Steamboat Resort has less stringent COVID restrictions for guests, employees than other Colorado ski resorts
Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. will require a vaccination for most employees, require biweekly testing for staff that are unvaccinated and mandate that unvaccinated guests wear a mask while indoors for the upcoming ski season.
Employees working indoors at least 75% of the time, ski patrol, those working within the SnowSports School or Happy Camp, and those living in employee housing are required to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 10, according to guidance sent to staff late last week.
“We are requiring vaccination for all of our staff members with some exceptions, and the exceptions are departments that work mainly outdoors,” said Loryn Duke, director of communications for Ski Corp.
Employees whose jobs are primarily outside, such as a lift operator, are not required to be vaccinated but will need to submit to testing twice per week, Duke said.
Ski Corp.’s requirements closely match with rules released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration last week directing companies with more than 100 employees to require them to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing — though those requirements are currently being reviewed by courts.
Duke said more than 90% of the resort’s year-round staff is already vaccinated. When adding in seasonal staff, she said they expect more than 75% of the resort’s total staff will be vaccinated by the Dec. 10 deadline.
Ski Corp. is making accommodations for some staff on a case-by-case basis, Duke said. These accommodations would generally be religious or medical in nature, and Duke said they are not all approved.
In the case where an employee refuses vaccination and accommodation isn’t appropriate, Duke said they would work with them to find another job at the resort where they could continue to work while satisfying vaccination requirements.
Duke acknowledged the requirements may lead to employees choosing to not work at the resort, but she was hopeful they could find many of them an alternative job.
“We are hoping that if we can move them to a job that is more conducive to their beliefs on vaccination, then that would be an ideal situation,” Duke said. “If they choose not to work for the resort, we respect that decision.”
Vaccinated staff will be encouraged but not required to wear a mask indoors, though situations, like large meetings or if a guest asks the employee to don a mask, may still require one. Some of the resort’s buildings on U.S. Forest Service land may also require a mask due to federal rules.
Unvaccinated staff will be required to wear a mask when indoors, unless alone with the door closed. They can also remove the mask to eat or drink while alone in an employee space or in public areas if they adhere to guidance for unvaccinated guests, which generally require a mask indoors, according to the guidance sent to employees.
Outdoors masks are generally not required if unvaccinated, though they may still be required if social distancing can’t be maintained, if working in close contact with another person for longer than 15 minutes or if a mask is requested by a guest.
The resort’s requirements stop short of measures taken at ski resorts elsewhere in Colorado.
All Vail Resorts employees, which includes resorts like Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte, are required to be vaccinated, according to Summit Daily News. Those employees will also need to submit to daily health screenings and wear masks indoors.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, which is already open, announced in September it would require vaccinations for current employees by Nov. 2, and new employees would need to start a vaccine regimen within a week of their start date, Summit Daily reported.
Aspen Skiing Co. was the first in Colorado to require vaccination for staff prior to the start of the ski season, making an announcement about a week after President Joe Biden first outlined his intention to institute the OSHA rules.
Still, Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith said she feels the resort was forward-thinking when putting together requirements for this season, pointing to how the policy seems to mimic the OSHA rules.
“We have been working in collaboration with them every step of the way to help them develop this policy,” Smith said. “The resort has done a great job of looking at (the proposed OSHA rules) and making it a very concrete policy and one that is going to protect staff, and it’s going to protect guests.”
Smith said it should help protect the broader community as well, especially because of the requirement for a vaccine in employee housing. Congregate living situations like dorms and retirement centers have been key spots for large outbreaks of COVID-19 cases, Smith said.
“This is the best tool that you can have to prevent those large outbreaks, and we’re just really thrilled that this is part of their policy,” Smith said.
Requirements for guests
Unvaccinated guests at the resort will be required to wear a mask when indoors unless seated while dining, though guests will not be asked their vaccination status, according to guidance sent to staff last week.
Still, Duke said they are strongly encouraging that all guests wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status.
There won’t be any reservation systems for lift access or capacity limits on lifts or the gondola.
“We will try to accommodate requests if people wish to not be grouped with unaffiliated parties, but we can’t guarantee that we can make that accommodation,” Duke said, adding that it may take some time to honor requests for one group to ride the gondola.
Indoors, the resort isn’t instituting capacity limits or requiring reservations in restaurants, though seating may be reduced during peak times, the guidance sent to staff says.
Duke said they would continue to encourage people to follow common sanitary guidelines, like washing hands, covering their face when coughing, social distancing and staying home when sick.
Like with employees, other resorts have more stringent requirements for guests. Vail is requiring proof of vaccination to dine in quick-service restaurants, and Aspen is requiring it in several fine-dining restaurants, hotels and a handful of other activities, according to The Aspen Times.
Vail Resorts and Aspen Skiing Co. are not requiring vaccinations for lift access, and Steamboat won’t either.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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