Update as of March 15 2020
A brief update as things continue to change and escalate, especially here in our little mountain valley. In the 48 hours since I last wrote, Colorado’s ski lifts have completely stopped spinning. Vail was the first to voluntarily shut down on Saturday. Despite Aspen Skico’s desire to ride things out for a few extra days, they along with every other resort in Colorado were shut down by order of Colorado governor Jared Polis effective on Saturday evening.
So far, ski areas are only required to be closed for a week, but that could of course quickly change. Surprisingly, the four mountain closure in Aspen prompted a feverish run on backcountry gear at the local ski shops. Kids gear was in especially high demand. However, most small businesses in the Roaring Fork Valley are closing their doors to limit the spread of the virus, as the infection rate continues to rise.
In my last post, I encouraged people to get out touring during this time of social distancing and general societal disruption. While being outside is no doubt an anxiety antidote we can all benefit from, I second all of those who commented on the importance of practicing safety and prudence in the backcountry. The snowpack may be stabilizing here in Colorado, but now is not the best time to shoot for those big, risky objectives. Stay safe, look out for your community members, stay hopeful.
Click below for the original news roundup.
Cancelled skimo, ski area shutdowns, incoming storm systems
Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week (or perhaps more favorably in a mountain cabin far off grid and out of cell service), you’ve heard the news. And the news is bad. Really bad.
Thanks to reactions surrounding the coronavirus, the stock market has repeatedly defied the notion “it can’t get any worse” particularly when the Dow Jones replicated a feat not seen since 1987’s Black Monday. Covid-19 infection rates are spreading faster than toilet paper rolls flying off of grocery shelves. Schools, sports arenas, concert halls are shuttering their doors. Society’s day to day rhythms have been knocked askew like a record player needle. The record is skipping.
The ski touring world has not been without its own coronavirus news. Ski races around the world, including France’s legendary four-day skimo Pierra Menta, have been cancelled or postponed. The Cosmic Series Shedhorn SkiMo race in Big Sky, Montana is still scheduled to run March 14th, though the race organizers have emphatically stated that they are not serving Corona beer at the post-race party. Due to the growing coronavirus cases in Pitkin and Gunnison counties, the Elk Grand Traverse race was cancelled officially on Friday afternoon.
In other mountain news, ski resorts in the U.S. continue to operate, though it’s unclear for how much longer. Many European areas have been shut down. On the flip side, I’ve seen at least one meme advertising that skiing is one of the best activities one can do during the outbreak; everyone is, after all, donning goggles, gloves and face masks while on the slopes. Despite cases brought in from Australian visitors, Aspen continues to spin its lifts, though they’re preventing people from boarding gondola cars with strangers. No word on whether the infamous Cloud 9 Bistro champagne parties on Aspen Highlands will continue.
Making light of a dire situation, backcountry skiers are well positioned to make the most of the crisis. The social distancing so widely recommended for preventing spread of the virus is more or less what many of us seek on the daily. That coupled with the fact that the CDC recommends people work from home gives opportunity for at least one silvery lining to the whole affair. Fortunately for those of us living in the west, meteorologist Joel Gratz of OpenSnow forecasts a deep weekend. Several feet of snow could settle in California’s mountains, while Colorado’s peaks could get around 10 inches.
So instead of feverishly refreshing your Facebook feed for the latest bad news update, grab a friend or two (while still staying distant), turn off your cell phone and escape to the hills this weekend. We’ll be hunkered down at WildSnow Field HQ skiing powder, eating canned soup and marveling our apocalyptic stockpile of TP.
Manasseh Franklin is a writer, editor and big fan of walking uphill. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction and environment and natural resources from the University of Wyoming and especially enjoys writing about glaciers. Find her other work in Alpinist, Adventure Journal, Rock and Ice, Aspen Sojourner, AFAR, Trail Runner and Western Confluence.