Any chance of Wolf Creek Ski Area reopening before the end of the season was quashed late Thursday after Gov. Jared Polis extended an executive order requiring all ski resorts in the state to remain closed until May 22.
Polis’ order, which went into effect March 14 to slow the spread of the coronavirus, was supposed to expire Thursday. Around 9:30 p.m. Thursday, however, the governor’s office announced the shutdown will continue for another three weeks.
“Due to the continued spread of the virus in our mountain communities and the need to conserve health care resources as much as possible, I am amending and extending (the order) to direct downhill ski area operators to suspend operations until May 23, 2020, to slow the spread of COVID-19,” the order reads.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Davey Pitcher, owner of Wolf Creek Ski Area, said the extension of the order effectively eliminates any chance of reopening.
“We’re saddened by the decision,” Pitcher said. “There’s no rhyme or reason to what the governor did.”
With Polis easing statewide restrictions through the “safer-at-home” order and the ski area closure mandate set to expire this week, Pitcher had planned on trying to reopen for a few weeks while conditions still allowed.
But an enforceable mandate in the safer-at-home order prohibits people from traveling more than 10 miles for recreational purposes. Wolf Creek Ski Area, which is nearly 25 miles from the nearest town, was effectively isolated by the safer-at-home order.
In response, Pitcher had requested a variance from the rule, which was approved by Mineral County’s health department and was pending a decision from the state health department.
But now, Polis’ decision to extend the original ski area closure renders those efforts moot.
“We felt we had a comprehensive plan and we’re disappointed,” Pitcher said.
As part of the reopening plan, Wolf Creek Ski Area would have required cars to park 12 feet apart, people to use social distancing on lift lines and limited chairs to one person (excluding family members or people from the same household).
Restrooms would have been limited to 10 people at a time and cleaned hourly. Face masks would have been mandatory for staff and guests. No food or beverages would have been offered from the lodge.
And the number of people allowed on the mountain would have been restricted. Only 500 people with season passes would be allowed to ski (Wolf Creek has 1,700 pass holders), and only 120 tickets would be sold to the general public per day.
Pitcher expressed frustration that the proposed reopening plan met many of the criteria laid out in Polis’ safer-at-home directives, and that the state did not contact him to explain its decision.
“We understand decisions have to be made,” he said. “But the manner they’re made, probably is as much of a concern of mine as anything at this point.”
Pitcher had said a soft opening in the few remaining weeks of the spring ski season would have helped Wolf Creek Ski Area plan its opening for next winter, especially in the event the coronavirus picks back up.
“(Now) we’re starting our tear-down for the year,” he said.