After losing a month of the ski season because of health orders issued to slow the spread of COVID-19, Purgatory Resort reopens today for summer – this time rearmed as much as possible – to deal with the microscopic menace.
Purgatory has worked with San Juan Basin Public Health on a plan to limit summer visits to 40% of capacity, said Dave Rathbun, general manager of Purgatory Resort.
Summer days at Purgatory will be split into two sessions, morning and evening sessions, Rathbun said.
The morning session will run from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and the afternoon session will run from 12:30 to 4 p.m.
“With two sessions, we can keep people as distant as possible. The thinking there is that we can get a couple of waves of people to come in and have an experience up on the mountain,” Rathbun said. “And that way, we can kind of divide the capacity up over the day, a little bit more efficiently, without them mingling together at the same time. So, that’s a big change.”
Earlier this week, a summer adventure pass to Purgatory was on sale for $249 compared to a regular price of $399, and the summer pass was available for $149 with the purchase of Purgatory’s Power Pass for ski season. Daily tickets are $45 or $35 without access to the roller coaster.
“Things will look very different,” he said. “We will have a different schedule instead of just operating for the full day and we’ll have a range of ticket products.”
Advance reservations for summer are encouraged, Rathbun said. The limited capacity will mean some limited spots will be available on popular offerings on the mountain like the roller coaster and the alpine slide.
Reservations are likely to be the only sure way a visitor might be a guaranteed space on these popular attractions, he said.
Tickets and reservations are available on Purgatory’s website.
“We’re going to learn as we go, but you know, we’re hopeful and very optimistic based on how many people are already out in campgrounds and how many people are riding their bikes,” Rathbun said. “We think we have a chance to give people a nice experience and let them escape the world of COVID for a little while when they come up to the mountains. So, we’re pretty hopeful if we can get to that 40% that we could make money and be successful.”
Another big change for summer is the number of activities will be limited, a move directly related to addressing COVID-19 concerns.
Eliminated are any activities that require extremely close contact between an employee and a customer, where disinfecting can’t be conducted in a practical manner between each guest.
Rathbun said any activity requiring someone to be placed in a harness by an employee will not be offered because of the impossibility of effective disinfecting between users.
That means summer 2020 at Purgatory will be conducted without its zipline, climbing wall, bungee trampoline or its rope course.
Other activities that won’t be offered will be inflatable jumping houses for younger kids and the big air drop where kids could climb 15 feet in the air, jump off, do tricks in the air and land on a giant inflatable airbag.
Rathbun said because it’s impossible to completely disinfect the areas after each use, they will be taken off line until COVID-19 concerns are addressed.
“What we have done is eliminated any of the activities that require you to be in an extremely close contact with an employee or any attraction that we can’t practically disinfect after each person uses the activity,” he said.
Otherwise, Purgatory will operate under the same guidelines as other businesses dealing with the novel coronavirus.
Paradise Pizza and the Bear Bar on the ski beach will be open as will the market and deli.
The focus will be on outdoor dining with spacing required. Procedures have been modified to limit personal contacts – similar to precautions taken at restaurants across the country to deal with COVID-19.
“We’ll be doing barbecue and normal operations in terms of food and beverage,” he said. “However, all of this is going to look different in terms of how you order and queue up to get it. How you pay for it. You’ll be seeing our staff all wearing masks. We’ll have, as much as we can, contactless payments.”
The mountain roller coaster and the alpine slide, among the top summer attractions, will be open. Rathbun said off-season repairs to both the coaster and the slide have them in their best shape in years.
Other activities that will be offered are a kids’ ATV track and water sports and water toys for kids on Twilight Lake. Another popular children’s activity, treasure panning – looking for flecks of gold and fossils – will be available.
The Village Express Chairlift will be operating, offering a scenic view of the mountain and access to hiking and downhill mountain biking trails. Mountain bike rentals and mountain bike instruction also will be offered.
The beginner’s mountain bike trail, which began construction last year has been finished.
Power Passes are on sale for ski season, which Purgatory hopes will extend well into spring. The 2019-20 ski season lost at least a month when COVID-19 health restrictions prematurely ended the season across Colorado and Utah.
Purgatory completed its first sale period for ski season at the end of May. For ski passes sales purchased in May, Purgatory waived the insurance fee that would allow for a pro-rated refund of the season ski passes should additional COVID-19 restrictions be put in place at sometime during the upcoming winter.
For ski passes sold now, a purchaser will have to pay for a season pass refund option to get money back if new COVID-19 restrictions shorten the upcoming ski season.
The cost of the season pass refund option is 5.5% the cost of the season pass purchase price.