January 28, 2020 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Tia Vierling | Illustration by Sydney Morris

Snow flies in an arc as skiers swish back and forth down the side of a Colorado mountain. Across the mountainside, spots of color from bright outer layers identify experienced athletes and new skiers alike. The broad blue sky presides over a scene of what many would call a skier’s paradise.

After a few rides up in the lift and a few runs down the mountain, people trickle back to the lodge for warm drinks and snacks.

This is the image of a normal ski season for plenty of seasoned skiers. Yet for almost two winters, the skiing experience has seen a drastic shift due to the rise of COVID-19. Colorado College students are still skiing — but how has the arrival of the Omicron variant changed time on the slope?

Gillian Lasher ’22 had barely started skiing when COVID-19 began in earnest, first setting skis on the slopes in the spring of 2020, just a few weeks before the pandemic sent CC students packing. However, even with her skiing experience limited to the past two winters, Lasher notes that she’s seen a shift between her trips in the winter before the vaccine was developed as compared to now.

“There was an occasional person [before the vaccine] who wasn’t wearing a mask,” Lasher said.  “But overall, I was feeling pretty okay about it.” She added that she certainly didn’t feel “unsafe” skiing.

However, Lasher has seen a marked difference in mask-wearing as ski lodges have opened back up.

“There’s a sign on the door to wear a mask,” she said. According to Lasher, some people still don’t wear a mask in the lodge, despite signage telling them to do so.

Amy Cotter ’22, who has slightly more experience skiing than Lasher, shared the same sentiment regarding mask wearing.

“At least compared to last year, it’s really alarming to me how casual people are being,” Cotter said. “We were being more careful when it was less transmissible.”

Like Lasher, Cotter noted that the issues with masking are “mostly in lodges;” both Lasher and Cotter spoke about the ineffective nature of signs requiring people in the lodges to mask.

“I try to avoid going indoors at all costs,” Cotter said.

Max Saliman ’23 has taken Cotter’s reticence to enter the lodges even further; he packs in his food and water and keeps to himself on the mountain, claiming that it’s a “better call” to stay away from the lodges.

He notes an unintended consequence of lodges feeling unsafe; the adjustments he’s had to make to feel safe about skiing mean that “how long my ski days are” has shortened considerably.

For Saliman, spending less time at the mountain is a result of “not taking any breaks” because he doesn’t want to get cold, an issue that originates directly from being unwilling to spend time in the lodge.

Saliman notes that despite rising case numbers, resorts reverting to a system without reservations has made heading to the slopes easier. While there have been positive shifts to the skiing experience as Omicron has increased in prevalence, one sentiment rings true: the skiing itself is fun, but the lodges are not.

Still, excitement is soaring for skiing Colorado’s slopes. Plenty of CC students are making their way out to the mountains on weekends or block breaks. While tension may remain when it comes to indoors and COVID-19 safety, it’s possible to avoid the lodges and large indoor gatherings while still having a great time slicing a path down the slopes.

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