SALT LAKE CITY — As ski resorts across the United States grappled with how to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus without having to close, industry giants Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Co. decided Saturday they would shutter 49 of North America’s most well-known resorts.
Saturday night, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis ordered all ski areas in the state to cease operations.
Purgatory Resort, north of Durango, also announced on its website it would close March 15-22.
The Telluride Ski Resort in Colorado and the Aspen Skiing Co. announced Saturday night that they will close ski operations, too. Vail Resorts said it would shut down its 34 resorts for at least one week before reassessing while Alterra is closing its 15 until further notice.
The closures marked a sudden change of course after the majority of the country’s resorts vowed earlier Saturday to stay open during the crisis while taking measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
Earlier in the week, Purgatory Resort said it was committed to stay open through April 12.
The ski resort north of Durango released a statement Thursday afternoon stating it would remain open through the planned closing day, weather permitting. It is bracing for a busy spring break season with snow in the forecast in a time in which health officials are urging people to avoid areas with big groups to help limit the spread of the new coronavirus.
“Purgatory Resort has been actively supporting La Plata County’s planning, community monitoring and response efforts of COVID-19,” Purgatory Resort stated in a news release.
“The health and safety of our guests and employees remain our central focus, and we appreciate the resource we have in the Incident Management Team. This group, spearheaded by San Juan Basin Health and their activation provides the best opportunity for minimizing the impacts of COVID-19 exposure in our community. The resort staff is working side-by-side with public health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and will continue to do so until there was no longer a public health concern.”
Vail’s resorts include Vail, Keystone and Breckenridge in Colorado; Park City Mountain Resort in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada; Stowe Mountain in Vermont; and Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada.
Alterra’s include Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado; Squaw Valley, Mammoth and Big Bear Mountain in California; Crystal Mountain in Washington; Stratton and Sugarbush in Vermont; and Deer Valley and Solitude in Utah.
Wednesday afternoon, Polis indicated mountain communities would likely be “disproportionately” affected by the spread of the virus. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported Saturday that about 30 people in Eagle, Gunnnison, Pitkin and Summit counties had tested positive for the coronavirus. Of the 28, at least 11 were from out of state.
The Telluride Ski Resort said it decided to close immediately after learning that Colorado Gov. Jared Polis planned to issue an executive order closing the state’s ski resorts. Late Saturday, the Aspen Skiing Co. announced it was closing ski operations at Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass because of Polis’ order.
In issuing his order Saturday night, Polis said: “It is with a profound sense of pain and grim responsibility that I take the agonizing action that this moment demands. I take solace in knowing that while we will be temporarily closed for business, we will be saving the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Coloradans in the days and weeks ahead.”
“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this short notice will undoubtedly create. We look forward to welcoming you back to the mountains as circumstances improve,” the company said in a statement.
The Journal and Durango Herald contributed to this report.