Some of Colorado's most iconic ski resorts will require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 this winter.
That includes Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone and Beaver Creek, among Vail Resorts-owned destinations under policies recently announced. The company cited President Joe Biden's controversial call for major employers to mandate vaccines for workers.
Days earlier, Aspen Skiing Co. announced all employees would need to be vaccinated across its four resorts. The decision came as Pitkin County saw a rise of hospitalizations due to the Delta variant, like counties across Colorado and the nation.
Earlier this month, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more than 90% of COVID-infected patients in American hospitals were unvaccinated.
“We all value autonomy and freedom of choice in this country," Aspen Skiing Co. President and CEO Mike Kaplan said in an email sent to employees, according to The Aspen Times. "However, when our individual choices affect the wellbeing of our fellow employees and community members, as an organization we must look through a broader lens that prioritizes our collective safety and wellbeing.”
Smaller ski areas have followed suit, including Arapahoe Basin, famously the first mountain to start running lifts in October.
"This is not a decision we take lightly," A-Basin CEO Alan Henceroth wrote in his blog. "We feel strongly that requiring employee vaccination is our best step forward."
Vail Resorts is not requiring reservations to ski, as the company did last season to control crowding. But reservations will be required for dining at "many on-mountain restaurants," according to new policies. Also, guests 12 and older dining in high-volume, cafeteria-style restaurants will be expected to show proof of vaccination.
Asked if the ski industry should require that proof from all visitors, like other entertainment venues, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in a statement to The Gazette said "vaccinations are the most effective way to protect yourself from COVID-19 and its variants, and it is key to ending the crisis caused by the pandemic."
Referencing Colorado's vaccination rate, now above 70%, the department expressed confidence "that Coloradans and visitors can safely enjoy the great outdoors" this winter.
Vail Resorts is not returning last season's rules on loading lifts with strangers and wearing masks outside. Masks will be required inside, though.