We're Ready for Winter: Big Sky Resort Operations Update
Letter from Big Sky Resort Leadership on 2020/2021 Winter Operations
Dear Big Sky Skiers and Riders,
The cooling temperatures and first dustings of snow on Lone Peak are always an exciting time, signaling to us that ski season is just around the corner. We have heard from many guests eager to buy passes, lift tickets, and learn about our winter operations plan. Today, we're happy to share both with our community.
Before relaunching season pass and lift ticket sales later today, we felt an obligation to be transparent about 2020-2021 winter operations so our guests, both loyal and new, would feel comfortable making winter plans and commitments. Big Sky Resort has developed our winter operations plan using ski industry best practices and state and local health recommendations. If there's one thing we've learned in this process, it's that things can change quickly. The good news is, a few things won't change: skiing will be as fun and exciting as ever.
Skiing and snowboarding at Big Sky has always provided plenty of room to spread out - offering more than an acre per skier on average. Our immense 5,850 acres of skiable terrain, plus lift infrastructure that moves guests up and across the mountain quickly, makes the experience on our mountain a relatively low-risk outdoor activity. It is our goal to provide a safe experience to our guests, even if some activities have to be scaled back or put on hold. That said, we're excited to share our current plan with you, and with teamwork, we aspire to provide a reasonable solution for the safest experience possible.
Winter Lift Access
We're thrilled to have season passes and lift tickets back on sale today. We appreciate everyone's patience as we paused sales this summer to plan for safe and responsible operations.
At this time, it is not our intention to limit access to the mountain. However, we may need to take some measures to maintain a safe and responsible experience for our guests by managing skier volume. Here's what we are committed to sharing today:
Big Sky Season Passholders are welcome to access the resort any day of the season their pass is valid, at any time during operating hours, and walk up to the lifts as usual. Season Passes are back on sale today for a limited time. Sales may be paused at a future date to continue assessing the number of skiers we can accommodate on the mountain. We hope that by monitoring the number of passes sold, we will avoid implementing a reservation system during the season. Every season pass purchase includes Worry-Free Winter Assurance, which provides a credit towards a 2021-22 season pass based on the number of days lost if the resort were to close due to unforeseen circumstances and operate fewer than 140 days. Passholders also have the option to roll over the value of an unused 2020-21 pass as a credit towards a 2021-22 pass for any reason through December 10, 2020, at no cost.
Ikon Passholders can ski when their passes permit access and must use Ikon's reservation system to let us know when they plan to visit. If we need to address volume, there may be a limit on how many Ikon passholders can access the mountain during specific days of the season.
Mountain Collective Passholders will also have access to Big Sky Resort when their passes permit access. Mountain Collective passholders may be required to make a reservation before their visit. More details are forthcoming. If we need to address volume, there may be a limit on how many Mountain Collective passholders can access the mountain during specific days of the season.
Lift Ticket holders can purchase their desired days of skiing at this time, with no anticipated restrictions. Purchasing your lift tickets online, and before the start of the season will assure access to the mountain for your desired days of skiing. If we need to address volume, availability for lift tickets on desired dates may be restricted for both online and same-day lift ticket sales. Please note, same-day lift ticket sales may be restricted at any time, so we highly recommend securing your winter lift access now.
Physical Distancing on the Mountain
We are confident that chairlifts are a safe way to disperse guests throughout Big Sky's massive 5,850 acres of skiing. Big Sky's average chairlift ride is 5.5 minutes, considerably shorter than most modes of transportation such as riding a bus. Chairlifts provide constant directional airflow, with chairs spaced approximately 50 feet apart, and with a limited period of close contact between individuals.
All lifts, carpets, and the Lone Peak Tram will run as planned this winter, as snow and conditions permit. Facial coverings will be mandatory for all guests while in lift queues, loading, riding, and unloading lifts. Wearing a facial covering in lift queues and on lifts is the most important factor in our ability to transport guests up the mountain efficiently this winter. Mazes and lift queues will be set up to facilitate physical distancing, with singles lines no longer offered this season.
We will not be enforcing maximum capacity on chairlifts and will allow groups traveling together to ride on their own chair when operationally feasible. Some exceptions may be made for higher-capacity lifts such as Ramcharger 8 and the Lone Peak Tram, where more than one unrelated party is expected to ride together with constant airflow, facial coverings, and limited contact during each four-minute ride. Capacity in the Lone Peak Tram may vary to balance uphill capacity with a safe and reasonable guest experience. A new boot pack route is being considered, beginning from the top of Dakota lift to the Yeti Traverse, providing additional access to Lone Peak terrain.
Food & Beverage
We have reconfigured on-mountain and village dining establishments to allow more space for social distancing. Grab-and-go and takeout options will be available at each restaurant, with online ordering capabilities for select locations to provide guests an alternative method of ordering and minimize time indoors. The Yellowstone Conference Center, an 8,000 square foot indoor space, will be open to the public to provide additional seating and room for dining and warming up this winter.
Mountain Sports School
Mountain Sports School will be offered this winter with updated program availability, streamlined check-in and instructor meeting locations, and the opportunity to complete required paperwork before arrival online. Private Lessons and Mountain Guides will be available and bookable online, allowing groups that travel together to ski together. Booking a lesson or guide with Mountain Sports School will guarantee the ability to purchase a lift ticket on the day of your session. We intend to offer local youth programs and group lessons, with availability and additional information to be shared at a later date.
New: Early Access
Early Access, a new unguided first tracks program, will allow guests to load Ramcharger 8 at 8 a.m., one hour before public access, to get a head start on the ski day while providing an additional opportunity for guests to disperse throughout the mountain, alleviating base area congestion in the mornings. Both lift ticket and Season Passholders will have the ability to purchase Early Access from mid-December to March, and must be booked online in advance. A limited amount of Early Access reservations will be permitted each day, so be sure to book early when online purchasing becomes available.
Our lodging, retail, and rental facilities will remain open this winter, operating in accordance with local health department best practices. We also expect the Lone Peak Playhouse, Big Sky's childcare facility, to open with enhanced safety protocols.
Even with reduced capacity on and off the mountain, we acknowledge the inherent risk of COVID-19 transmission in enclosed spaces. While we do our part, we are also asking our community to do their part and use good judgement to be socially distant whenever possible. We intend to use common sense and good practices to open safely and efficiently for the full duration of our ski season. Like last winter, we are not afraid to pivot or make hard choices once the season is underway; but remain confident that our current plan will allow us to have a full season of skiing.
For more detail about our winter operations plan, please refer to our Winter Operations FAQ page.
We couldn't be more excited to welcome skiers to the mountain this Thanksgiving. We look forward to a safe, healthy season back on snow, enjoying the sport that brings our community together.
See you on the mountain,
Troy Nedved, General Manager
Taylor Middleton, COO & President