Alta Mayor Urges Visitors To Follow COVID Measures Ahead Of Opening Day

Nov 19, 2020, 8:40 PM | Updated: 8:43 pm

ALTA, Utah — The mayor of Alta urged visitors to follow COVID-19 safety measures as officials continued preparations for opening day at the ski resort.

“I mean, I’m stoked,” said skier Taylor Nowicki with a smile. “You know, to be back on snow again after waiting all summer, it’s great.”

Nowicki and plenty of others visited Alta on Thursday, ahead of its scheduled opening day on Monday.

Although the ski resort hasn’t officially opened, it didn’t stop people from hiking up just for a run down.

“There’s a bunch of people who just love it,” said Nowicki.

It may look like the beginning of ski season at Alta, but it’s what you can’t see that has a lot of people concerned.

“We have to do what we can do to stay open,” said Alta Mayor Harris Sondak.

Sondak said about 70% of the town’s operating budget comes from resort sales tax.

When skiing stopped early last season because of coronavirus, that meant a few hundred thousand dollars less than what the Alta was originally expecting.

“We ended up being OK because we’re conservative with our budget and we had a great beginning of the season,” said Sondak. “But if we are not open, we are going to be in a dire situation in terms of the municipality.”

Even more important, though, was the safety of those who live, work and visit Alta.

Sondak wrote an open letter to the town of Alta, saying it’s as important as ever to wear a mask and practice social distancing.

Doing so means the ski resort can continue to operate.

“It’s being realistic, it’s being safe and it’s loving your neighbor,” said Sondak.

Lift lines are being reconfigured to allow for better social distancing, and Utah Transit Authority ski buses will be running with fewer riders to help people spread out.

Sondak asked skiers to not talk as much when in a lift line, on a chair lift or even inside a restaurant or the lodges.

He said there is less of a chance of spreading or catching the disease if visitors keep their mouths closed more often when around each other.

“Skiing is a lot of fun, and if you’re going to hoot and holler, do it when you’re skiing by yourself in the powder,” said Sondak. “The combination of talking, especially without a mask, is high-risk activity and we can do something about that.”

Sondak also asked those who drive to Alta to bring extra food, clothes and make sure your tank is full of gas.

If an avalanche or weather closes the canyon, visitors might have to shelter in their cars, instead of a lodge, because of health mandates.

The mayor said he’s working with UTA to figure out if some type of emergency bus would be available if the canyon had to close.

“Trapping people overnight is the big failure we have to avoid,” said Sondak.

Nowicki, who has already been skiing for nine days, said he understands things will be different this season.

He also said he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure the resorts stay open.

“In the grand scheme of things, it’s all little stuff,” said Nowicki. “And if all I have to do is wear a mask and not talk in a lift line, I’m fine with that.”

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Alta Mayor Urges Visitors To Follow COVID Measures Ahead Of Opening Day