Even forecasts of heavy snow can’t keep California’s most popular ski resort open amid the growing coronavirus outbreak.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in the eastern Sierra and 14 other resorts in North America will close Sunday until further notice, the Denver-based operator of the resorts, Alterra Mountain Co., announced Saturday.
The company issued a brief statement attributing the closures to the outbreak and “the best interests of our guests, employees and local communities.”
Alterra is also closing June Mountain in the eastern Sierra, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows near Lake Tahoe, and Big Bear Mountain Resort in the San Bernardino Mountains, among other resorts in Vermont, West Virginia, Utah and Washington state.
Vail Resorts, one of the world’s largest ski resort operators, also announced it would close its North American slopes, starting Sunday until March 22, to give management “time to reassess our approach for the rest of the season,” the company said in an online statement.
The Vail closures will include Northstar, Kirkwood and Heavenly ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe area, as well as resorts in Utah, Colorado and British Columbia, Canada.
Mammoth Mountain had already reduced staff in the last few days because storms had dropped only 138 inches of snow so far this season. But the closure comes despite forecasts of nearly seven straight days of snowfall on the way.
Responding to the coronavirus outbreak, the resort announced earlier in the week that crews had regularly disinfected gondola lifts and tried to limit gondolas and shuttle buses to the resort to 50% of capacity.
In the lodges, the resort eliminated some chairs and tables “to allow for social distancing.”
“We are continuing to take every precaution to protect our employees, guests and partners, and will continue to follow guidance from state, county and local public health officials,” Lauren Burke, a spokeswoman for Mammoth Mountain, said Friday.
Alterra said each resort will work with guests to cancel reservations and provide refunds.
The closure comes only a year after California and Nevada ski resorts reported about 7.3 million skiers and snowboarders, a 17% increase from the previous season. The skiers were drawn to the slopes by a ski season — October to March — that inundated the two Western states with snowfall that was 47% above the averages for the previous 16 seasons, according to Ski California, the nonprofit trade group for the states’ ski resorts.
Michael L. Reitzell, president of Ski California, said Friday that he did not have an estimate of ski lift ticket sales so far but added that the season had started strong. He noted that other resorts, including Sierra-at-Tahoe and Boreal-Woodward Tahoe, had either canceled events or limited capacity in response to the outbreak.
Mountain High in Wrightwood, Snow Valley in the San Bernardino Mountains and Mt. Baldy in the San Gabriel Mountains remained opened Saturday with reports of up to 14 inches of new snow.