Telski

Telski owner Chuck Horning and his partner Parisa Golafshan. (Photo by Justin Criado/Telluride Daily Planet)

During such a year of uncertainty, Telski owner Chuck Horning is sure of one thing.

“We’ll get through this. The community will get through it,” he said in an interview about the upcoming 2020-21 ski season with the Daily Planet Monday.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new normal, as social distancing and face coverings have become commonplace, if not expected, and businesses have adapted, including the ski resort.

Horning explained that the company will follow any guidelines that may come down from the state, which closed all Colorado ski resorts in mid-March, but he’s concentrating on what can be controlled right now, with opening day tentatively set for the week of Thanksgiving, though a specific date has not yet been announced. 

“That’s our goal. We’re heading that way, but we’re not in control of COVID. We are preparing to operate this winter and be flexible,” Horning said. “ As a ski operation, we’re going to follow guidelines, and we are regularly participating in industry discussions. … We don’t set the guidelines but we will adhere to what the county, state and industry determine.”

Horning believes the stricter guidelines that have been in place for indoor spaces, mainly restaurants and bars, will be more of a challenge than potentially needing to social distance lift lines or create space for people outdoors.

“I’m pretty optimistic about the ski lift, but indoors that’s a potential problem,” he said. “We’re working on that right now; how to serve people outside quickly so they can get back onto the mountain.

“Being indoors in groups who are in close contact for an extended period of time appear to be how the virus is transmitted. I haven’t read much about people getting it outside. They’re starting to track the transmission, which is good, and it appears to be mostly coming from indoor groups.”

The company is hiring service workers for the upcoming season, he added, but there are currently no plans or a tentative timeline to replace former CEO Bill Jensen, who resigned Aug. 7 after nearly five years in the position. At the time, the company has said it was “forced to make difficult decisions that have impacted key management positions.”

“No, we don’t (have a timeline to hire a new CEO),” Horning said. “It’s so fun to get in here hands on and work in this mountain. I love it. We have a lot of good people working here. We have a lot of good people here, so I don’t think that’s going to be an issue for us. Bill was a great leader, great speaker, great communicator. … We’re not out recruiting to replace any positions right now other than service. It’s not something we’re focused on right now.”

As for lift tickets and season passes, he added that the company was discussing prices this week and they’ll be announced by Labor Day.

More discussions among industry officials that will most likely help shape public health guidelines for the upcoming ski season will beheld throughout the coming months, Horning said.

“I don’t think we’re any different than Track’s or the Sheridan or any businesses in town. As a ski company, our ownership didn’t buy it to sell it. I view it like a ranch, you just want to keep improving it,” he said. “You’re in it because you enjoy it. This isn’t a business in the sense that I have to go to work. I can spend some time in this community here and try to figure out how I can make this better.”

For more information about the upcoming ski season, see the Thursday edition of the Daily Planet.