With the early closure of ski slopes in the US for the 2019-2020 season, as well as the continued closure of many European resorts, the assurance from US ski resorts that the sport is safe and a low transmission risk was greeted with some skepticism. So now that we’re deep into the season...
What’s the verdict?
For guests visiting the mountain, skiing and snowboarding has been shown to be a very low-risk activity for COVID transmission. While there have been outbreaks among resort staff, for those hitting the slopes the experience has been safe with very few cases tied to on-mountain activities. Between mandated masks in lift lines (with strict enforcement in my personal experience) and the closures or reduced capacity of indoor dining options, ski resorts have done well to minimize the risk for patrons.
Even where outbreaks among mountain staff have occurred, they’ve been dealt with pretty effectively. Breckenridge, for example, has a solid track record of mitigating the outbreaks swiftly. In the middle of February, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment reported five active outbreaks at the resort - however, these outbreaks involved just 13 people - 11 staff members and two guests.
Breck - beautiful, and effectively managing a pandemic!
What do the experts have to say?
There’s always a range of opinions, but in this case, the range is relatively narrow. Given the amount of time COVID has been impacting our life in the United States, there’s also a new lens through which the risk has been viewed - positive benefits to mental health.
John Horgan, the Premier of British Columbia, had the following to say:
“Skiing … is perhaps among the safest things you can do with your mask on and your helmet on, swooshing down the hill, clearing your head, getting physical activity, being emotionally recharged.”
Dr. Lisa Pickett, Chief Medical Officer of Duke University Hospital has said that skiing is low risk for COVID-19 transmission because typically people are not close together. Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease says that the risk of outdoor spread remains “quite low,” except for situations with large crowds in close contact, like during concerts or sporting events.
“From a public health standpoint I would much rather see 50 people skiing outdoors than a group of 10 watching TV together indoors.”
Don't be a couch potato - doctor's orders
Where does this leave us?
The risk of contracting COVID-19 while skiing or snowboarding is not zero, but is considered by experts to be very low and one of the safer activities you can do. So, wear your mask, avoid the apres-ski, and get out there and enjoy the rest of the ski season!
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