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Alpine high: Hitting the slopes this season will likely require patience

Whether it’s long lines, social distancing or even the ability to open, resorts will have to grapple with COVID measures

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Corbin Clement slides a rail during opening day at Eldora Mountain Resort in November 2019.

I gritted my teeth and bought my Ikon Pass in the middle of June, despite the summer sunshine and the uncertainty of how the 2020-21 ski season will unfold.

My final ski day on last season’s pass was March 7 at A-Basin: a day featuring soft moguls and hearty nachos (and a drink… or two) on a patio for lunch. It feels like a lifetime ago. It was before resorts began shuttering and Gov. Jared Polis extended a statewide ban on downhill skiing operations in response to the pandemic. But my purchase of this year’s pass was an exercise in cautious optimism that we’ll be able to enjoy Colorado’s champagne powder — safely — this winter.

Eric Freter, of Boulder, catches some air in December of 2019.

If resorts do open for business, we’re likely to experience new ways of doing things — like socially distanced lines, reduced capacity on lifts, and daily reservations (and, I would guess, fewer patio drinks). We’ll probably see rolling closures, too, so we’ll need to be ready to adjust and respond to changing rules throughout the winter. I’m as avid a skier as they come, but I’m game for any changes that’ll keep us all safe.

Denver-based freeskier Aaron Bible said it well at “More than ever, skiers will need to be flexible this year and look out for one another — forget clamoring in the lift line for first tracks, and look out for your neighbor.”

So, we’re in this together one way or another — and you can soften the blow some by recouping the hundreds of dollars (ouch) you shelled out for most passes, either via refund or credit for the next season, if the season doesn’t go as planned. I bought my Ikon Pass in part because I knew I’d be able to defer the money I spent to next season if I don’t use it this season.

There is, of course, the allure of the backcountry, too, though you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared with the necessary safety equipment and training before you jump into a skin track and lug your gear uphill.

Boulder County’s Eldora Mountain is offering a prorated voucher if certain conditions are met, including 21 days of COVID-19-related closures throughout the season. If you’re feeling cautiously optimistic like me, you can snag a pass for $529; $359 if you’re a college student under the age of 26.

Eldora is a great option if you want to spend more time skiing than stuck in a miles-long traffic jam on Interstate 70, and the Boulder County resort has been known to have great secret powder stashes, though my lips are sealed as to where.

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File photo
Tom Miller, at right, Johnathan Buckhouse, Chris Miller, Jean-Luc Pineau, Ziggy Avjean and Tadija Ilic ride the first chairlift during opening day at Eldora Mountain Resort in November 2019.

Here are some other season pass options for Colorado ski resorts:

Epic Pass

If you want more room to explore than Eldora’s 680 acres of skiing terrain, you can pick up the Epic Pass — which gets you access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte with no blackout dates — for a cool $979.

Looking for a cheaper way to explore most of those resorts? Consider the Epic Local, which for $729 gets you unlimited access to Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte, plus 10 days total, except on holidays, at Vail and Beaver Creek.

Winter Park

Check out the 3,081 acres of skiing terrain Winter Park offers, just less than a two-hour drive from Boulder, all winter long. No blackout dates at $539 for adults.

Ikon Pass

This year’s Ikon base pass offers unlimited skiing at 14 destinations, including three in Colorado: Eldora, Winter Park, and Copper. The $749 pass also includes limited days at Steamboat and A-Basin, but it comes with blackout dates at certain resorts.

If you cough up $1,049 for the full Ikon pass, you’ll score unlimited skiing at Steamboat, Eldora, Winter Park, Copper, and 11 other destinations (plus seven days each at Aspen Snowmass and A-Basin) without the blackout dates.

Skiing resources

  • Colorado Department of Tourism:
  • Eldora:
  • Epic Passes:
  • Ikon Passes:
  • Boulder Freeride:
  • CU Ski Bus: