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Success of the ski season may turn on the omicron variant

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Signage requiring face coverings is displayed as people wear face masks in order to board a ski lift at Lake Louise Ski Resort in Alberta, Canada on November 28, 2021.

Signage requiring face coverings is displayed at a ski resort in Alberta, Canada on Nov. 28. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

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Ski areas around the country are entering their third season with COVID-19. With the threat of the omicron variant looming, opening day comes at a precarious time for many.

Ski area closures cost the industry some $2 billion in early 2020. But the following season, with people working from home and schools closed: “There was tremendous flexibility in how people managed their work and school weeks,” said Adrienne Saia Isaac with the National Ski Areas Association.

There were a record ten million participants. “This year, that remains to be seen,” she said.

Ski resorts are getting creative to deal with the labor shortage, according to Sunshine Swetnam with Colorado State University’s ski area management program.

“They’re asking ski instructors, for example, would you like 40 hours? Could we put you in food and beverage or in rentals for a couple of those hours?” she said.

Skiers can expect some COVID-19 precautions to stick. Indoor masking and online reservations are still required at Taos Ski Valley, said marketing director Tania McCormack.

“We said, ‘Let’s go in over-cautious and come out as we need to,'” she said.

They are watching the omicron variant closely, McCormack added.

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