You probably have some questions about what skiing and snowboarding will look like in the COVID-19 era.

Fortunately, recreating outside in winter is already well suited for maintaining a healthy and low-risk environment. Learning to ski or snowboard this winter is a great way to get your whole family or close friends outside. 

Check out these links to learn more about how you can ski and snowboard this winter.

Preparing to Visit a Resort

What to Know Before You Go

Like so many things, visiting a ski resort will look different this season than before.  Here’s what to  keep in mind when you’re planning a visit.

  • Find out if you need to make a reservation before your visit. Some ski areas may require you to book reservations or parking in advance, and won’t be able to accommodate walk-ups. Before you load up the car, check your destination’s website to find out whether you’ll need to book your reservation in advance.
  • Be prepared to participate in a wellness check. Many ski areas may conduct wellness checks before they let guests proceed to the lodge or lifts. This might entail confirming whether you’ve tested positive for COVID, experienced symptoms or been exposed to anyone who has, and allowing staff to check your temperature. Be sure to  find out more about your destination’s policies by checking their individual website.
  • Bring a face covering. Ski areas may  require guests and staff to wear face coverings while indoors and anytime a six-foot physical distance isn’t possible to consistently maintain.
  • Plan to minimize time spent indoors. In a normal year, you or your group members can take a break from cold, windy, or wet weather by posting up at a table in the lodge. This season, however, many ski areas may have limited indoor seating capacity, so it may be more difficult to secure space inside. Consider the day’s conditions before you head up the hill.

Your vehicle is your base camp. Booting up at the car makes it easier to stay physically distanced from other skiers and snowboarders. (It also saves you the trouble of lugging your boots into the lodge with you!) Pro tip: Bring a camp chair to sit in as you get suited up—it’s way more comfortable than trying to squeeze into the car.  

How Ski Areas Are Preparing For Your Visit

Ski areas are working hard to prepare for your arrival this winter. Here are some of the ways they’re working to keep you healthy: 

  • Requiring guests and staff to wear face masks when in close quarters
  • Establishing physical distancing protocols
  • Committing to increased cleaning and disinfecting of high-traffic spaces
  • Conducting daily wellness checks on employees and guests

For more on how ski areas are preparing, visit the National Ski Areas Association’s Ski Well, Be Well page.

What to Expect from Your Lesson

Most ski areas will still offer lessons this season—but the structure might look a bit different 

Smaller groups. This season, you’re more likely to end up in a private lesson or in a small group of skiers or snowboarders. 

Household or family groupings. Many ski schools have traditionally grouped lesson participants based on their ability and when they show up, meaning you were likely to end up in a group with folks you didn’t know. This season, you can expect to stick with members of your household or whomever you’ve arrived with, instead—so it’s a great time to plan a day on the slopes with family or friends!

In addition to taking a lesson, there are lots of options for you, your family and your friends to get outside this winter. Also, there are alternative activities for skiers and snowboarders who want to maximize physical distancing this winter season.

A young girl learns to snowboard on a Burton Riglet board

Alternatives to Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

Cross Country Skiing

Want a workout, minus the lifts? Cross country skiing, also known as Nordic skiing, might just be for you! Many ski areas have Nordic centers where guests can rent equipment, book a lesson, and take to the trails. 

Learn more about the basics of cross country skiing here.

PSIA-AASI National Team member Greg Rhodes skate skis in front of the A-Basin East Wall

Tubing

It’s hard to beat snow tubing for a day of fun the whole family can enjoy. Many resorts have a tubing hill, complete with rentals and a magic carpet to the top, adjacent to their lift-served skiing. Snow tubes typically have handles and are made of sturdy rubber material, so this activity is a little more forgiving than tobogganing in the backyard. Plus, who doesn’t love getting a ride to the top, rather than hauling the sled each time? 

Ski.com put together a list of the best tubing hills in the U.S. Check to see if your destination has a tubing hill before your next trip to the mountains!

A kid goes snow tubing

Snow (Fat Tire) Bikes

Most people swap their bikes for skis when the snow starts to fly—but if with tires wide enough, you can ride bikes year-round. Snow bikes (also called fat bikes) have become hugely popular, and some Nordic centers have even installed single-track snow trails expressly intended for winter bikers. 

Rules and rental availability vary by ski area, so check your individual resort or Nordic center’s snow bike policy.

Two people snow bike down a trail

Ski Bikes, aka SNO-GO

You’ve probably seen SNO-GO ski bikes whizzing past you on the slopes before. These contraptions are meant to combine the intuitive feel of riding a bike with the winter fun of skiing. Some resorts even offer lessons—although it’s an easy learning curve! Here’s our webinar and e-learning course on SNO-GO.  

Tons of ski areas allow SNO-GO-style ski bikes, although not all have rentals available. Before you show up, find out whether your destination allows SNO-GOs.

A sno-go rider on the ski hill

Snowshoeing

If you can walk, you can snowshoe—but snowshoeing is a lot more fun! Modern snowshoes are lightweight and easy to use with any sturdy winter boots, and you won’t need any specialized equipment beyond those and a pair of poles to keep yourself steady. The flotation on snow allows you to explore off the beaten path and experience the quiet of a winter wonderland.

Many resorts have snowshoe trails in or adjacent to their Nordic centers. Check with your destination to see what’s available and where you can rent snowshoes.

A group of four people snow shoeing

Uphill Skiing & Splitboarding

Many resorts offer guests the ability to ski without using lifts. Using special equipment, you can attach “skins” to your skis—snowboarders do the same thing with a splitboard, which works like skis uphill and transforms to a snowboard for the ride down—to walk uphill, then ski back down. 

Here’s a quick primer on what uphill skiing is and what equipment you’ll need.

Some resorts require a special pass, which can be picked up from guest services or ski patrol. Resorts’ policies vary (sometimes this is allowed only outside of normal operating hours, for example). Be sure to check with the resort you plan to visit.

A skier put skins on his touring skis

Online Learning

Resources

Resources for Skiing and Snowboarding during COVID

New information arrives daily about the way ski areas will operate this season all the time. This list will be updated with new resources throughout the 2020-21 season.