CORONAVIRUS

Downhill ski resorts booming during COVID-19, with safety precautions

Outdoor equipment pickup and dining reduce virus risk, managers say

Jody Wilson of La Porte City rides one of the lifts at Sundown Mountain Ski and Snowboard Resort on Tuesday, January 1,
Jody Wilson of La Porte City rides one of the lifts at Sundown Mountain Ski and Snowboard Resort on Tuesday, January 1, 2013. (Kyle Grillot/The Gazette-KCRG)

Innovations by ski resorts have allowed Eastern Iowa skiers to hit the slopes with limited risk of virus exposure.

Sundown Mountain Resort near Dubuque moved lift ticket sales and equipment rental online and have skiers pick up gear outdoors so they don’t have to come into the lodge. They also opened outdoor food and drink venues where skiers can glide in for a s’more or hamburger, General Manager Mark Gordon said.

“We could have done this six years ago, but we didn’t even think about it,” Gordon said.

These tweaks and other safety precautions have allowed for big business this season, managers said.

Chestnut Mountain Resort in Galena opened late this season, but still has seen a 35 percent increase in business compared to last year, said General Manager Mike Murphy. The resort even reached max capacity one weekend in January, he said.

“We have experienced a significant increase since last year,” he said. “People are just so happy they can be somewhere to get outside.”

Both resorts require skiers to wear masks indoors, in lift lines, on ski lifts and during lessons.

Sundown removed half the tables from the lodge dining area to comply with state COVID-19 proclamations, Gordon said. Illinois only recently started allowing indoor dining, Murphy said, so Chestnut Mountain has been serving food and drinks outdoors as well as through room service in their lodge/hotel.

Sundown is generally open Tuesday through Sunday and lift tickets and rental are available online. Chestnut Mountain also has online reservations for lift tickets, gear and lodging.

Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please subscribe. Your subscription will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please subscribe. Your subscription will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.