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COVID In Summit County: Ski Vacations Have Changed, Both On The Mountain And Off

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. (CBS4)- Those headed to Summit County hopeful for a holiday ski vacation should prepare for a different kind of vacation than they're used to. The COVID-19 pandemic response means a lot of changes both on the mountain and off.

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"People coming up need to understand that there will be some differences," said Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula. "You can't go out to eat, you can go to get food. Our grocery stores are limited capacity so if you are coming up for next weekend, you know, bring some stuff with you and know that everything's going to be severely limited to what you are normally used to."

Mamula is not only the Breckenridge Mayor, he's the owner of Downstairs at Eric's and under the new restrictions, he's once again scrambling to figure out what to do.

"It's terrible. I mean, first of all, we're on 25% right now so it hasn't been great to begin with. My major worry right now is my entire floor staff, front of house staff, is going to have to get laid off now for you know, possibly a month."

Summit County Manager Scott Vargo told CBS4 on Wednesday, the changes will also impact ski resorts in Summit County, which will also have to cease indoor dining beginning Friday.

"So as part of the ski area plans that they've submitted to the county, they've already reduced capacity based on the capacity due to the pandemic, we are considering whether that needs to be reduced further based on where we are now," said Vargo.

Mamula says right now, lodging in Breckenridge is full and while many restaurants, including his, will have food to-go, visitors need to be prepared to spend more time in their vacation rentals.

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"We all need to make sacrifices; we need to do the right thing. Our spread in the community right now is out of control. This is way you handle it. I think we need to look at other segments of the community that probably need some ratcheting down also," he said.

Vargo says the restrictions are in lieu of a shutdown but knows they will have a broad impact on the community.

"We saw during the shutdown, that our unemployment rate was one of the highest in the state and so we're very concerned that if the ski activity or the ski season is significantly implicated then we're going to see those incredibly high unemployment numbers and we're going to see a lot of challenges for a lot of residents in our community."

There are four ski areas in Summit County: Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, Keystone Resort and Copper Mountain. Vargo said the closure of indoor dining is one reason the ski areas could see additional restrictions to the number of skiers allowed on the mountain.

"Changes to capacity for indoor activities, changes to restaurants and those sorts of things will further limit the opportunity to have a base area to separate people and so we're talking with the ski areas right now, about what that might look like."

He said the county hopes to have a decision made in the next week regarding capacity at ski areas.

"We were hoping to try to avoid restrictions to this degree if we could, but again we just have not seen any sort of a trend downwards in our numbers since really Labor Day is when this started and it just started to rise and has continued to grow exponentially," said Vargo.

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One of the major focuses of the county has been how to provide relief for impacted businesses. Summit County was recently awarded $500,000 identified for non-profit support and business support. Vargo said the county will be drafting up specific plans for how that will be distributed. Additionally, the state has called a special session to talk about additional relief- restaurants and rental assistance are among the main focus.

To view the new Public Health Order issued by the state, click here.

The state has also put together a chart, explaining the capacity restrictions at each level:

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