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Taking the Kids: Fun in the snow, despite COVID-19

Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Tom Miller and Taylor Parris wouldn’t let a pandemic keep them from fulfilling their annual quest.

The two Coloradans, along with some other hardy snow lovers, camped out in Keystone Resort’s parking lot (the temperature was below freezing) the night before the Colorado resort opened so they could be first on the gondola at the first major Colorado snow resort to open in a snow season like none other.

“It was actually very comfortable,” said Miller adding, “I feel very safe with all of the new rules.” He hasn’t missed being on the first gondola on opening day here in 27 years.

Others echoed his sentiments. “I’m not worried about getting sick, I’m just worried about falling!” said Gracelyn Martinez, 11, snowboarding for the first time. Her sister Hailey, 20, was going to teach her.

Others were more concerned about navigating Vail Resorts’ new online reservation system designed to control capacity. (On opening day — Keystone was the first major Colorado resort to open — only 60 of the resort’s 1,500 skiable acres were open.)

“It’s going to take more planning for sure,” said Jonathan Gray, here with his family from Denver. They were able to ski opening day, he said, but couldn’t get reservations for the rest of the weekend.

 

Keystone officials note that as more of the mountain opens, more people will be able to get reservations. And with a required Epic pass — you can get one just for several days — those planning a once-a-year trip should be able to lock in reservations for much of the season. Keystone declined to say exactly what the capacity was or would be, but, based on state health guidelines, on-mountain eateries are limited to 25 percent capacity.

No one was grousing, though. Everyone seemed to appreciate the efforts that have been made here and elsewhere to get snow resorts open at all, respectfully keeping their social distance on lines, wearing masks outdoors and waiting longer for lifts since they couldn’t ride with strangers. “We’re just glad to get some normalcy back,” said Gray.

Resort officials, for their part, believe that just as Americans flocked to the mountains to enjoy the outdoors safely this summer, they will this winter too and with remote school and learning, may opt to stay longer.

At the same time, families may opt for an entirely different kind of fun in the snow with plenty of social distancing – cross country skiing or snowshoeing, for example, visiting the National Elk Reserve in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, snowmobiling in Yellowstone or horseback riding in the snow at ranches open in winter like Vista Verde and Devil’s Thumb in Colorado, Spring Creek Ranch in Wyoming and Paws Up in Montana. Some, like Spring Creek Ranch and Paws Up, which we visited last summer, gives guests the opportunity to cook in their own kitchens.

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