Nov 20, 2020 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Kyle Zinkula | Illustration by Xixi Qin

Last week I was lucky enough to have picked up a reservation to ski at Keystone Resort. Everything about skiing is different this year, but at the same time the mountains feel oddly familiar, as if stepping into a portal to pre-COVID-19 times.

Firstly, one difference is that Epic pass holders are required to submit preferred dates for skiing in advance. These dates, called “priority days,” are specific to mountains and to the skier. Luckily, Epic Pass has made this process very easy and clear. It is all run through the Epic Pass website and takes only a few minutes to select dates. In addition to selecting your ski days ahead of time, you can pick up reservations that others drop. It’s like picking up and dropping shifts for work or making reservations at Tutt Library, and it’s how I managed to get myself on the mountain for my first day of skiing this year.

While making reservations can be annoying, I find the system to be great. I daresay I prefer it even to a normal ski season. Traffic was as unpredictable as usual as I made my way to the mountain, but upon arriving at Keystone an hour after the slopes opened I was pleasantly surprised to see an abundance of parking spots to slide my car into. More often than not, parking was the most tedious part of skiing last season, even when I got up extra early and arrived at the resorts before they opened. Limited numbers with reservations is great for hindering the spread of COVID-19, but also makes the preparation and travel experience much nicer.

Skiing itself was pleasantly different as well. Obviously, masks are mandatory, but most people, myself included, wear a mask, scarf, or face covering of some sort anyways due to the cold, so it’s really business as usual. The limited number of people kept the mountain emptier, too. My wait for each lift was less than a minute, and I never felt crowded on my way down the runs. Unfortunately, Keystone only had two runs open the day I was there, but I expect the crowds to be similarly sized in response to how much of the resort, and others on the Epic Pass, are open in the coming season.

Additionally, I found skiing to be a great way to be active and stay COVID-19 safe. Skiing is outdoors, already a great sign for minimizing COVID-19 spread. Additionally, the smaller crowds made spacing out easy and everyone was wearing masks due to the chill (though I would enjoy watching an anti-masker get upset about being told to cover up in freezing temperatures. It’s entirely possible.). When it comes down to it, skiing is the perfect outdoor winter activity during this pandemic.

Skiing also looks to be more accessible to the general public this year. I have only recently begun skiing and cannot speak too confidently to the past costs of passes, but this year Epic Pass has the “Summit Value Pass” which gives holders unlimited access to Keystone and access to Breckenridge with a few holiday restrictions. For college students the pass will set you back $499, roughly the equivalent of three day passes at these same mountains. The pair of resorts are close to campus, at least in relation to other mountains offered by the more expensive Epic Passes. While that is no small amount of money, it is, in my opinion, one of the best bang-for-your-buck passes offered this year. If you are thinking of hitting the slopes more than three times I highly encourage this pass. If you think you’ll want to be getting outside this winter, I highly encourage skiing!

All in all, the new changes and restrictions are efficient and make for a nice ski day while still allowing you to go out and feel like it’s a normal time on the mountain.

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