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Student skiers hesitant to purchase passes with uncertain season ahead

Hannah Rohrer-Fitzhugh, a junior elementary education major at Westminster College, sports an Alta Java sticker on her laptop while studying in the Richard Commons Sept. 2. Rohrer-Fitzhugh purchased an Alta Season Pass last season and said she will buy a pass this season despite unexpected closures last spring due to COVID-19. (Rian Zetzer)

As winter quickly approaches, students are hesitant to invest in a season ski pass to any of the Utah resorts near campus. Westminster College students who purchased a pass last season were unable to experience its maximum benefits because the resorts shut down operations mid-March to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

“I didn’t like how it ended right around the spring season, that’s when I really like to ski,” said August Henry, a junior neuroscience major. 

These unexpected closures were earlier than usual. Most resorts remain open into late April. 

This abrupt end was disheartening for many. Some resorts didn’t give out refunds, leaving pass holders frustrated. 

“I was sad that they cut the season short because they didn’t give any refunds,” Henry said. 

Henry held a pass at Brighton Resort for the 2019-20 ski season. 

Student skiers at other resorts said they were disappointed as well. Hannah Rohrer-Fitzhugh, a junior elementary education major, held a pass at Alta Ski Resort last season. 

“It was really disappointing because we missed out on a large chunk of the season,” Rohrer-Fitzhugh said.

While the early closure of the ski resorts last season was deemed necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it was still a let-down to student pass-holders.

“It was the right thing to do, but it was also a crappy thing to do” Rohrer-Fitzhugh said. 

The early ending in March also eliminated the possibility of spring resort skiing, which in turn canceled events for competition skiers.

“I was pretty bummed, I had a bunch of friends of mine who were competing and they couldn’t finish off their season because the competitions got cancelled,” said slopestyle athlete and first-year student Philip Farnsworth.

As the 2020-21 season approaches, it is still unclear whether the lifts will spin again. Some ski resorts announced new policies and procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining social distancing. 

Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz released a letter Aug. 27 outlining plans for Park City Mountain Resort this season. 

“Pass holders will be required to make a reservation before arriving at the mountain,” Katz said in a statement. 

This new reservation system will be implemented to decrease the amount of guests on the mountain. Other restrictions include social distancing on chairlifts, limited ticket sales and limited dine-in options at lodges. 

“Given how fluid and ever-changing the situation with COVID-19 is, it has also been our goal to design an approach that can remain in place for all of this season,” Katz said. “We do not want to be caught off-guard or find ourselves needing to make reactive changes.” 

Vail Resorts released a detailed plan hoping to provide confidence to guests that its season won’t be abruptly cut-off in the same way as last season. 

Moving forward, student skiers said they’re holding on to the same optimism Katz demonstrated in his statement. 

“I am planning on buying a season pass this season,” Farnsworth said. “I think either Park City or Brighton because I’ve heard really good things and I’ve had really good times there in the past.”

However, other students still aren’t sure — showing some skepticism of the promises of the ski season ahead. 

“I was pretty hesitant at first, I still haven’t bought a pass yet, but I’m thinking of Brighton again” said Henry.

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Rian Zetzer
Rian is a “super-senior” communication major graduating in December. When Rian is not on campus, you can find her skiing, hiking or biking in mountains with her trusty dog Ziggy. Rian hopes to combine her passion for the outdoors with her passion for content creation by working in the outdoor industry upon graduation.

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