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Sierra resorts suspending activity because of coronavirus

Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood will suspend activity from March 15 through March 22. Several other resorts have followed suit.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Several Sierra ski and snowboarding resorts announced closures just as fresh powder hit the mountains.This comes as the nation responds to the coronavirus pandemic, exercising caution by limiting large group gatherings to prevent spread. 

Squaw and Sierra at Tahoe: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and Sierra at Tahoe announced they would also suspend normal activities. Squaw will close Sunday, March 15 "until further notice" and Sierra at Tahoe will close Sunday, March 15 "for at least 72 hours." 

All lift operations, food and beverage and retail and rental services will close at Squaw. The resort said it is working with guests directly to cancel visits and provide refunds. Read more here.

Sierra at Tahoe said they are experiencing a very high number of calls and asks that customers email their contact information to: passoffice@sierraattahoe.com  

Northstar, Kirkwood and Heavenly: On Saturday Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood, all operated by Vail Resorts, shared the news on their respective Twitter accounts, saying the suspension would be in effect from Sunday, March 15 through Sunday, March 22.

In a message shared online, Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said the weeklong suspension was a difficult decision, but the company will use the time to reassess its approach to the rest of the season. 

"We – like the rest of the world – have been closely tracking every new development related to coronavirus (COVID-19) and have been in constant contact with local health officials for guidance," Katz said. 

Here's what the suspension means: 

  • Lodging and property management operations open to service guests at each location and those with existing reservations. 
  • Resorts are no longer taking new reservations for the upcoming week. 
  • Vail Resorts closing corporate offices and, apart from essential personnel, will be asking other employees to work from home, where possible.  
  • All scheduled employees, both seasonal and year-round, will be paid during the suspension and will not need to use vacation or sick time. 

Vail Resorts operates 37 resorts in 15 states and three countries. In the note to the public, Katz said he was sincerely sorry to guests at the resorts and those that had plans to head to the snow. 

"This decision provides a pause for the entire ecosystem of our mountain resort communities, Katz said. "It gives everyone the time to assess the situation, respond to ever-changing developments, and evaluate the approach for the rest of season, if we believe it is advisable or feasible to re-open."

Cancellations and refunds: Katz said Information on cancellations, refunds and travel credits is available on each resort's individual website. 

  • Many things like ski school, lift tickets, equipment rentals, and transportation can be fully refunded, and Vail Resorts has new credit policies in place for owned and operated lodging properties. 
  • Patience, Katz stressed, is needed during this time. The resorts are working as quickly as possible to get to each customer. 
  • Non-refundable: Season pass products and Epic Day Passes. Those items will also not be allowed to be transfered to another season, Katz said, adding that Vail Resorts is reviewing the policies and will give an update in the next few weeks. 

The next update from Vail Resorts is expected on Friday, March 20.

The closure comes just a a winter snow storm passes through the area. The storm is expected to bring in heavy rain for the valley and foothills until at least Monday. 

If you’re planning to do any shopping, expect to be caught in the rain. Flooding is a concern as rain totals are expected to be around an inch for many spots with higher totals close to 3.5 inches for the foothills. Thunderstorm chances Sunday could add an additional inch to rain totals.

To track which resorts are open and which are closed, visit onthesnow.com

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