Timberline Lodge ski area on Oregon’s Mount Hood bumped its last chair for the season on March 16—or so they thought at the time. Gov. Kate Brown declared in a press conference on May 5 that Oregon will allow ski areas to reopen for the summer in a forthcoming executive order.
Mount Hood Meadows and Skibowl will not reopen for skiing this summer, according to websites for the the mountain’s two other resorts.
Timberline marketing director John Burton says he is excited to reopen. Since their initial closing day, Timberline gauged various strategies to reopen based on working with state and local health officials, even hiring an infectious disease doctor from Oregon Health and Science University to aid capacity calculations.
When it does reopen, Timberline will operate much differently than at the beginning of the season. Burton said the resort will operate based on a reservation system, similar to a tee time at a golf course, and they will enforce social distancing between cars in parking lots.
“There’s a huge pent-up demand, in addition to people trying to make plans for our summer snow program,” says Burton. But while the independently run summer ski camps will run as planned, pending government orders, Timberline’s branded camps are canceled this summer.
“We’re trying to reopen a ski area, trying to figure out the experience and keep our guests and employees safe,” Burton says. “We simply don’t have time to open our camp. It’s not a priority.”
This decision, while necessary to comply with CDC and Oregon government guidelines, will of course do drastic harm to Timberline’s business. “Timberline is a privately held company and doesn’t release numbers, but we’ve been absolutely devastated by the closure. I can’t overstate that enough,” says Burton.
Timberline is not yet selling passes, but anyone who has a previously paid reservation (lift tickets or winter season passes) is welcome at the resort this summer. It won’t affect the pass credit deal that Timberline is offering for next season.
Additionally, Timberline’s Palmer glacier lift sustained extensive ice damage over the winter and is not yet ready to run. But the Stormin’ Norman and Magic Mile chairs are ready to spin at a moment’s notice and Burton says he hopes to be open by the end of next week.
Meanwhile, Windell ski camps, one of the handful of independent camps operating on Timberline’s terrain, intends to run this summer. There will be changes, of course, and it is unlikely that their first two sessions will run.
The ski camp created a COVID task force and hopes to open around the beginning of June. Windells asked the CDC for suggestions and guidelines and was sent an 800-page document with vague instructions, according to the camp.
As Windells combs through those directives, they will revamp their facilities with more robust hand washing and hand sanitizing stations.
One positive effect of these restrictions on the mountain is that many training programs who typically go overseas for cheaper lift tickets will move back to Mount Hood this summer. The teams will not conflict with the other camps.
People who do not follow social distancing protocols at Timberline will be asked to leave this summer.
“You have to follow the rules,” Burton says. “We’re putting these protocols in place to keep our guests and employees safe while providing a great ski experience. We’re in this together.”
According to Oregon’s governor’s office, next week, updated safety guidelines regarding transit, certain child care, summer school, and summer camps and youth programs will be issued. Look for POWDER’s update in the coming days.
This article originally appeared on Powder.com and was republished with permission.
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