As America continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, skiers seeking to avoid the crowds need to use great caution, warns an expert in avalanche preparedness.
“As limits on resort skiing multiply, and people want to avoid crowds, the allure of skiing in the backcountry is strong,” Adrian Ballinger, climber and founder of Alpenglow Expeditions, told Fox News via email. “The danger is that the backcountry is not controlled for avalanches, nor are there trail signs or ski patrol in the case of an accident. All these factors mean it takes a lot of knowledge and experience to safely ski in the backcountry.”
While confronted with skiing restrictions, Ballinger urges skiers keen on backcountry skiing to make the necessary preparations before venturing into those areas. “The key is education and exploring the backcountry with experienced mountain guides or knowledgeable friends,” he said.
Ballinger further claims that his company’s backcountry and avalanche education courses saw an uptick in interest in September, prior to the start of the ski season.
Skiers are set to encounter a different skiing environment against the backdrop of COVID-19. Health officials in Vermont, for example, have issued mandatory guidance that includes limited capacity on lifts and also lodge restrictions.
Many North American ski areas have already consulted with state and local health agencies and issued rules for the upcoming season.
Most will require social distancing, masks and online ticket sales, and will limit how many people are allowed in indoor spaces like base lodges and restaurants.
Vail Resorts, which owns 34 resorts in the United States and Canada, will limit capacity based on past visitation rates, available terrain, traffic modeling of the upcoming season, and how individual resorts handle COVID-19 restrictions, CEO Rob Katz said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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