A few of Minnesota's ski areas are opening for the season this weekend, with some changes in place to comply with Gov. Tim Walz's four-week shutdown aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.
Outdoor recreation is still allowed under the governor's order that bans social gatherings, in-person dining at bars and restaurants, and closes fitness clubs until Dec. 18, so long as people are only participating with members of their immediate household.
“The health of our employees and our guests is our number one priority,” said Bo Bigelow, executive director of Minnesota Ski Areas Association (MSAA). “We know Minnesotans want to be outside and active, and our ski areas across the state offer a place for families to do that. We will need everyone’s help in following the rules so we can remain open for the season.”
Walz's order bans group reservations and events, so those are canceled until Dec. 18, and skiers and boarders need to stay with their families for lessons and on lifts, MSAA notes.
“We know these are challenging times for Minnesotans,” said Bigelow. “With everyone’s cooperation, our ski areas will be able to provide winter joy and exercise in the great outdoors for all.”
Here are some of the policies Minnesota ski areas have implemented to keep people safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic (remember to check the specific ski area a day or two before you go to familiarize yourself with the hill's policies):
- Face masks are required inside and outdoors while in line and riding on a lift (MSAA recommends bringing an extra mask in case yours gets wet).
- Physical distancing will be followed.
- Chalets will be open for restrooms, retail, rental operations, and ticketing, but not for public seating – people will need to use their vehicle for their base camp, to boot up, store their gear and eat/drink.
- No in-person dining will be available at chalets. Food and beverages will be sold via grab-and-go, but no on-site consumption – instead people can eat and drink in the parking lot or in their cars.
- Ski areas will be offering lessons so long as the lesson is limited to a single instructor and household.
- Chairlifts and outdoor warming stations are limited to one household only.
- If you're feeling sick, stay home.
You can find the latest COVID-19 recommendations from the MSAA here.
According to MSAA's website, as of Tuesday, several ski hills are making snow in preparation for opening in the near future. Among them:
- Hyland Hills Ski Area in Bloomington has opened.
- Wild Mountain in Taylors Falls has opened.
- Afton Alps in Afton has opened.
- Lutsen Mountains in Lutsen plans to reopen Thanksgiving weekend, with 5-11 runs likely up and running by Thursday, Nov. 26.
- Giants Ridge in Biwabik plans to reopen on Friday, Nov. 27.
- Andes Tower Hills in Kensington plans to reopen on Friday, Nov. 27, with one chairlift and one carpet lift.