Adventure

Scenes From a Ski Area Pandemic Closure

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ski patrol at Aspen Snowmass had to shut the mountain down early, and they took a photographer along for the ride.

On March 14, Colorado’s governor, Jared Polis, issued an executive order to close all downhill ski resorts in the state for a week to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This action arrived after 10 people visiting Aspen, Colo., tested positive for the virus. Then on March 18, after a week of closures, the week-long mandate was extended and Aspen Snowmass decided to shut down for the 2020 season a month early.

In what now feels like an alternate universe, this week would have been Spring Break at Aspen Snowmass, filled with revelatory skiers, fresh powder, and plenty of turns. Instead, ski patrol prematurely broke down the mountain and shuttered the facilities for the season after the COVID-19 ski resort closure order. 

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the early closure at Snowmass with photographer Brooke Warren.

Photo Exclusive: Scenes From a Pandemic

Snowmass during COVID
Photo Credit: Brooke Warren

In order to maintain social distancing guidelines, Snowmass’ ski patrol has their morning meeting outside before dispatching across the mountain to tear down materials and close for the season. 

Snowmass village during COVID
Courtesy of Brooke Warren

On what would have been a powder day on March 19, Snowmass’ base village sits empty. Usually this place is packed with skiers, ski schoolers, and kids roasting S’mores.

Snowmass during COVID
Photo Credit: Brooke Warren

To maintain CDC guidelines while working, ski patroller Phil Mortellaro sits six feet away from the photographer as he rides the six-person Village Express lift.

Snowmass patrol during COVID
Photo Credit: Brooke Warren

Ski Patroller Scott Northup removes pads from lift towers to put into storage for the season. Although employees are able to be paid some sick leave following the resort’s early closure, many are still worried about losing their jobs early.

Snowmass patrol during COVID
Photo Credit: Brooke Warren


Ski patrollers toss a pole that they are removing from a boundary line. They are still trying to have fun and enjoy their last days of work despite the somber mood around the early closure.

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Photo Credit: Brooke Warren

Now out of work earlier than expected, patroller Northup is grateful for his side gig sewing new vinyl covers for the pads when they wear out. That work might also dry up since the companies that make the fabric are on hold.

Snowmass patrol during COVID
Photo Credit: Brooke Warren

Beyond tearing down safety equipment on the mountain, ski patrollers also remove trash and cleaning supplies out of buildings around the resort.

Uphill skiers at Snowmass during COVID
Photo Credit: Brooke Warren

Dozens of people started up in the span of an hour on March 19. Signs at the entrance to uphill paths remind skiers that they are responsible for their own safety. Here, a groomer crawls past skiers uphilling.

Snowmass closure during COVID
Photo Credit: Brooke Warren

Lifts sit empty above a freshly groomed run at Snowmass. The groomers were still making pathways for easy access for the tear-down of equipment for the closure. 

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Photo Credit: Brooke Warren

As Colorado’s ski towns are closed to visitors at this point, uphilling is a locals-only endeavor. Here, a lone skier skins uphill at Snowmass resort around numerous ski tracks from the day before. Uphillers are encouraged choose wisely and consider the constraints of local health caregivers before potentially adding to an already overloaded system.

Snowmass closure due to COVID
Photo Credit: Brooke Warren

Groomers sit collecting snow on what would have been an amazing powder day at Snowmass. ‘Til next season…