Dear Tripped Up,
I live in Massachusetts and had hoped to ski at Okemo Mountain Resort as much as possible this year. However, in November, Vermont announced a new set of cross-state travel guidelines, which include a mandatory quarantine that makes it all-but-impossible to visit regularly throughout the winter. Despite a blitz of preseason assurances of risk-free booking on seasonal ski passes, Vail Resorts, Okemo’s parent company, is refusing to issue pass refunds for people facing state quarantine requirements. The silence is telling: Where’s the corporate responsibility? Rob
Your travel predicament — about an outdoor, socially distanced activity, the issue of quarantines and the inability to get a refund — is just about as “2020” (whoops, 2021) as it gets.
Ski resorts around the country are open this year, but despite a slew of new safety measures including increased cleaning, capacity limits, timed tickets and off-limits indoor dining, they are not faring well. In an earnings call in December, Vail Resorts announced a net revenue decrease of 51 percent for its first quarter fiscal-year 2021 (the three months ending Oct. 31, 2020).
Vail Resorts, one of the biggest players in the ski industry, has more than 30 resorts across 15 states. Eight of those states, Vermont included, currently have quarantine or testing mandates — and sometimes a combination of both — for out-of-state travelers.
According to Ted Brady, the deputy secretary of the Vermont Agency Commerce and Community Development, Vermont’s new travel restrictions — which require a 14-day quarantine or a seven-day quarantine plus a negative PCR test, either completed at home or in Vermont — have reduced the number of skiers and snowboarders coming into the state this year. He said resorts reported a 50-to-70 percent decline in bookings over the holiday season.
“The State of Vermont issued some of the strictest ski resort guidance in the country,” Mr. Brady said in an emailed statement. “Most notably, this guidance requires all guests to attest that they meet the quarantine requirements and understand that failing to do so could result in the loss of their skiing and riding privileges.”
Vail Resorts’ individual, date-specific lift tickets, rentals and ski-and-ride school lessons are easily refundable. As early as April, the company also announced that its historically nonrefundable Epic Pass, a seasonal pass program, would automatically come with free Epic Coverage, a refund policy that offers protection for a set list of qualifying incidents.
Epic Coverage grants full or prorated pass refunds in situations like resort closures and personal events like job loss or injury. Mandatory stay-at-home orders in the pass holder’s county, state or country of residence are also covered. Yet state travel advisories are not.
Read More: Struggling to get a Refund From Vail Resorts