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Rising COVID-19 Cases Could Threaten Ski Industry Both In And Out Of Bounds

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)- The pandemic has already had an impact on the ski season and while resorts are taking every precaution to avoid a second shutdown, with coronavirus cases on the rise, there's concern within the industry.

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"To be frank, we haven't really thought about it until just a couple weeks ago when a customer said, 'I'm here now to buy my stuff in case you have to shut down in a few weeks' and for any local businesses, small business, that's really terrifying," said Lucy Hedrick, Co-Owner of Wilderness Sports in Dillon.

Hendrick said her store has learned to adapt with online sales and curbside pick-ups, but it's still tough.

"The hard thing about being a small business is, it's a lot harder for us to really get all of our product online. You know all of these bigger companies, they have warehouses full of products they have ways to pivot that we don't they have more resources than we do for us it might just take a little bit more patience and a lot more legwork, but we'll make it happen for sure," she said.

Online sales for alpine touring gear were up 34% for the month of March and 15% for the entire season, according to data collected by the NPD Group.

Even with in-person sales hindered by capacity restrictions, Hedrick says it's hard keeping gear on the shelves.

"I think the biggest concern honestly, is that people aren't going to get to ski as many days at the resort whether the resorts have to shut back down because of COVID or they can't get a reservation or they weren't able to get a pass," she said.

While it's an unusual year for ski resorts, many are finally opening again for the season. Another shutdown? Unthinkable.

"Yeah, that's certainly something we're hoping to avoid and that's what you'll see in the policies and procedures that we have in place; wearing masks and face coverings in indoor and outdoor spaces," said Chris Linsmayer, with Colorado Ski Country USA.

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Linsmayer said resorts have been working hard to make sure people can still enjoy themselves while limiting the chances for the virus to spread. By limiting the après ski scene and from an operational perspective, keeping things outdoors as much as possible.

Even if people would rather opt for the backcountry this year, Linsmayer hopes everyone takes the regulations seriously.

"This is a two-way street and we're going to need people to follow the rules if we're going to have the long successful ski season we all hope to see here," he said.

A stay-at-home order would have an impact across the board; from businesses to ski resorts.

"I think we all just need to do our part, no matter what your opinions are. Everybody needs to wear your mask, social distance. Be smart because when it comes down to it, we want to save our winter and we want to still get out and play and we want to still get out and support our local businesses," said Hedrick.

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If you do plan to head into the backcountry this year, officials stress the importance of taking the CAIC pledge and always check the avalanche forecast before you go.

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