Several Lake Tahoe ski resorts closed due to coronavirus | SierraSun.com
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Several Lake Tahoe ski resorts closed due to coronavirus

Bill Rozak Special to the Sierra Sun

There’s fresh feet of snow on the mountains at Lake Tahoe but much of that won’t be touched as many resorts have temporarily closed due to the coronavirus.

The news is devastating to skiers, snowboarders, resorts and communities all around the lake. The biggest winter storm is moving through the basin this weekend and the fresh snow would have drawn tens of thousands to the slopes and communities.

Vail Resorts, Alterra Mountain Company announced Saturday afternoon, then Sierra-at-Tahoe at late in the evening, that all have shuttered business operations due to the coronavirus.

Sugar Bowl and Royal Gorge have also suspended operations until further notice. 

Homewood Mountain Resort remains open and received 35 inches of snow Saturday into Sunday. Diamond Peak Ski Resort also is open and got about 2 feet of snow. Tahoe Donner is reporting nearly 4 feet of new snow, according to onthesnow.com.

Vail says it will close resorts for seven days starting Sunday, March 15, and then reassess while Alterra says its closure, that begins the same day, is indefinite.

The closure includes Heavenly and Kirkwood mountain resorts on Lake Tahoe’s South Shore, and Northstar California and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows on the North shore. Alterra owns Squaw Alpine.

Vail and Alterra made the announcements Saturday afternoon within an hour of each other, and Sierra-at-Tahoe about 9 p.m., that they will not open for business starting Sunday, March 15.

Sierra-at-Tahoe plans to close for at least 72 hours.

Vail operates 37 resorts spread across 15 states and three countries and Alterra runs 15 resorts in North America.

For all companies, all lift operations, food and beverage, retail and rental services will be closed until further notice.

All the companies apologized to guests in their respective releases.

Vail plans to pay their scheduled employees during the closure.

Alterra said each resort will work directly with guests in canceling their visit and will provide refunds to those who have hotel and other bookings during this closure.

Sierra will also work with any customers who made reservations. Anticipating a high-volume if calls, customers who want refunds or a reservation change may email passoffice@sierraattahoe.com.

“We anticipate heavy call volume over the next several days and appreciate guests’ patience as we work hard to respond to all inquiries,” said Rusty Gregory, Alterra CEO in a press release. “I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this short notice will undoubtedly create. We look forward to welcoming you back to the mountains as circumstances improve.”

Sunday may be a powder day, but heavy snow and strong winds are forecast by the National Weather Service.

Letter from Vail Resorts:

“This has no doubt been an incredibly challenging time. We – like the rest of the world – have been closely tracking every new development related to coronavirus (COVID-19) and have been in constant contact with local health officials for guidance. Without question, our top priority has been the health and wellbeing of our guests and employees – and to no lesser extent the health and wellbeing of the communities where we operate. We know each decision we make has a broad impact far beyond our operations.

“With each of those stakeholders in mind and with the most updated information from local health officials, we have made the difficult decision to suspend the operations of all our North American mountain resorts and retail stores beginning Sunday through Sunday, March 22, and will use that time to reassess our approach for the rest of the season. Our lodging and property management operations will remain open to service the guests we have on location or those with existing reservations, but we will not be taking new reservations for this upcoming week. Epic Mountain Express, our Colorado shuttle service, will also continue operations to support the travel needs of our guests. We will be closing our corporate offices and apart from essential personnel, we will be asking other employees to work from home, where possible.

“All our scheduled employees, both seasonal and year-round, will be paid during this upcoming eight-day period, without needing to use any vacation or sick time. Their commitment to our company and guests during this uncertain time has been unwavering and I am personally grateful beyond words.”

“This decision provides a pause for the entire ecosystem of our mountain resort communities. It gives everyone the time to assess the situation, respond to ever-changing developments, and evaluate the approach for the rest of season, if we believe it is advisable or feasible to re-open. This was not an easy decision to make, as we deeply considered the impact it will have on our guests, employees, and the people and businesses in our communities. We understand this change may be confusing given our communications of operational changes over the past week, and as late as last night. Please know that this has been a fast-moving, constantly developing situation with new information from our communities coming to us by the day, if not by the hour, and we are trying to react as quickly as we can.  People may also wonder why we are not giving more notice ahead of this closure. We understand the challenges this creates, but our priority is to minimize any additional issues from operating in further uncertainty and to avoid potential crowding. 

“We sincerely apologize to guests who are currently at our resorts – and those who were planning to come during this time. We have information on cancellations, refunds and travel credits on our websites. Many things like ski school, lift tickets, equipment rentals, and transportation can be fully refunded, and we have new credit policies in place for our owned and operated lodging properties. Please know that we will get to everyone and appreciate your patience as our most immediate priority must be the health and welfare of our resorts and communities.  I know there are a lot of questions about our season pass products and Epic Day Passes. Those products are non-refundable and not transferable to another season, however, we will be reviewing those policies and providing any updated guidance on that in the coming weeks. Again, we very much appreciate your patience with this as well.  

“These are unprecedented, challenging times for everyone. We will continue to navigate these unchartered waters with our guests, our employees and our communities remaining our highest priority. I am certain that there have been, and will be, moments where we will miss the mark and potentially disappoint. However, rest assured that we will continue to listen to your feedback – and continue to make the best decisions we can for everyone’s wellbeing.”

Bill Rozak is editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun based in South Lake Tahoe.


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