Ski season ends early at many mountains due to coronavirus

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information on the closing of additional resorts. 
It’s no secret that coronavirus (COVID-19) has essentially brought the travel industry to a temporary halt. The calendar says we are approaching what was planned to be peak spring break travel time for many. But now, the reality is that the local grocery store is about as far as most of us are traveling.
When it comes to ski resorts, the solitude of an almost empty run sounds like a perfect socially distanced activity, but there’s more to the story. The lifts, gondolas, rental shops, ticket offices, lunch breaks, apres ski and more still bring people together in groups larger than the currently recommended numbers. 
So while ski resorts first tried to integrate new distancing and cleaning recommendations in light of coronavirus, that was quickly followed by a temporary pause in operations. Now, many major ski resorts have called it quits on the 2019–2020 ski season.
Here’s a look at what’s happening at ski resorts around the country and a peek at how this may impact those ski passes that you weren’t quite done using.
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Vail Resorts
The operator of 37 ski resorts around the world (including Vail, Park City, Heavenly, Whistler and more) and the creator of the Epic Pass, Vail Resorts stated as of Tuesday that all North American ski resorts will remain closed for the 2019–2020 ski season, due to the fast-moving situation involving COVID-19.
However, Vail also stated it would consider reopening Breckenridge, Whistler Blackcomb and Heavenly in late April/early May, dependent on the situation with COVID-19, as well as weather conditions. Last season, many ski resorts operated until late May — with some going all the way until the Fourth of July weekend. 
You can request refunds on certain prepaid Vail Resorts expenses online, however, thus far that does not extend to Epic Pass products. Eligible refund requests include:

Lift Tickets
Ski & Ride School
Lodging and Vacation Packages
Winter Activities
Childcare Bookings
Equipment Rentals (booked on RentSkis.com or SkiRentals.com)

Can I cancel or change a ticket booked through the Amex or Chase Travel Portal due to coronavirus?
Alterra Mountain Company
Alterra is the owner/operator of 15 North American mountain destinations, including Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Stratton and Sugarbush Resort in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Tremblant in Quebec, Blue Mountain in Ontario; Crystal Mountain in Washington; Deer Valley Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah; and CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures in British Columbia.
Skiing in Mammoth in mid-March (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Alterra resorts are included on the Ikon Pass and the group decided to close starting the morning of Sunday, March 15, until further notice citing the best interest of “guests, employees and local communities.” (CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures will continue to operate through Tuesday, March 21.)
In terms of refunds, CEO Rusty Gregory said that “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 period.” He added that heavy call volume is anticipated over the next several days, and that “guests’ patience as we work hard to respond to all inquiries” is appreciated.
While there is talk of some of these mountains calling it quits on the season, others have said they will reevaluate late-season operations at a future date.
Aspen Snowmass
Aspen Snowmass has closed “by the order of the Governor of Colorado.” They have not yet committed to remaining closed for the season and state that, “the plan is to conduct some limited on-mountain maintenance to potentially have a limited late-season opening if circumstances allow.”
Aspen skyline from an overlook in the winter (Photo by Jonathan Ross/Getty Images)
In terms of refunds, lift tickets, Ski & Snowboard School lessons, Four Mountain Sports equipment rentals and activities reservations are fully refundable. To process your refund, you have until April 30, 2020, to call 1-800-525-6200 and have your order confirmation number available.
For season passes, Aspen Snowmass states: “We will have answers to season pass refund requests once we know if we are reopening or not.”
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Like so many of the others, the iconic Jackson Hole Mountain Resort closed for the remainder of the season effective March 15. Its decision to close the resort follows a Health Order directed by the Wyoming State Health Officer and issued by the Teton District Health Officer.
The resort will work with guests and passholders to “provide recovery assistance regarding refunds or future credits.”
Epic, Ikon and Mountain Collective passholders
Usually, holding a ski season pass is a good thing. However, in this case, passholders are still in limbo whether they’ve used the pass 20 times or zero times, while holders of unused lift tickets can largely request refunds.
On the one hand, the majority of the ski season was behind us at most resorts when the unexpected closures happened. On the other hand, spring break skiing is a big factor when choosing a ski pass, so many ski passholders had planned skiing yet to occur.
Technically, ski passes are nonrefundable and nontransferable. In fact, one goal of a pass is to level out income in the event it’s a bad snow year or similar. However, poor snow is one thing, but no one really could have predicted a global pandemic shutting down basically every ski resort in the country.
(Photo courtesy of Epic Mountain Express)
At this point, there has been no communication from the major pass programs on potential refunds or future discounts. However, there are clues for what may be done on their respective social media accounts.
Ikon’s Facebook page responses state that “We are working through new policies and protocols and will post new information as it becomes available.” That reads to me that some discounts or credits haven’t been ruled out.
Mountain Collective’s response on social media reads, “We will be reviewing refund and credit policies and providing any updated guidance in the coming weeks. We very much appreciate your patience as the fast-moving situation evolves.”
Epic’s response to date on social media has been, “Pursuant to the terms of all season pass and Epic Day Pass products, they are nonrefundable and nontransferable to another season. We will be reviewing these policies and providing any updated guidance in the coming weeks. We appreciate your patience during this unprecedented time.”
Visit our hub here for full coronavirus travel coverage.
Bottom line
Now is not the time to travel but it is, of course, unfortunate that even outdoor ski resorts cannot safely operate for the time being. In fact, some of the major Colorado ski country counties are COVID-19 outbreak hot spots.
Right now, some mountains are expressly prohibiting even uphill skiing (where you climb up yourself), while others are allowing that process at your own risk.
Additional reporting by Katie Coakley
Featured image by Adventure_Photo/Getty Images

15 of the Best Ski Towns in the US

Admittedly, choosing the best ski town is a subjective affair. Some people only care about the town with the deepest powder, while others might prefer the town with no powder at all but the best microbreweries and spas. According to Michael Levine — a skier of nearly 60 years who has skied at almost 100 resorts around the world — the mountain itself is the most important factor to take into consideration when selecting a ski town.
“You can have a really awesome town, but if the skiing sucks, it’s not a great ski town,” Levine said. “I would rather have a sleeping bag in the back of a truck next to a great mountain than a great hotel next to a bad mountain.”
But for those of us who might not be as diehard as Levine when it comes to snow sports, you can’t underestimate the après ski scene.
That’s why, to choose the top ski spots in the nation, we looked for mountain towns with something for everyone. From quaint New England villages to old Gold Rush towns; from stalwart favorites to unsung destinations; from resorts with masterful kid’s programming to hardcore backcountry zones, these are some of the 15 best places to hang up your skis this winter.
(Photo by Josh Laskin/The Points Guy.)
1. North Conway, New Hampshire
Often referred to as the birthplace of skiing in North America, North Conway’s deep ski history is itself reason enough to consider it one of the best ski towns in the US. Couple that with six downhill ski resorts within a half-hour of town, restaurants and cafés such as the Thompson House Eatery and Frontside Coffee Roasters and plenty of lodging options, including the recently-opened Glen House in Pinkham Notch, and this one is a no-brainer.
And thanks to an organization called Granite Backcountry Alliance, which has been hard at work creating a network of backcountry ski zones around the state, those who prefer to get off-piste to earn their turns will find no shortage of options either.
2. Taos, New Mexico
In addition to a world-class ski resort, Taos is home to a World Heritage Site (Taos Pueblo), distinctive cuisine and an art culture deeply rooted in the history of the Southwest.
After a day of Rocky Mountain powder — without the crowds of Vail and Aspen — stroll the walkable downtown and admire the adobe architecture that sets this ski town apart. When your legs need a rest, head to the Edelweiss Lodge and Spa, which is a ski-in, ski-out property. But before you call it a night, head to La Cueva Cafe for chipotle shrimp tacos.
3. Vail, Colorado
Vail deserves a spot on every skier’s list, whether you are looking for a hill with steep and deep lines, or a town with plenty of cocktails and places to shop. After all, everyone needs a rest day (or two) following a few consecutive days of skiing over 5,200 acres of terrain and 3,450 vertical feet. And when that day comes, keep yourself in the skiing mindset by visiting the Ski and Snowboard Museum, recently reopened after a $2.6 million renovation.
There’s also a European bakery and restaurant, appropriately named Alpenrose, in the heart of Vail Village that offers Austrian and German cuisine in a rustic dining room. If you want to stick to the European theme, spend the night at Sonnenalp, a German-style hotel that combines elements of the Old West with a traditional European ski town.
Mount Baker, Washington. (Photo via Shutterstock)
4. Bellingham, Washington
Though the Pacific Northwest is infamous for its long, gloomy winters and persistent precipitation, skiers and snowboarders can head to the mountains, where that rain is transformed into snowfall. That’s why Mount Baker — Bellingham’s local ski hill — has so many deep days.
While the town of Bellingham is over an hour away from the mountain, it still works as a perfect base for exploring Baker’s slopes, thanks to its breadth of lodging and dining opportunities. Stop by Lettered Streets Coffeehouse for a locally roasted cup of coffee and a pastry before heading out to the mountain for the day. Hotel Bellwether is a great high-end property located directly on Bellingham Bay.
5. Ogden, Utah
I’m going to be controversial for a minute and sing Ogden’s praises this ski season. After all, the mountain destination is the gateway to three resorts totaling 11,600 skiable acres with 500 inches of snowfall, making it an underrated alternative to Park City and Alta. Ogden is also the oldest city in Utah, and the jumping-off point for Powder Mountain (the largest ski resort in the US), Nordic Valley and Snowbasin Resort, which has a newly renovated base lodge this season (Earl’s Lodge).
All three ski areas are accessible from downtown via public transportation, eliminating the hassle of having to spend your vacation driving. Another reason to love Ogden this winter? The January 2019 opening of the stylish 15-room Compass Rose Lodge at Snowbasin.
6. Jackson, Wyoming
Home to three ski areas, Jackson is known for its deep snowpack and extensive side and backcountry terrain. Of the three — Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Snow King Mountain and Grand Targhee Resort — Jackson Hole is easily the most popular, and rightfully so.
The mountain’s 2,500 skiable acres ascend over 4,100 vertical feet. But if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, consider Snow King or Grand Targhee instead. Spend your nights at the Anvil Hotel, a once forgotten motel that has been turned into a boutique hotel by a group of Brooklyn-based designers. For dinner, grab a steak at the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse.
The San Juan Mountains in Colorado. (Photo via Shutterstock)
7. Telluride, Colorado
Nestled between a number of 13,000 and 14,000-foot peaks in the San Juan Mountains, the central area of this old Victorian mining town has been designated a National Historic Landmark District. Now, the historic streets and buildings are filled with gourmet restaurants, boutiques and art galleries, making it a perfect place to base yourself during a ski vacation.
While the town is great for retail therapy, the high quality of the resort will have you more focused on powder turns than buying a new jacket. Before heading out for a day on the slopes, fuel up at the Butcher and Baker Cafe. Spend the night at the historic New Sheridan Hotel, a few blocks from the mountain’s gondola.
8. Bend, Oregon
Bend’s location in Oregon’s high desert makes it the perfect place to enjoy a few hours of powder in the morning, world-class rock climbing in the afternoon and an evening of golf all in the same day.
Located just a few miles from Mount Bachelor, which receives more than 400 inches of snow annually, the city itself tends to experience much less precipitation. Beer lovers will be thrilled to know that Bend is known as “Beer City USA” and boasts a diverse range of breweries such as the Crux Fermentation Project and Deschutes Brewery.
9. Waitsfield, Vermont
Located in the Mad River Valley, Waitsfield is a good alternative to the Killington ski area and Stowe if you’re looking to avoid crowds and explore untracked terrain. This year marks Sugarbush Ski Resort’s 60th season in operation, and, as a result, they have a full calendar of events to celebrate (think: a Hall of Fame weekend and March Madness spring series). And for those who want to ditch the car for the weekend, the Mad Bus offers free service around the Valley during the winter.
Sugarbush and its other resort, Mad River Glen, both receive a notable amount of annual snowfall by East Coast standards. Book a room at the Sugarbush Inn, which has a prime location at the base of Sugarbush and just minutes from town. For a bite to eat, check out Blue Stone for pizza and local brews or the Mad Taco for Mexican.
Squaw Valley in the Lake Tahoe area was home to the Winter Olympics in 1960. (Photo via Shutterstock)
10. Truckee, California
With an average of 275 days of sunshine, 400 inches of annual snowfall and 12 downhill resorts (including the world-class Squaw Valley) within a 10-mile radius, it’s no wonder that skiers from across the country choose Truckee and the Lake Tahoe area for their annual family ski trip. Beer and pizza fans should head to Old Town Tap to try the mushroom pie and a local brew, while wine lovers will appreciate the selection at Uncorked.
The historic Truckee Hotel is centrally located within walking distance of many shops and restaurants, allowing you to forget the car for the night.
Another top contender, of course, is the Mammoth Mountain ski area, though travelers can experience it long after winter ends, thanks to its northern-facing slopes and high summit elevation. And Truckee is just a short drive from a higher concentration of downhill resorts,
11. Stowe, Vermont
Another classic New England ski town, many think of Stowe as “the ski capital of the east.” In addition to the 314 inches of snow that gets dumped onto 485 skiable acres annually, the town itself is home to one of the best microbreweries in the country: the Alchemist.
Treat yourself to a spa day at the Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa and then sample some of Vermont’s finest beers at Doc Ponds. The Rusty Nail often has live music in the evenings, and makes for a great way to end the night. And if you want to explore some new terrain after a few days on the mountain, head over to Smugglers’ Notch, which is just an hour’s drive away during the winter.
12. Breckenridge, Colorado
Another Colorado mining town, Breckenridge Ski Resort (or Breck, as the locals call it) is home to the highest chairlift in North America. The town is filled with local restaurants, distilleries, galleries and breweries, so you don’t have to feel bad about taking a rest day. The Mountain Thunder Lodge is a great property for travelers who want the convenience of a ski-in, gondola-out resort in a secluded setting.
Before ending your vacation, be sure to stop by the Breckenridge Distillery, which claims to be the highest distillery on Earth, and explore a few of the area’s other mountains. The Summit Stage bus offers free service to Copper Mountain and Keystone, for example. The latter of which is one of the best ski resorts for families in the country.
The town of Whitefish, Montana looks out toward the Whitefish Mountains. (Photo via Shutterstock)
13. Durango, Colorado
Durango is a small town located just north of the New Mexican border, which means it often gets overshadowed by resorts closer to Denver. The town is a great jumping-off point for Purgatory: a smaller resort with great beginner terrain and plenty of challenging terrain for more experienced skiers.
Durango is also home to a handful of breweries, such as Carver Brewing Company and Ska Brewing Company, and has a number of great places to lay your head. Travelers should visit now, before Durango goes the way of some of the more touristed ski towns. According to local reports, six new hotels are expected to break ground soon.
14. Whitefish, Montana
Located at the edge of Glacier National Park, Whitefish is a bustling small town in a wild, untamed setting. Originally settled in the early 20th century thanks to the Great Northern Railway, the town continues to flourish with help from the 3,000-acre Whitefish Mountain Resort.
While Big Sky Mountain Resort’s 5,800 acres get all the attention, this year Whitefish is finally getting the recognition it deserves for being a modest, unflashy destination with excellent terrain. The resort is continuing almost a decade of steady improvements, including new glading projects and two new groomers.
Nowadays, the streets are lined with fine dining establishments, ski shops, cafes, distilleries and breweries. Before starting your day, grab a cup of coffee at one of two Montana Coffee Traders locations in town. Spend your nights at the Grouse Mountain Lodge, which offers upscale accommodations just a mile from downtown.
15. Aspen, Colorado
Aspen‘s reputation may seem inflated, but this 20th-century mining town continues to reinvent itself, helping it edge out other well-liked ski towns. Aspen Ski Company’s four resorts (Aspen Highlands, Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk and Aspen Snowmass) offer plenty of varied terrain, but are standouts for children still mastering their pizzas and french fries.
On Dec. 15, Aspen Snowmass will celebrate the opening of Snowmass Base Village, which includes an ice skating rink, climbing wall and the 99-room Limelight Hotel Snowmass. Travelers should also watch out for the W Aspen, currently slated to open in 2019 on the site of the former Sky Hotel. Until then, there’s The Little Nell, the iconic mountainside property that completed a significant refresh last year. After a day on the slopes, try the Pan-American and French fusion menu at Betula, scheduled to open downtown on Dec. 20
The Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE) is located just a few miles from town, making Aspen easily accessible for travelers. 
Check out our guide to booking a ski trip with points and miles.
Featured image via Shutterstock.