There’s surfing and and rock climbing for the summer games so why not young up the Winter Games with some ski mountaineering (Skimo)? The International Olympic Committee (IOC) unanimously approved to add Ski Mountaineering to the Milano Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics.
From the President of the US Ski Mountaineering Association (USSMA), Ram Mikulas, “This is fantastic news! We are very excited to hear about the announcement to include ski mountaineering in the Milano Cortina 2026 winter Olympics. We are very thankful to the IOC, International Ski Mountaineering Federation (ISMF), Italy and everyone that helped make this possible.”
Alrighty Then, What the Heck is Ski Mountaineering?
Ski Mountaineering is a competitive winter sport where skiers race up and back down challenging mountain terrain while passing through a series of checkpoints. The events include multiple race formats of individual, vertical, teams, sprint, and relay races.
The inclusion of ski mountaineering on the 2026 program will consist of:
Five new medal events: two men’s events (sprint/individual), two women’s events (sprint/individual) and one mixed-gender relay event.
An athlete quota of 48 (24 men/24 women) falling within the overall quota framework of 2,900 athletes.
The races ascend between 4,300 to 6,200 vertical feet, depending on the category, and typically lasts around 1.5 – 2 hours in duration.
Let’s just say you won’t catch me participating. Uphillers are nuts and in crazy good shape.
The Sprint race is a short fast-paced fixed course format consisting of an uphill ski section, a booting (on foot hiking) section, and a descent around race gates. The races ascend up to 262 vertical feet and typically last around 3 minutes in duration. The format consists of a time trial to establish seeding into a bracket in which 6 racers compete against each other in rounds to keep advancing and racing to the final 6, to determine the podium.
The Relay race is a format based on the Sprint, which consists of a team of 3-4 athletes taking turns to complete the course in a continuous circuit.
While ski mountaineering took off in Europe years ago, its recent rise in popularity in the U.S. and other countries, nabbed Olympic attention.
“The USSMA has already been working with the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and we look forward to further engagement as we prepare for the Milano Cortina 2026 winter Olympics. This will begin a new chapter for the sport of Skimo and we look forward to preparing and propelling US athletes to the top ranks. We are currently working on organizational and high performance development plans and will be stepping up funding efforts soon” says Mikulas.
Ready to shake off those cobwebs and travel in 2021? As the borders begin to loosen their velvet ropes, there is still a ton of confusion surrounding restrictions, quarantines, spikes, and vaccinations. Here’s what the CDC has presented this week:
Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread COVID-19. However, international travel poses additional risks and even fully vaccinated travelers are at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading new COVID-19 variants.
CDC recommends delaying international travel until you are fully vaccinated.
If you are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine:
You should continue to follow CDC’s recommendations for traveling safely and get tested 3-5 days after travel.
You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it.
You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
But despite this announcement, misinformation continues to swirl around us. Here’s a quick roundup of truths and myths when it comes to traveling this spring-
You Will Need To Have A Covid Vaccine Passport To Travel
Covid “Vaccine passports” aren’t a thing, they don’t exist; at least not like those government passport blue ‘books’ you have to spend $110 on and wait an eon to receive. A vaccine passport is more like a concept where you show the vaccination card you got from the place that gave you your shot and it gets you past certain quarantine restrictions like those two-week waiting periods Hawaii had during the winter. It’s not a physical card you would have to pay for.
Furthermore, right now you could hop a plane to Mexico or Costa Rica (although it’s not recommended) without any testing or quarantine required, or proof of vaccination. Dozens of other countries, i.e. Kenya and Aruba, just ask for a recent negative test. (CNN has an up-to-date list here.)
There are a handful of countries—Belize, Ecuador, Georgia, Greece, Guatemala, Ireland, Montenegro, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Iceland—where proof of vaccination currently allows you to bypass testing or quarantine requirements (though Iceland still requires all visitors to take a free, rapid Covid test upon arrival and quarantine until it shows negative). That list will likely grow, especially for travel to Europe, where officials just announced American travelers will be welcome this summer (exact dates/details still TBD).
But in almost all cases, unvaccinated travelers are still permitted.
BTW, free digital apps are coming —Travel Pass and CommonPass are two —that would allow you to store and flash your vaccination record so you didn’t have to worry about losing anything.
No Vaccine Means No Entry
There’s a lot of murmur out there that in order to travel internationally you’ll need proof of vaccination. Not exactly. Not one single destination has announced only vaccinated travelers can enter. What your vaccine does do is ease your entry. Many countries require a recent negative test or proof of recent infection like a positive antibody test in order to gain entry. But if you have been vaccinated, you get to bypass those requirements and step right in. Of course, restrictions vary from country to country and, with the COVID-19 variants, even fully vaccinated travelers need to pay close attention to what’s going on with their particular destination.
For example, anyone coming into the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated folks, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the US.
You Have to Be Vaccinated to Travel Within the U.S.
Not even close to being true. Hawaii is the only state that currently requires all visitors to show a recent negative COVID test before flying. Without one, travelers must quarantine for 10 days. But Hawaii plans to soon allow vaccinated travelers to bypass that requirement. The other 49 states simply ask that you stay six feet apart and recommend you wear a mask. To find out what states specifically request, sign up for alerts through the CDC or go here.
A viral TikTok video floated around the web warning Americans that their white cards were no good for travel. They would need a yellow WHO vaccine “passport” to go overseas. Phooey. There is no country in the world that has confirmed this. Your little white CDC card is solid proof of Covid vaccination. The yellow vaccine passports—International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis— is a legit product and countries like those in Africa have required it for years – but as proof of other vaccines. but zero countries require it for Covid-19.
To Be Fully Vaccinated, It Needs To Have Been At Least Two Weeks Since Your Final Injection
Yep. No getting around this one.
You’ll Need Proof Of Vaccination To Fly
If your destination doesn’t require a vaccine, neither will the airline you take to get there. That said, if you’re flying to where vaccinated travelers can bypass testing/quarantine requirements, expect the airline to ask you for proof of vaccination before your flight and when you arrive at your destination.
Kids Can’t Get A Covid Vaccine Passport
Currently in the U.S., only those over 16 can get vaccinated. (Pfizer is waiting for FDA approval to vaccinate 12-15 year olds.) If you’re traveling somewhere that lets vaccinated visitors bypass Covid requirements, your kids won’t be able to skip those. The simple solution is to have them Covid tested before departure and upon arrival. Every country that’s adopted covid vaccine passports is allowing in unvaccinated kids with a negative test.
Now that you’re clear on this stuff, on your mark, get set, go! Put those Revenge Travel panties on, along with your mask, and stop wasting away like Miss Havisham.
Nope, nothing to see here, Folks. Move along. I’m sorry to report that any significant storm events that any website hinted would come our way have evaporated like Aladdin’s genie. It’s been dry as a bone overall since the Utah ski season began in December. Remember that year it didn’t snow until February? Yeah, it’s like that. Now add in a global pandemic.
This all begs the question, “Should you take a Utah ski vacation this year?” Well, let’s see: no “Greatest Snow on Earth”, the Beehive State Covid-19 spiking big time, you risk your life if you travel by plane, stay in a hotel, dine in at a restaurant, stand in a lift line, and then there’s the whitty bitty task of making a reservation to ski. Will you risk your health traveling to a ski resort if you can’t even ski?
The planning of a ski vacation during the continuation of Covid-19 protocols is enough to make you jump into your bed and hide under your sheets. But do you scrap everything and wait until the world calms down and it’s “safe”?
“Safe” is relative.
If you are a skier like me, waiting out the summer is tough, but can we imagine not skiing for a whole year? Hell, no. Luckily, as a local ski area employee, I get a free pass so if the mountain closes I’m not out $1200. Destination skiers must plan everything- and fork out thousands. I can just hop in my car avoiding the local shuttle filled with tourists who wear masks like chin diapers, I ride the lifts alone, take a few runs and head home. Whether to leave your home resort to venture to Utah comes down to your own personal choice for your family, health and bank account. Here are some pros and cons that can help you with your decision.
REASONS TO NOT SKI UTAH IN 2021
Not everything is open. Park City skiers are riding on a 42-inch base of manmade snow during a month that typically hits 100+ inches, which means your favorite blue and black runs, tree shots and steep chutes are closed. There is indoor dining on the hill, and off, but it’s difficult to get reservations because seating is limited. If you wait until the hour before you want to eat you may be SOL. Many guests are brown bagging it, grabbing takeout from Five Guys or cooking for themselves.
Crowds over the holidays and reduced loading capacity on the lifts are causing ridiculous wait times. The longest so far being 48 minutes. I would hate to find out what it will be like on a powder day.
There is no consistency. Every Utah resort has its own Covid-safety protocols that could change at any minute. The toughest restrictions at the moment come from Park City Resort which requires you to make advance ski reservations whether you have a day pass or Epic pass. Even if you have a week booked at your favorite hotel, you might not be able to book the ski days you want. If you’re not the kind of person that likes to plan everything down to the minute of every day, it could be a stressful time to travel.
Lift riding procedures vary at each resort as well. Snowbird’s tram ops will make you wear a mask with ear loops, Park City and Deer Valley are cool with neck gaiters so long as they are over your nose. Yes, there are hosts and lifties empowered to make you pull up your mask or leave if you don’t comply and the Resort has requested that other guests and employees help in the policing of this.
You have to be flexible. The ski areas are still learning to navigate this pandemic. Despite best efforts you might wake up to find your favorite resort closed like they did at Hunter Mountain, New York. Some areas, like Snowbird which typically stays open through Memorial Day, are considering a shortened season. You will need to be able to go with the flow and have a few “alternative plans” at the ready until things normalize.
Not everyone is behaving responsibly. Every day there’s a post on the Park City Facebook page asking about the best places to party. Groups are gathering indoors for dinner and drinks, taking shuttles without their masks and hanging out in clusters both on the hill and in the lodges. If that sketches you out, you may want to wait to travel to Utah. On the other hand, there are social distancing and mask mandates everywhere. There’s no party scene this winter, the energy on the hill is subdued and we have no idea when and if things will feel “normal” again. This pandemic is unprecedented and it will definitely take a long period of time before things begin to feel pre 2020.
Lift ticket prices have gone through the roof! If you didn’t purchase a season pass you are looking at $179-$229 depending on the day. A 6.5-hour private lesson will set you back $1000-1100.
REASONS TO SKI UTAH IN 2021
You don’t want to miss out on a ski season. The champagne powder is bound to arrive sooner or later and you want to be here when it does. Some people have skied one week every year since they began or they count the days every season that they ski. Missing a whole season is just not an option.
Come visit if you’ve been here before and want something different. Your trip will not be a normal or usual experience. It’ll be unlike anything you’ve ever done (and hopefully unlike anything you will ever do again). You won’t get that same awesome ski vacation vibe you might if this was your first time visiting but if you’ve been here before, you might appreciate the low crowds on the slopes and the tales you’ll tell of skiing during a pandemic.
So should you go skiing in Utah in 2021? There’s no blanket statement that we can give like, “Yes go skiing,” or “No, 2021 just isn’t the year for it.” We don’t know how vaccines will change the experience as the season wanes or whether the lifts and lodging and restaurants will decide the worst is over and can allow more people. We can’t even say, “If I were you….” Because we’re not you. We don’t know how you feel about the world right now.
The one thing we can recommend is if you are planning to travel, make sure that there are cancellation flexibilities in everything you choose. Flights, hotels, lift tickets, adventure activity reservations. With spikes or county mandates things could close in a heartbeat so you need to be ready to change your plans as well. Make sure you can cancel without fees or you’re okay losing your deposits.
Last year, I was skiing one day and told the season was over the next. If you had 2020 lift tickets it was a fight to get them refunded; same with AirBnB reservations. Make sure you understand the individual cancellation policies for each aspect of your trip. If your hotel shuts down are you okay with changing your reservations? Restaurants in Utah are open for indoor dining but if they have to close like in Aspen are you okay with takeout? Bars closing at 10:00 p.m.? Making reservations to eat lunch on the mountain? Cooking in your hotel room?
For me, I travel because it’s another story to tell. I was in my apartment when the Pasadena earthquake struck and all the reports said to stay inside, stay off the roads. I grabbed my camera and drove to the epicenter to get my video for a story for school. The adrenaline was pumping. This year, the story is “skiing during a pandemic” but if you aren’t into that kind of narrative this might not be the year for you to ski Utah. Only you can make that call.
If you’re anything like me when it comes to buying, you don’t pull the trigger until you have all of the factors laid out. But buying a season ski pass and Covid protection for 2020/21 is anything but simple.
The global pandemic and dictator of physical distancing swooped down upon us like the plague of the first born in the Ten Commandments; leaving ruined businesses and devastated economies in its wake. People bought a season pass expecting as usual to ski a full season and Covid left us with a useless pass two and three months early and no one to reimburse them for the loss. Yes, a ski pass is a contract. You pay the mountains and they promise to let you ski there. If they close, they shouldn’t be entitled to keep your money. Not all of it anyway.
Ultimately, most resorts and the megapasses like Epic and Ikon came up with a way to placate consumers and not lose their shirts in the process. They gave you a “credit” to use towards this season’s pass. Of course, they increased the price for 20/21 which offset your “credit” and minimized their loss. Plus, if you didn’t buy for this season, the credit is worthless.
It really makes one think about where you should be spending your money. Even with making a pros and cons list, you are left scratching your head and wondering, should you even bother with skiing this season?
The ski landscape will be nothing like we’ve ever known. Long lift lines, strangers won’t ride on the same chair lift, cafeterias will be relative ghost towns, you’ll need to make some sort of reservation just to get on the mountain at most resorts and what was once a very social sport will feel isolated. And don’t get me started on the lack of après.
There is less than a month till ski season and, while the diehard skiers have made that commitment, here is some info that might help those still on the fence when purchasing a season pass and Covid is still around. These are the policies of the main season pass players along with any refund deadlines:
The Ikon comes with Adventure Assurance. If you don’t use your 20/21 Ikon Pass, for any reason, you will be able to defer the purchase price paid toward the purchase of a 21/22 Ikon Pass, no questions asked. You can decide anytime up to April 11, 2021 so long as you have not used your pass.
If you have used your pass but the destination you ski at closes due to Covid-19 you may get credit towards next year’s pass based on the percentage of days it was open. It all gets VERY complicated from here, unless you’re a math major.
The Ikon season pass is $1049 until Oct. 14, 2020. The base pass which has blackout dates sells for $749. For daily reservation policies, see the individual resorts.
Epic Coverage provides cash refunds for just about any reason- illness, job loss, injury and certain resort closures, including those due to COVID-19 based on how much you have used your pass. If you used your pass more than seven days, you are SOL. No refund for you! If you only skied three days you would get a percentage back, Again, math whizzes have at it. You have until April 4, 2020, to get your refund.
Also, the Vail Resorts season pass requires all guests to make a reservation to ski. Only passholders will be able to ski before Dec. 8, 2020. You can reserve up to seven Priority Reservation Days for the core season (Dec. 8 – April 4), and after that you can make more priority reservations as you use up the ones you have. You can make as many week-of reservations as you want and they don’t count toward those 7 priority days. The full Epic Pass sells for $999.
For $489, you get two lift tickets to each of their 23 destinations and 50% off of the ticket window price after that. If you purchase this pass and back out before Nov. 16, 2020, you can get a full refund. After that, you are SOL. Their website mentions that they will “monitor the Covid-19 situation throughout the North American ski season and will make adjustments to our policies as necessary should Covid-19 significantly impact the operations of our member resorts” however, last season they refused to issue refunds or credits to passholders. In SPL’s opinion this is the worst pass option you can choose. Given the reality of COVID-19 shutting everything down after Nov. 16, you take a huge risk with your money.
The $199 Indy Pass covers 56 resorts across N. America. You get two tickets per resort then get 25% off additional tickets. The resorts are all mom and pop type places like Snow King and Beaver but if you live near one of these it would make sense to buy it and stay closer to home this season. Advance reservations are required and if you fail to cancel, it will count as one of your tickets. If things shutdown due to COVID you will get credit towards next season’s pass sla you have not skied more than 4 days.
PA is an add on pass that’s free with your main season pass if that pass is one of the resorts within the Powder Alliance family. For example, if you have a pass to Bogus Basin, you get three free tickets to any of the other resorts in the collection. Covid-19 contingencies are up to your home resort.
Ski Play Live TV Talks Covid Season Skiing
To hear more about what this ski season will look, like take a listen to this chat I had with Ski Writer and YouTuber Marc Guido-
Woodward Park City, Utah’s only indoor/outdoor action sports and ski hill is gearing up to take over the lift-served mountain bike scene in the Wasatch. A giant hole was left when Vail Resorts axed their mountain bike parks, and riders all across the state felt the hurt. Now Woodward has closed the gap. The training facility just opened Utah’s newest-lift served downhill mountain bike flow trails. and are the first to start spinning lifts this summer.
While the majority of riders in Park City skip the lifts and use the town’s Gold Level cross country trails, saving their cash for apres beer and bike tunes, some dig the rush of jumps, banks, and berms that are tough to find on all-access trails.
“Lift-served mountain biking plays a big role in how Utah families recreate,” says Shaydar Edelmann, general manager of Woodward Park City. “Operating our chairlift for summer mountain biking is our next step in empowering and inspiring the next generation of action sports athletes through intuitive programming and innovative environments.”
BMX dirt jumps open at Woodward Park City later this summer
Several zones and services in the indoor Action Sports Hub are also open: Five Olympic fly-bed trampolines and two SuperTramps, parkour zone, gym floor, and indoor airbags.
Woodward Park City’s mountain biking rental shop is open with a fleet of Transition full suspension bikes, Fox full-face MTB helmets, and more protective gear. along with food service upstairs at the Grind dining area. Woodward Park City’s rental shop will open with a fleet of Transition full suspension bikes, Fox full-face MTB helmets, and more protective gear. There will also be Food service in the upstairs Grind dining area.
Action Sports Summer Camp
Utah’s newest summer camp at Woodward Park City will run for six weeks, July 6 – August 14. Multi-day programs for campers ages 6 and up are available in five- and 10-day increments. Campers can choose between full week and multi-week programs. Camp days are from 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Monday – Friday.
Full-day camps include instruction, lunch, arts and crafts, and game time. Camp disciplines include mountain bike, skateboard, BMX, scooter, parkour, cheer and digital media options. Additional multi-sport sessions are available with instruction in trampoline, parkour, skateboard, scooter, and BMX. More information on camp registration can be found at http://woodwardparkcity.com.
COVID Concerns For Woodward Park City Mountain Biking
Woodward Park City will continue to closely monitor COVID-19 and follow all local, state and national regulations, which may require operational adjustments through the summer. The resort is taking every available measure to create as safe an environment as possible, but a risk of exposure for guests remains. You’re expected to have read this Woodward Park City blog before your arrival.
Certain policies will be in effect to ensure the health and safety of members, visitors, staff and community, including:
Hours: Operating hours from 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Registration: Advanced registration is required, with limited capacity per session
Sessions: 90-minute indoor sessions will begin at 10am, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm, and 6pm. Outdoor lift tickets are valid all day
Lift-served MNT biking, outdoor action sports zones
Health Screening: Prior to entry, all staff and guests will be asked to complete a short verbal medical screening. On a daily basis, staff will have their temperature taken and undergo medical screenings onsite.
Sanitization: Staff & guests will be expected to wash and sanitize hands regularly and avoid shaking hands or giving high-fives. Staff will clean and disinfect the facilities throughout the day and after-hours with a focus on high-touch surfaces and high-traffic surfaces.
Social Distancing: Practice social distancing of 6 feet in passive areas and 10 feet in activity zones. Avoid congregating in parking lots or on trails.
Face Coverings: For staff, face coverings are required in all indoor work areas; in addition, we will provide PPE to employees. Guests are expected to wear face coverings when practical.
Capacity: All sessions will be capped.
Where Else To Ride Lifts
DEER VALLEY – The proposed opening date for summer activities is June 26, 2020. Spread over six mountains and featuring up to 3,000 vertical feet of elevation change, Deer Valley Resort offers nearly 70 miles of mountain bike trails, including four flow trails designed by Gravity Logic. The trails are accessed via three chairlifts- Silver Lake Express, Sterling Express and Homestake Express. $50 weekdays/$55 weekends.
SOLITUDE Weekend lift access to the 20 miles of trails is suspended temporarily. Last year’s prices: $30 or $5 with an Ikon Pass.