Skiers and snowboarders rejoice: Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort opened to season pass holders for the first turns of the season on Saturday, Nov. 28.
Peter Johnson, who manages the resort about 35 miles northwest of Baker City, said snow conditions were excellent for late November.
“It’s looking really good,” Johnson said. “This is by far the best snow, the most snow we’ve had this early (during his decade-long tenure as manager). All the forecasts sound really good. We’ll see if those come through or not, but obviously with COVID, that changes everything for us.”
Among the changes is that the resort has a “zero tolerance policy” regarding the wearing of masks.
“It’s the state mandate, we’re going to be enforcing it,” Johnson said. “We have a business to run, and it’s not a discussion point. Wear a mask or not come up — there’s a lot of other places to go skiing. For the state of Oregon, it’s required, so we’re going to be enforcing it.”
All guests and employees will be required “from the moment you pull into the Anthony Lakes parking lot to when you leave,” except while eating or drinking, and Johnson said that anyone who refuses to wear one will be asked to leave.
Changes can also be expected on the triple chairlift, where the resort will be adopting a sort of cohort-style approach to the ride up the mountain.
“If you show up in the same vehicle, you can ride the lift together,” Johnson said. “We’re not going to force someone to ride with someone they don’t know ... we’re going to have a lot of changes to our lift line and just asking people to ride with the people they drove up with.”
For example, someone who arrives at the resort alone will ride the ski lift to the top alone, and a group who carpooled to the resort will ride only with the members of that group.
Social distancing of 6 feet will also be required, and Anthony Lakes will have a “floor walker” patrolling the lodge during business hours to help guests maintain their distance, disinfect surfaces and answer questions as needed.
The Starbottle Saloon will feature a new ski-thru window for service and will place an emphasis on providing outdoor seating, though a reduced amount of indoor seating will still be available.
Notably, Anthony Lakes will also be reducing the number of people allowed on the mountain each day by limiting the number of one-day lift tickets they sell.
“It’s going to be a very tough year for us financially,” Johnson said. “Day tickets are our main source of revenue. I’ve heard some people say we’re just trying to push season pass sales, that is not the case at all. The reason we’re doing passholders only is that pass holders generally make up about 25% of our daily skier visits. So the reason we’re starting with just pass holders is so we can gauge and make sure we’re not going over capacity.”
Johnson said that when the resort starts regular operations, there will be 20 tickets each day for people with a voucher for a purchase of $40 or more, within the past seven days, from a locally owned restaurant or store in Baker, Union, Wallowa or Grant counties.
The first two weekends of the season will be open only to season pass holders as Anthony Lakes works to gauge the number of people it can safely have on the mountain.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has upended almost every aspect of daily life, Johnson reminded people that finding recreational and exercise outlets is important, saying that “if we were any other business, it would make sense not to open this year,” but that he felt it was necessary to provide a safe way for people to get outside.