Vail starts closing chair-lifts early, marking the beginning of the end of a truly dismal ski season

Vail starts closing chair-lifts early, marking the beginning of the end of a truly dismal ski season

The 2020/21 season was one to forget

VicesMarch 31, 2021 By Will Brendza

It’s not even April yet, and Vail has already started closing its lifts, winding down what has been a season of bummers.

Typically, Vail waits until two weeks before their official closing date to start shutting lifts down, but due to this season’s sporadic and insubstantial snowfall they started the process four days early. On Sunday March 28th lifts 10, 22, 23, and 28 came to their final halts of the 2020/21 season.

Which is a season most skiers and boarders will not be sorry to see off. The COVID pandemic warped the ski resort experience, with reservation systems, horrifyingly long lift lines, required mask attire, and general uncertainty. On top of that, November, December and January were near-drought conditions, with so little snowfall most mountains couldn’t fully open until mid-February when Colorado finally started getting some bigger storms. And even then, the snowfall wasn’t consistent like normal seasons — it came in dramatic storm bursts separated by warm weather and dry conditions.

Naturally, that made for one the deadliest avalanche seasons in this state’s history. Twelve lives have been lost under snow (in the backcountry) this year, tying the 1992/93 season for the deadliest ever.

Even the corporate boards of the resorts have admitted that this was a tough year for the ski industry. Rob Katz, the CEO of Vail Resorts, called it the “most challenging season we have ever encountered.” And things are changing because of it: Vail announced last week that they would be reducing their on-mountain prices by a full 20%, to sweeten the deal for their customers after such a lackluster season. And Arapahoe Basin announced that they’d be selling 10% fewer season passes next year, to make their little mountain feel bigger and to reduce lift congestion, and free up parking spaces. 

There will be lasting effects left on the sport of skiing, in the wake of this strange and terrible season — but they’re not all bad. Which has everyone looking hopefully forward to 2021/22; hopefully there will be better more consistent snow, hopefully the reservation system can go to hell, hopefully we can start riding lifts and gondolas with strangers and singles again to speed up the lines. Hopefully the powder pastures are better on the other side.

Until then, we can only enjoy what’s left of this weird season, and shred what runs haven’t yet been closed off.