RED RIVER, N.M. (KRQE) – Some New Mexico ski resorts are ready to open for the season but they said the ball is in the state’s court. In the meantime, towns that rely on those tourism dollars are struggling.
Ski resorts are waiting for the green light from the state on approval for new required testing protocols for employees. When they are able to open, people can expect a much different experience.
Any other year, half of the state’s eight ski areas are open by now. “We are probably the only state now that would probably be open this time of the year that is not open,” Ski New Mexico Executive Director George Brooks said.
While 25% capacity is allowed for outdoor facilities under the new health order, ski resorts are on hold. “Right now, it is just a question of jumping through the hoops and getting the okay,” Brooks said.
Brooks said that is because the state is requiring ski resorts to set a plan in place to test all employees every two weeks. He said at least two resorts have already submitted their plans and are waiting to hear back.
He said skiers are leaving New Mexico for other ski destinations. “We are losing people that would come in-state, and we are losing people in-state who are going out of state to those Colorado areas,” Brooks said.
Places like Red River usually would see thousands of skiers in town this past opening weekend. Mayor Linda Calhoun said it’s a ghost town there, losing hundreds of thousands in revenue with the slopes closed and tight restrictions in place.
“We have the brewery open for outdoor seating at 25 percent,” Calhoun said. “Most of the other restaurants, it is going to be difficult. They don’t have the heaters on their porches so it is going to be too cold. We only have one grocery store, so people are either going to have to bring their food and cook or do takeout.”
Brooks said their agreement with the state right now is to first open ski resorts only for skiing and bathrooms. “There will be no indoor facilities,” Brooks said. “In a lot of cases, they probably will not be renting skis. There will be no après ski at lunchtime.”
Brooks said while the restrictions are tough, it is their best to get open and stay open this ski season. “You have got to be an optimist,” Brooks said. “We are going to have a ski season. It just may be a little delayed getting there.”
The state said that ski resorts are the only outdoor recreational facility to have the testing requirement, saying that ski areas see a higher volume of customers than any other similar recreation facilities. It is unclear how long it will take the state to approve its testing plans.
Brooks said the state told him they would not be required to close if there were four positive cases in two weeks like other businesses but will follow different guidelines. The governor’s office said they are confident the surveillance testing program will enable ski areas to safely remain open.
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