Toilet paper shortages, murder hornets on American soil, and the fragile state of our democracy: sounds like the worst (and best) Orwellian novel ever written. But what does all of this mean for the future of snow sports in Michigan? Read on to see how your favorite ski resorts are adapting this winter and how you can stay safe on the slopes.
Know Before You Go
Sadly, the chances of waking up at 7:00am on a Saturday to confirm if it’s a bluebird day before packing your bags may be limited this season. But the early bird does get the worm after all! Nearly all Michigan and nation-wide resorts will strongly encourage you to purchase lift tickets in advance. Pro tip: we’ll keep this page up to date with deals all season. Resorts can certainly choose to favor season pass holders and change their rules spontaneously, but you’ll be in better shape if you have secured your tickets for weekends and federal holidays at least a week out. Caberfae Peaks for example has left their policy open ended, stating “volume may be limited on certain days.” Mt. Brighton explicitly states that pass holders will get priority access. Marquette Mountain is offering steeper discounts than last year for their Northern Michigan University students and staff pass. Boyne Highlands’ reinvented Happiness Card is also perfect for the times. It’s a reloadable, non-transferable card that allows you to pre-purchase tickets from your mobile device and head straight to the lifts.
2021: The Season of the Midweek Midwesterner
In addition to advanced purchasing, Michiganders are going to need to rethink the typical days they hit the slopes. Skiing by nature involves a lot of acreage and plenty of room for social distancing, but that doesn’t mean ski hills are immune to congestion. Even non-holiday weekends this season could be more packed than usual. The solution? Be a Midweek Midwesterner instead of a weekend warrior! Ski areas generally have lighter crowds on Mondays through Thursdays, mountain conditions can be less skied out (think untouched corduroy), and most importantly you’ll be able to spread out in peace.
If you’re one of those skiers who is in it for the 2 hour slope sprint and 5 hour lodge marathon, who are we to judge! But out of necessity, resorts will be making adjustments to traditional food, beverage, and lodge access this season. Schuss Mountain at Shanty Creek will offer a new carry-out window at Ivan’s Cafe, along with a heated tent for outdoor grab-and-go eats. They will also have a new food truck at the base of the hill. At Boyne Mountain, five full-menu dining igloos will be available for seating groups of up to 10 people.
What Won’t Change (Much)
We’re all used to this by now. From grocery stores to open workspaces, masks have become the norm. Luckily, winter enthusiasts are at a greater advantage: we’re the OGs of mask wearing. Granted for keeping our faces from freezing rather than shielding from germs; nevertheless, we’re accustomed to face coverings. Remember that like any reopened restaurant, indoor resort spaces will require masks for the foreseeable future. Boyne Mountain states on their website regarding face coverings, “Winter neck gaiters are acceptable as long as they cover both the nose and mouth.”
Chair Lift Etiquette
Protocol will certainly change some from one resort to the next, but the main point is that you’ll still have easy access up the hill. No one is asking you to hike it! Instead, patrons will be told to stay with their group members rather than the usual encouragement of filling the chair to capacity or riding with strangers. At Shanty Creek, use of the singles line will now be limited to Ski School personnel. However, if two singles who do not know each other are willing to ride together on opposite sides of a quad-occupancy chair, they can. And of course, social distancing occurs naturally on the magic carpet and tow ropes.
Ski Well, Be Well
The National Ski Areas Association says it best: “We are explorers. We are first-timers. We are powder chasers.” If anything, this season will be a blessing by motivating more skiers to take advantage of Michigan’s many winter wonderlands; just as many discovered camping, public trails, and parks for the first time throughout our state this summer. Above all, we can continue to pursue and nurture our winter passions if we “Ski Well, Be Well”—meaning follow resort guidelines, use common sense, and gear up for the occasion.
So grab your gaiters and come along for the ride with MI Ski Report: your trusted source for current COVID protocol and the state of skiing in Michigan!
P.S. We promise not to use the cringey phrases “new normal,” “trying times,” or “maskne” (mask acne). Okay, maybe “maskne” once or twice…