Storm skiing

Jon Hildebrand gets deep in the goods in February at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The resort announced a slate of operational changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including measures to limit capacity.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is not an island when it comes to COVID-19.

Like other ski resorts nationwide, the east Teton powder playground announced Wednesday a slate of changes to its usual wintertime operations. Sanitizing Aerial Tram cabins and the Bridger and Sweetwater Gondola cars multiple times daily, setting up thermal imaging cameras to detect fevers among skiers, and limiting capacity on the tram are among them. So are measures to spread skiers and riders out in lines, and require masks in the lift line and on the chairs and gondola cars.

Chief among the new policies are measures to limit capacity in every segment of the resort’s business, most notably by capping how many tickets can be sold on the mountain each day, and halting pass sales for at least a month.

“We were hoping this whole pandemic would be behind us by now, and it’s not,” Mary Kate Buckley, the resort’s president, told the Jackson Hole Daily. “For people to have a great experience and for people to be safe, we knew that we needed to limit crowds.”

The turn to crowd control is consistent with other resort operators’ decisions. Vail Resorts, for example, announced ticket sales would be limited and pass holders would be required to reserve spots on its mountains.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort will not require pass holders to do the same, instead allowing them to use the mountain as they normally would. The resort’s capacity limits, which will be different for different parts of the season, will primarily apply via a new requirement to purchase tickets in advance.

Buckley said the goal is “to sell the difference between our capacity and what we estimate on typical days.” The number the resort has come up with for capacity is “probably conservative,” she added, but declined to release it. It may be adjusted as time goes on.

Passes are currently off sale until Oct. 5, and 7- and 10-day passes will not be offered if pass sales come back online. Without providing specific numbers, Buckley said pass sales are about on pace with what they have been around this time of year, and that the monthlong break is intended to sell other tickets.

“We’re going to take a month,” Buckley said. “We’re going to work with everyone, see who has made that commitment to come here and make sure we can ticket them.”

Season passes are set to go back on sale, but Buckley said that could change: “We don’t want to oversell so we’re just gonna play it by ear.”

The capacity changes, she added, will be “noticeable.”

“Holidays are the periods when we have the most noticeable crowds, and I think people will see a stark difference during those times,” Buckley said. “Your typical January weekday — we expect probably the same amount of people out there.”

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or barnold@jhnewsandguide.com.

Teton County Reporter

Previously the Scene editor, Billy Arnold made the switch to the county beat where he's interested in exploring Teton County as a model for the rest of the West. When he can, he still writes about art, music and whatever else suits his fancy.

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