This blog post is a summary of a survey of 788 adult skiers and snowboarders in Colorado. The interviews were conducted from November 10th to 16th, 2020 and the survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.49% at the 95% confidence interval. The interviews were conducted by sending a text invitation to individuals and the results were not weighted. The objectives of this survey were to measure and understand the opinions of the Colorado ski and snowboarding community regarding the coronavirus and its impact on the upcoming season. In particular, we attempted to measure awareness and understanding of ski resort new rules, procedures and reservation systems. The survey also includes several open-ended questions to capture general thoughts and opinions about this very unique ski season due to the coronavirus.
Ski & Snowboard Sample Demographic Observations
The first survey question asked respondents to identify if they were more of a skier or a snowboarder. Among all respondents, 65% mostly or only skied and 26% mostly or only snowboarded. Eight percent of respondents said they skied or snowboarded equally. Less than 10% of respondents aged 55 or older snowboarded, compared to 38% of respondents aged 26 to 44. The population subgroup with the highest percentage of snowboarders was among men aged 18 to 34, at 41%.
31% of Ski & Snowboard Community Considering Skipping Season
The survey measured the percentage of skiers and snowboarders that are considering not skiing at all this season due to the coronavirus. Among all respondents, 31% are not considering skiing or snowboarding at all this season, with 14% strongly considering skipping the season, and 17% somewhat considering skipping it. Population subgroups that have the highest percentage of “season skippers” include residents of the Front Range (42%), seniors aged 65 and older (39%), women 35 to 64 (35%), and individuals who ski 1 to 10 days a season (43%). Among all male respondents, only 27% were less likely to skip the season, as well as 26% of locals and 19% of men aged 35 to 44.
Reasons Why 31% of Community Considering Skipping the Season
Respondents considering not skiing or snowboarding at all this season were asked to describe their reasons why. Common themes that emerged included concerns that others will not follow the health and safety guidelines, frustrations with resort reservation systems, and money being “tight” because of lost hours or income due to the coronavirus. Other respondents mentioned concerns about tight spaces at their ski area including bathrooms, lodges, warming huts and riding the bus from a parking lot to the base.
“Being as specific as possible, please describe the reasons why you are considering not skiing or snowboarding this season.”
“It’s more the reservation system and all the hoops to jump through just to snowboard. If I pay for a pass, I want to be able to go when I want.” – Female, 25-34, Adams County
“The risk of potentially getting Covid is biggest reason but also the experience of the mountain I feel won’t be the same. Reservations to park, the restrictions on number of people in lodge/restaurants. It just doesn’t seem worth the cost for a less than experience.” – Female, 35-44, Arapahoe County
“Lack of lodge capacity due to social distancing, skier disregard for mask-wearing and social distancing, high prices for food and lift tickets in the middle of a pandemic/economic downturn, no-refund policies at major resorts.” – Female, 55-64, Boulder County
“Not sure how available days are, scared of heading to the mountain and being turned away because they are at capacity.” – Male, 25-34, Chaffee County
“Not worth the risk. Lots of people from everywhere and young people. Too many people not following the guidelines.” – Female, 55-64, Clear Creek County
“1. Risk of being too close in big crowds. 2. Not worth sitting in traffic. 3. Cost, too expensive.” – Female, 45-54, Denver
“I think the ski resorts will need to shut down again at some point. It’s a lot of money to get my whole family get read to ski each season, and I don’t think it’s worth it because things will just shut down. Also, I don’t want to have to deal with reservations.” – Female, 34-44, Douglas County
“We have an at-risk family member at home, I don’t trust the tourists will follow safety protocols. Mask wearing seems unenforceable on lifts.” – Female, 35-44, Eagle County
“There’s a deadly virus going around and many of the hot spots were in ski towns.” – Female, 24-36, El Paso County
“Shuttle buses are too crowded and that is the only way to access our resort from day parking. Public restrooms are severely limited. There is no indoor place to get warm except on mountain or base restaurants. No lodge. People here are massively entitled and really don’t care about affecting the people around them, so long as their day is not affected.” – Female, 35-44, Garfield County
“Because of the limitations on having to make a reservation. I can’t predict when I’ll be able to ski and I’ve heard there are no reservations to be had. It’s not OK to make people do that.” – Female, 45-54, Jefferson County
Confidence in New Policies Keeping Employees & Families Safe
Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they were very or somewhat confident that the new rules and safety procedures will keep themselves, family members, and employees safe from the coronavirus. Only 11% of respondents said they were not confident at all the new procedures would keep them safe from the coronavirus.
Population subgroups that showed the highest percentage of confidence in the new rules were individuals that are 18-25 years old (84% very or somewhat confident), women 18-34 years old (76% very or somewhat), and respondents that have purchased some kind of ski pass (79% very or somewhat confident).
Familiarity with Rules and Safety Procedures at Local Resort
Sixty percent of respondents were either very familiar (23%) or somewhat familiar (37%) with new rules and safety procedures at their primary ski resort. Local residents who live in mountain communities were much more likely to be familiar (76% very or somewhat familiar) with the new rules compared to respondents who live on the Front Range (49% very or somewhat familiar).
Not surprisingly, seniors aged 65 and older were much more likely to be familiar with the new rules (72% very or somewhat familiar) than respondents that were 18 to 25 years old (47% very or somewhat familiar). One interesting observation is the familiarity of the new safety rules appear to be correlated with people that have already purchased a ski pass (67% very or somewhat familiar) of some kind compared to respondents that have not purchased a pass (49% very or somewhat familiar).
COVID-19 Suggested Safety Procedures that Would Inspire Confidence
Respondents were asked to describe rules and safety procedures that would give them confidence they were protected from the coronavirus. The most common suggestions included social distancing in lift lines, cleaning and sanitizing bathrooms, lodges, lifts and gondolas and mask wearing (covering the nose and mouth). Other suggestions included expanding outdoor seating, tables, and food service, limiting numbers of people on shuttle busses, only allowing friends and family on the lifts. Finally, having a zero-tolerance policy and not being afraid to enforce the rules.
“Being as specific as possible, please describe any rules or safety procedures that would give you confidence that you and your family were safe and protected from the coronavirus.”
“In general, I’m not afraid of getting the virus because I’m not a person in an “at risk” category. But I think the best thing they can do is segregate groups on lifts/gondola rides. That’s the only time you’re really close enough to someone to potentially be exposed. Aside from that, there’s tons of room to spread out on mountain. You may come in close proximity to folks at the base, but that’s what masks are for and it’s no different than walking around the grocery store.” – Female, 25-34, Adams County
“I live in Keystone and observed the summer procedures. I think they took good steps to be a safe as possible. Since I don’t use any of the facilities, I feel that skiing by itself is safe in a more crowded environment.” – Female, 55-64, Summit County
“Limit the amount of people inside the lodge eating so that it allows proper social distancing of 6 ft. Separate tables to also support social distancing. Therefore, you would have to have more sitting available outside with heaters. Also, temperature and symptom screening in order to enter the lodge. 1 family per gondola and ski lift. Mask/face covering mandate for all visitors and staff. Lots of hand sanitizer available.” – Female, 35-44, Larimer County
“I just plan to not go inside. Pack my own bagged lunch and eat in the car. Outside seems most safe to me.” – Female, 25-34, Lake County
“Limit number of people in shuttle busses, temperature checks with pass checks. Incentives to stay away for people who booked but have the corona. More picnic tables and grill throughout the mountain for social distance lunching.” – Male, 35-44, Jefferson County
“I have concerns about the VR employees, especially those in housing…as well as hordes of visitors we’ve been having as of late. I believe most locals are following rules; however, I don’t know how COVID will ever get under control here with the ski areas opening. More concerned about my children staying in school than skiing. “ – Female, 35-44, Summit County
“Covers over chairlifts, only people from the same group on a chairlift together, much greater spacing enforced in lift lines, to-go food only on the mountain served outdoors…as for the county rules, I think that if people were to come for the skiing only and restaurants, etc were not open to in person congregating, we would feel safer that tourists would be less likely to spread the virus.” – Female, 45-54, Routt County
“I believe that Vail resorts has implemented a spectacular plan. However, Alterra I believe is going to see packed days still with disappointed skiers as there is no reservation required for those who hold and Ikon pass… and those who live in Ikon towns know that is going to be a lot of people. My main concern, however, is that there will be injuries and injuries use up resources and can fill up hospital beds— which is not ideal during peak COVID-19 rates.” – Male, 18-25, Routt County
“Mandatory face masks on lift lines. Cleaning of gondolas and chairs regularly. Reminding people to social distance even when outdoors and skiing.” – Female, 55-64, Pitkin County
“Riding the chairlift with your friends and family only and not strangers would feel safer. I think the tourists will be flying on planes and spreading the virus. Wearing a mask!” – Female, 45-54, Ouray County
“Enforce the guidelines, period….it really is difficult to remember to follow these guidelines…for us all…but we need employees to have authority to enforce….and at same time empathize with guests who need to be constantly reminded…. but enforce…this will pass if we all contribute.” – Male, 35-44, Grand County
“The rules make me confident, though people who constantly do not pay attention to those rules are my concern. Working in a resort hotel I am constantly asking guests to wear their masks properly. Around town I see so many people who refuse to wear a mask properly, this is what concerns me.” Female, 45-54, Eagle County
“It is my choice to ride. It is my choice to leave the house. While riding the lifts it will be my choice to sit with “strangers” we are all wearing masks when it is cold. Let’s open the mountain and move on.” – Male, 45-54, Denver
“Having a zero-tolerance policy and kicking people out who don’t abide by the rules.” – Male, 35-44, Denver
Trust in Ski Resorts to Property Manage Their Reservation Systems
Respondents were asked if they trusted the ski resorts to properly manage their reservation systems. Among all respondents, 70% said they trusted the ski resorts (25% strongly/45% somewhat) to properly manage their reservation systems. Only 17% of respondents said they did not and 12% did not have an opinion.
Awareness of Primary Ski Resort Reservation Policy
The survey attempted to measure skier and snowboarder awareness of their preferred resort’s reservation policies and procedures. Just under half, 49%, of all respondents were either very familiar (21%) or somewhat familiar (28%) with their resort’s reservation policy. The other 50% were either not too familiar (25%) or not familiar at all (25%) with their resort’s reservation policy. The following table shows differences in awareness by population subgroup.
Two populations have a more negative view of their financial future compared to the overall population. The first group is African Americans, with 26% saying that they think their financial situation will be worse a year from now. The second population is individuals without health insurance, with 25% expecting their financial situation to be worse in a year.
Trust in Ski Resorts to Provide a Quality Snow-Riding Experience
Among all respondents, 76% said they trusted the ski resorts to provide a quality snow-riding experience with the new rules and procedures in place and 15% did not trust them.
Trust in Officials Making Decisions to Keep Resorts Open/Closed
Respondents were asked if they trusted elected officials to make the right public health decisions in keeping resorts open or closing them down for a period of time. Among all respondents, 62% trusted elected officials to make the right decisions and 31% did not. Female respondents showed a higher level of trust in elected officials making the right decision (67% trust them) than male respondents (57% trust them).
Likelihood to Lunch, Dine and Drink Indoors in Cold Weather
Forty-four percent of respondents said they were either very likely (24%) or somewhat likely (20%) to eat lunch, dine, or drink indoors at a ski resort when the weather turns cold and outdoor seating is not an option. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they were not too likely to eat indoors in cold weather and 32% were not likely at all.
Opinion of Whether Colorado Ski Areas Will be Shut Down at Some Point
Respondents were asked what they thought the chances were that Colorado ski areas will be shut down at some point. Among all respondents, 36% thought there was 50% chance ski areas will be shut down, 29% thought there was a 75% chance, and 19% thought there was a 100% chance. Only 15% of respondents thought there was a 25% or less chance that ski resorts would be shut down.
Interest in Backcountry Experience and Safety Preparation
The survey measured skier and snowboarder interest in experiencing the backcountry for the first time. Among all respondents, 62% said they had skied or snowboarded in a backcountry area before and 38% had not. Among the 38% of respondents that had not experienced the backcountry, 17% (50 total respondents) said they had a strong interest or plans to experience backcountry this season.
Among first time backcountry respondents 42% said they planned on buying avalanche safety gear and taking an avalanche safety course. Twenty six percent said were only planning on taking the safety course and 12% were just planning on buying safety gear. Sixteen percent of respondents plan on doing neither.
Among the 62% of total respondents that had experienced the backcountry 37% had taken a safety course and purchased gear. Another 20% had safety gear but had not taken a course, and 13% had taken a course but did not have safety gear. Just under one third of respondents, 29% had not taken a safety course or purchased safety gear.
General Thoughts and Concerns About Upcoming Season
Respondents were asked to describe how their mood, emotions and mental health have been affected by the response to the coronavirus. Many respondents describe being very stressed and having increased anxiety. They describe being depressed from isolation and being afraid to interact with other people and being anti-social.
Several respondents describe their emotions as being on a roller coaster, sometimes feeling up and positive, then feeling depressed and down. We strongly recommend everyone read the full responses to this open-ended question in order to understand how the coronavirus is impacting the mental health of families and individuals.
“Do you have any general thoughts or concerns that you want to share about the upcoming season?”
“If resorts are shut down at any point in the season, I want a refund. Health officials that the media “listen to” are not telling the whole story. Snowboarding with a warmth mask on the open mountain (OUTSIDE) is safe. If you are too afraid to snowboard/ski then stay home. For the employees… if you are worried about your health then wear a mask, face shield, gloves. Health official “say” that will protect you.” – Female, 18-25, Adams County
“It could be the best season ever because no one is up there; or it could be the worst season ever if everyone else is trying to ski on my Wednesday’s.” – Female, 55-64, Arapahoe County
“Institutions need to be held to the same standard across the board. To suggest that ski resorts as low-key as Wolf Creek spread the virus any worse than restaurants, airports, shopping centers, or schools, is simply foolish. It would also be foolish to include Wolf Creek in closures set for massive resorts such as those on the Epic Pass.” – Male, 25-34, Archuleta County
“Ski resorts, regardless of economic value, should prioritize their locals. Without their locals, ski resorts will fall apart. Yes, resorts run off tourists’ summer and winter, but locals lay the framework year-round. Keep their voice heard in decision making meetings.” – Male, 18-25, Boulder County
“The resorts should stay open. It is vital to our economy and our healthy lives. Stupid politicians need to stay out of it. Americans are free to make their own choices.” Male, 45-54, Cheyenne County
“I’m nervous about skiing this season. I understand resorts are trying hard to make it safe, but I worry the number of people allowed to ski on a given day will not allow for a safe environment.” – Female, 25-34, Clear Creek County
“The reservation system seems confusing as well. Can you still go “day of?” How can you tell what the capacity is if the mountain without driving all the way there? How will the reservation be honored? Super confusing so far.” – Female, 35-44, Denver
“I think that it will be very hard for the locals to ski as often as we would like with the new reservation system. The whole reason why my family and I live here is so we can go to the mountain whenever we want to. It might make things very difficult and change how often we want to ski.” – 18-25, Female, Eagle County
“Avalanche danger is going to be insane, not because of snow but too many people not knowing what they are doing in the backcountry!” – Eagle, 25-34, Male
“It’s concerning that there are no refunds when it’s almost a guarantee that resorts will shut down/the reservation service won’t act as expected. I’ve already experienced issues trying to reserve ski dates.” – Female, 25-34, El Paso County
“Colorado needs to implement a 10-to-14-day quarantine for tourists, as well as creating a list of states that are restricted from traveling to Colorado based on their home state’s COVID status.” – Male, 35-44, Garfield County
“It doesn’t seem to spread outdoors as much, so I am not that concerned about skiing. I am concerned about ski areas closing and lots of people going backcountry which could be dangerous. I am also concerned about indoor spaces.” – Female, 35-44, Jefferson County
“Larger discounts for locals based on income would be a dream. I often can only afford for one of two kids to ski and then I don’t go at all but love skiing.” – Female, 35-44, Lake County
“I know tourism is a big player in our state, what most concerns me is how warming huts and indoor spaces to grab a sip of water/bathroom/warm up will be run as that’s where we will be most at risk.” – Female, 25-34, Ouray County
“I am concerned about being a local near a ski resort as the resort plans to open. I am concerned Covid cases will rise in our community due to the influx of tourists coming to ski at the resort. This will put strain on our small hospital and community as a whole.” – Female, 25-34, Pitkin County
“I love to ski. I love being outside. Encouraging tourism during COVID is stupid. I’d be more inclined to participate if it was locals only. I live in a small resort town. This winter is going to be a shit show. I’m snowshoeing and Nordic skiing instead. Maybe back country skiing if I can get into an avalanche class.” – Female, 45-54, Routt County
“I want people to think very strongly about how willing they are and how prepared they are to face the consequences of heading unprepared into the backcountry. I do not believe that a level 1 course with no practice in partner rescue is enough to be confident navigating complex backcountry risks.” – Male, 25-34, Summit County
“Snowboarding and skiing is already social distancing, you’re not right on each other besides the lift which you ride in the car with them to the resort so there’s no difference, let’s enjoy the winter sports!!” – Female, 18-25, Weld County
We encourage interested parties to go deeper into the data and download the survey deliverables which are linked at the top of this page.