ski

With over a foot of snowfall this week, scenes like the one above have been common. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Bonneau/Telluride Tourism Board)

The past weekend celebrated not just Presidents Day, but Valentine’s Day, too. And if you’re a skier or snowboarder, you probably counted yet a third holiday: the much beloved Powder Day. With over a foot of fresh snow over the weekend, and yet another foot-plus since the beginning of the week, the ski resort welcomed numbers of visitors “not that far off” from last year’s Presidents Day weekend, according to Jeff Proteau, Telski’s vice president of mountain operations and planning.

“We had good snow, and our numbers were good numbers,” Proteau noted. “I think we’re seeing a lot of regional skiers when we have good snow, and I think the snow has a lot to do with it. All in all, it was a successful weekend.”

With the winter inching towards spring, resort goers have had time to dial in their COVID-friendly ski practices, such as maintaining proper distance in the lift line and having a mask or face covering handy upon finishing a run. Enforcing the required precautions hasn’t posed much of an issue, Proteau said.

“People are getting it, figuring out how to ski during a pandemic,” he observed. “And being outside is good for people. We don’t have a lot of people who are fighting the mask thing.”

The steady rollout of the vaccine also appears to be contributing to the smooth flow of resort operations. As first responders, ski patrollers were among the first to receive the vaccine, with most of those who wished to be vaccinated now finished with both required shots. Between increased numbers of vaccinated employees and efforts to encourage social restraint outside of work, the numbers of those staying home from work due to quarantine have dropped considerably, easing the complications of operating a ski resort during a pandemic.

“We keep track of how many people are being contact traced or are out sick, and our numbers have gone down,” Proteau said. “I think the biggest number of people we had out at one time might have been 36, and now we’re way down at six. And we have 1,200 employees, so that’s a small number.”

The East End of San Miguel County, which includes Telluride and Mountain Village, moved to Level Orange Extreme on the COVID-19 risk dial last week, lowering lodging capacity limitations from 60 percent to 50 percent and restricting reservations to members of one household. Reservations of two households already on the books prior to the shift were grandfathered in, while reservations exceeding the new 50 percent capacity limit had to be canceled or rebooked.

Paid occupancy rates reflected the busy holiday weekend as compared to the same weekend last year, with occupancy rates differing slightly in averaging 43.5 percent this year as compared to 45.6 percent last year. Still, the increased restrictions aimed at curtailing spiking virus numbers in the area caused some difficulties for the lodging community, according to an assessment of lodging indicators compiled by Telluride Tourism Board CEO Michael Martelon.

“Last week’s change to the Public Health Order limiting lodging to a maximum of 50 percent occupancy on any night and single households for future reservations has caused some uncomfortable interactions for the lodging community and guests,” read the report.

According to the data reviewed in the report, the winter season as a whole is on pace to finish with both Telluride and Mountain Village “just single digits short of 2020 in sales tax revenue.”

“Along with the growth in real estate sales, the destination is pulling through the worst recession ever,” Martelon observed in the report. “Extraordinary, given how we shut down and the uncertainty of the year we’ve experienced.”

While Proteau noted that ski resort restaurants are “taking the hit” when it comes to pandemic-related restrictions, especially during snowy weather, he commended employees for their hard work. and encouraged skiers to respond with understanding and patience in the face of required inconveniences.

“We ask people to continue to be patient with us,” he said. “We’re doing the best we can under the circumstances, and we just hope everyone comes out with a great, positive attitude and has a great time.”