Mar 5, 2021 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Claire Barber | Photo by Patil Khakhamian
As of Feb. 26, 2021, Angel Fire Resort received notification from the Office of the Governor that they are no longer required to test resort employees for COVID-19.
The resort, located in Angel Fire, N.M., is a small beginner mountain with four lifts and two magic carpets. It takes about 30 minutes to drive to Taos over Palo Flechado Pass, home to a hospital and a Walmart. Traditional medical care in Angel Fire itself is limited, with ski patrol and a small UltiMed clinic at the base of the mountain, and a dentist on the main drag.
Knowledge of the halted testing was obtained via a human resources email sent to ski area staff at Angel Fire Resort. No press releases or updated information regarding required testing can be found on the state website (as of March 5).
“The resort’s legal department received notification regarding the official modification of its testing agreement from the Office of the Governor on Friday, Feb. 26,” according to a human resources representative at Angel Fire Resort.
The mountain had been testing their employees in two-week waves using self-administered cheek swabs. On Feb. 27 at 5:48 p.m., staff members were notified via email that all upcoming appointments were canceled.
The reason for lifting testing requirements is still unclear, as is the number of other resorts that have been able to lift their testing requirements in the state. The state has been taking a county by county approach for COVID-19 restrictions.
Colfax county (where Angel Fire Resort is located) is in a code “yellow,” with a positivity rate of 2.69% (between the time period of Feb. 9, 2021 to Feb. 22, 2021). Changes were made earlier in the season because of code “yellow” status, including increased capacity for private and group ski and snowboard lessons and indoor dining at the Children’s Ski School.
Taos County, where famed Taos Ski Valley sits, is in code “green.” No updates on employee testing have been made public.
On Feb. 12 in Winter Park, Colo., at least 109 employees tested positive for COVID-19. Of course, Winter Park and Angel Fire are two different resorts in two different states, but such a large outbreak potentially points to the vulnerability of ski areas to COVID-19.
Despite halting testing, Angel Fire resort notified employees of two new positive cases on Feb. 27 and 28. One food and beverage employee began developing symptoms the very day testing was lifted.
According to a message on the resort’s Paycor Page: “The employee developed symptoms the morning of Feb. 26th and got tested and went home to quarantine. Contact tracing identified one close contact.” The other employee “developed symptoms the evening of Feb. 24 and got tested and went home to quarantine. Contact tracing identified three close contacts.”
The official season for Angel Fire Resort ends soon – March 21 – but only time will tell how the ski area and its employees fare with COVID-19 and its new testing policy. Will more cases go unnoticed? Will there be a spike in the town despite its “yellow” status? Will the season continue as normal?
Claire Barber is a staff writer for The Catalyst and a current ski instructor at Angel Fire Resort.