The Park City Council business roundtable today (Friday) hosted a conversation with the general managers from Park City Mountain, Deer Valley and the chair elect for the Chamber Board.
With the restrictions beginning to lift around the state of Utah, local businesses are looking for ways to safely invite people back to Summit County. The summer business season is already impacted by many cancelled events due to concerns over large gatherings, but the business community is hopeful there is still a market for outdoor activities, dining and shopping.
Park City Council member and small business owner Max Doilney says he is dealing with so much unpredictability he decided to close his business until November in the hopes of resurrecting a stronger ski season.
How do we make measured decisions going forward? A lot of the conversations I am dealing with are do we give up summer to try to have a winter here? Do we try to capture a little bit of the summer here?
Deer Valley President and COO Todd Shallan says summer operations will be a good test for the winter season. He says they plan to proceed as if they are in the phase yellow, even if the state moves to green. He thinks there is a middle ground and doesn’t think closing for the summer is the right direction. He says their priority is a safe experience for employees and guests. In that vein, they’ve cancelled the Kids Adventure Camp because they couldn’t find a way to do it safely.
“I’m not sure I agree with the idea that we have to give up summer to save winter. I actually look at it a little bit differently. I think we need to use summer to test and see what the things we are doing and how they work, so that we can have a safer winter. If we all just decided to close for the summer and to wait it out, I don’t think that is the right way to do things. I want to get people back to work as quickly as possible.
Deer Valley has a capacity limit which when reached, they shut down ticket sales. Shallan says they’ll have to look differently at that number as the next winter season opens because the capacity crowds are not safe for social distancing.
“When we hit that capacity limitation, it’s busy. It’s impossible to do social distancing with our capacity limitation. So, then the question is, well what is that next number and what does that look like? Part of what we are doing in summer in trying to figure out how we do lift lines, will help guide us into the winter.”
Park City Mountain Resort General Manager Mike Goar says they’re having a very measured approach to bringing employees back to the resort. They are using Vail’s three Australian operations to help inform them of best methods to reopen. Goar says it’s important to tell people that they are open even with the limitations in place.
“The message that we have been sending, understandably, that we are not open, almost to the point where we are telling visitors, you are not welcome. Those are my words. But we certainly have heard that from visitors that they have heard that message in various forms. But there is a moment in time where we need to begin to shift that message and let people know we’re open on some basis and that they can begin to start their plans whether it’s this summer or next winter, to return and come visit Park City.”
Park City Chamber Board Chair Elect Casey Metzer is the owner of Top Shelf Services and says he is impressed with how businesses large and small have come together to share ideas and look for safe ways to bring people back to town. He says the chamber is focused on markets that are within driving distances to the area.
“There is a radius associated with it but it’s digital and it can be turned down at any moment. So, the chamber, they realize how important it is to us to have people come here, but at the same time , they’re working really hard and very involved with the county to understand what that looks like and the risks associated with it.”
They don’t plan to reach out to overseas markets this year due to the uncertainty of air travel. He says every business, large or small should create a blueprint for their own business.
“Let’s do our due diligence to do what we do and do it safely and to keep people safe. And really be critical and honest with ourselves and saying, are we really doing a good job at this and are people doing their part to be socially distanced, or physically distanced, let’s say.”
Deer Valley’s summer season opens on Friday, June 19. Their website identifies COVID-19 safety protocols they’ve put in place for summer operations.
Park City Mountain Communications Manager Jessica Miller says they have not determined specific summer opening dates, but they are hopeful to have lifts turning by late June or early July at all of Vail’s North American resorts that have summer operations.