Is it safe to ski during the pandemic?

is it safe to ski coronavirus
Photo via Nils Rinaldi/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Many ski resorts closed early last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But resorts are opening up again, and skiers are eager to hit the slopes. But those who are ready to return to the mountain should ask themselves this: Is it safe to ski during the pandemic?

The answer: If you take precautions, skiing should be OK. 

“Skiing is an outdoor activity, many people already wear a mask, there’s space between people, and there’s no prolonged contact with others on the slopes. All of these are good things and fall in line with current public health precautions,” Lauren Bryan, a registered nurse and infection preventionist at Yampa Valley Medical Center, told UC Health.

Skiing and snowboarding may seem like a safe, outdoor activity to return to, but mountains are still operating with extra safety measures in place. Mountain capacity is limited at most major resorts, and reservations are required. And in addition to reserving a ski pass, you may need to reserve a time to use shared spaces like dining rooms.

Beginning in mid-December, skiers who want to do so in Aspen will have to show a negative COVID-19 test or quarantine for 10 days before they can put on their skis in Pitkin County, Colorado.

There are also precautions you should take in shared indoor spaces. Masks are required when you are indoors or when you cannot socially distance outside. And skiers will need a plan to warm up on cold days. Experts are warning skiers to avoid the traditional aprés-ski drink at a bar or restaurant, as it’s high-risk to hang out at a crowded bar.

According to one poll, not all skiers are interested in returning to the slopes at this point. Magellan Strategies polled 788 skiers about their pandemic plans, and 31% said they weren’t likely to ski this season while 39% said they hadn’t bought a pass. “I can go a year without skiing downhill,” one Colorado woman told pollsters.

But the general manager of Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire has had the opposite experience. John DeVivo told NPR, “I mean, we sold probably a thousand more season passes this year than we ever had. We were up about 20% in pass sales.”

As rates of COVID-19 deaths have crossed the 425,000-person threshold in the U.S., experts recommend looking at the coronavirus rate at your destination to help evaluate the risk to determine whether it’s safe to ski. Though skiing is considered a low-risk activity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says traveling, especially by plane, is still risky. Even European countries are struggling with whether their citizens should be skiing.

Experts recommend that, if you ski, do what you can to stay safe, which means wearing a mask, wiping down common surfaces, and avoiding other people.

“We have, as an industry, put in a ton of time and effort working collaboratively to put safety policies and procedures in place,” National Ski Patrol Executive Director Meegan Moszynski told the Washington Post. “The biggest piece of advice I have for people is to respect the rules and protocols [of] your area. Because we all want to go skiing and … we want to stay open. The sport is supposed to be fun, and we want everyone to be safe and respectful.”

If skiing or snowboarding doesn’t interest you, here are some other relatively safe winter activities for you to pursue during the pandemic.

Is it safe:

Sources: Washington Post, CDC, UC Health

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