SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — An October storm has the slopes at Stevens Pass already covered with snow after a seven month avalanche of bad news.
"I wish you could see my smile because it's huge," laughed ski resort General Manager Tom Pettigrew, pointing to his COVID-19 mask.
Usually the weather is the biggest thing you have to worry about when you run a ski resort, but this is 2020.
Stevens Pass closed five weeks early when coronavirus first hit in March. That was after warm weather brought a slow start to the season.
As the resort prepares to reopen, Pettigrew said coronavirus is bringing some significant changes.
"It's really more about people making a plan so they know what happens when they come to the resort," he said.
The three biggest changes visitors will notice this season is you'll have to make a reservation to ski as well as rent equipment, everyone will be required to wear a facial covering at all times, except when eating, and no cash will be accepted.
Also, restaurants will be restricted to 50% capacity, and the food court is being consolidated to comply with social distancing guidelines.
"We're encouraging people to think about carrying snacks with them, potentially being able to eat in their car, do a shorter day, maybe start later or end later," said Pettigrew.
While getting to the bottom of the mountain safely is usually the paramount priority for skiers, getting to the top will be a major concern, as well.
Pettigrew said, "At this point we're looking at related parties only riding on chair lifts together. We're looking at how non-related parties may or may not use our chair lifts."
Pettigrew believes all should go well, as long as people cooperate, because the weather certainly is.
A La Niña winter is predicted, and that is some very welcome news.
"That means a cooler, wetter and longer winter," said Pettigrew. "If it continues like this it's gonna be an amazing year. It's gonna be amazing in any case because we're gonna get to go skiing and snowboarding and that's something some of us really, really long for."
Reservations for season pass holders open up on Nov. 6. Despite the current snow, the resort isn't planning to open for the season until Dec. 4.