The top health officials at the County Courthouse on Wednesday held a private online meeting with executives from Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort to discuss plans to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus as the ski season begins, a talk that was held just days before the start of the season and in the months after the resorts drafted extensive sets of safety measures.
Richard Bullough, who is the Summit County Health Department director, said in an interview the meeting covered a series of topics related to the operations of the mountain resorts this ski season. PCMR opened on Friday while Deer Valley is scheduled to start the season on Dec. 5. Both of the mountain resorts have crafted operational plans to account for social distancing and to guard against the spread of the sickness.
Bullough praised the blueprints outlined by the mountain resorts during the meeting on Wednesday. He said the health officials — himself and his deputy, Phil Bondurant — and the resort executives addressed topics like masks or other sorts of coverings for skiers and employees, limiting the size of gatherings, food services and warming areas.
“The operating plans are very progressive. … They’ve considered every element,” Bullough said, describing them as “solid plans.”
He acknowledged it is likely the two resorts will need to modify the blueprints as the season progresses in response to the disease.
“I believe they are going to work. … That said, I think they’re going to adapt,” Bullough said.
He described the relationship between the Health Department and the mountain resorts as “working as a team.”
He said he anticipates the mountain resorts will remain open uninterrupted for the full season, meaning he does not expect the spread of the sickness will force a closure.
The most recent ski season ended in the middle of March, several weeks early, amid mounting worries about the coronavirus. The mountain resorts spent the summer and fall devising plans for the first full season since the spread of the sickness and the first one in the era of social distancing.
“I like what I’ve seen so far,” he said.
Bullough said the activity of skiing itself involves a low risk of transmission of the coronavirus. There are concerns, though, about skiers and snowboarders gathering inside during a day at a mountain resort, such as at restaurants.
PCMR and Deer Valley outlined the plans for the health officials for discussion purposes rather than for the purpose of seeking some sort of approval or permit. Bullough said the Health Department does not hold authority over the plans. The County Courthouse, though, has broad powers over the private sector to address the spread of the coronavirus and in the spring ordered sweeping restrictions on businesses that essentially shut down a wide swath of the Park City-area economy.
The operational plans devised for the season essentially involve the entirety of a day at the mountain resorts other than the time on a run. There will be changes to lift lines, limits on chairlifts and adjustments to dining, as examples. PCMR has introduced a reservation system for skiers and snowboarders while Deer Valley has not at this point.