhee Ski Resort is a powder paradise, with great skiing for all abilities and an authentic atmosphere.
Operational plans and other important and up-to-date information are available online from each resort, but we’ve picked out a few top things to keep in mind when planning your visit.
Plan your lift access
To allow for physical distancing, many area resorts are limiting the number of tickets available for purchase each day to manage daily capacity limits — that means you should plan your trip early to secure your lift access.
JHMR and Grand Targhee both require lift tickets to be purchased in advance this year, while Snow King recommends it. If you have a multi-mountain pass like the Ikon Pass, which requires you to reserve your day ahead of time at JHMR, read the fine print about whether reservations are required. Season passholders at the regional resorts are not required to make reservations.
Pick the proper face covering
A mask is required anytime you’re around people not in your party, including in lift lines; on a chairlift, gondola or tram with another party; while renting equipment; in a lodge for lunch; or running in to use the restroom. You’re required to bring your own face covering, so make sure to have one (or more) on hand.
While neck gaiters and Buffs are popular for warmth and wind protection for skiers, the CDC does not recommend them for full protection against COVID-19. Resort staff may also request or require you to wear the proper covering, so don’t rely on your old Buff to protect you this year. You should have a dry, double-layered face covering, and ensure you bring extra in case one gets wet (especially on powder days).
The biggest risk to skiers comes when you head indoors, so it’s important to stay outside as much as possible during your ski day. Use your car as a basecamp while gearing up and get as ready as you can at your hotel or house. Book your ski school lessons in advance and look for rental options that can bring equipment directly to your door to minimize time spent in shops.
Restaurants on mountains and around the resorts have limited capacity, and reservations are essential if you want to dine indoors. Resorts have additional outside seating and heaters so you can enjoy your packed lunch or takeout. Grand Targhee is setting up a new food truck at its base, and JHMR is expanding its grab-and-go options. The classic après ski scene will be a little different this year. Head somewhere with outdoor space, tailgate at the parking lot or head home with an après-at-home kit from a local restaurant.
Just remember that you’ll be spending a lot more time outside this year, so dress appropriately. Wear layers, bring extra hand warmers and pack extra-warm clothes if you need them.
While skiing and snowboarding are naturally socially distanced activities, there are still precautions our local resorts are taking to keep our community and you safe, along with things you can do to recreate responsibly. Spreading out is key — stay 6 feet away from other parties when you can (think a ski pole’s length).
The way chairlifts, gondolas and trams are loaded and run is different this year. Chairlifts may allow mixed groups to ride together because of their outdoor nature, but gondolas are limited to groups traveling together, households or individuals. The aerial tram at JHMR is operating with only 25 people per tram, down from the standard 100-person capacity.
Lift line configurations are set up to maximize physical distancing when queuing. You should expect longer wait times, especially on weekends and holiday periods. JHMR offers the JH Insider app for up-to-date wait times per lift so you can choose to head to a less busy part of the mountain.
Plan your day
Planning your day is as important as ever, from transportation to renting equipment to staying informed on the mountain.
With fewer people taking public transportation and limited parking, make sure to carpool with your party when you can and keep an eye on how full parking lots are. If you’re taking public transportation, the START buses have limited capacity so expect longer wait times. Two-ply masks are required and windows are opened for maximum ventilation.
JHMR has an app that tells you when parking lots start to fill up, how long lift lines are, where to make a lunch reservation and other important information, while Grand Targhee has text alerts you can sign up for. For the most up-to-date information, visit the site of the resort you’re visiting and plan ahead for your trip.
Find out more information on each resort's winter safety plan
By Erika Dahlby|
December 15th, 2020
By Erika Dahlby|
November 16th, 2020