NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Several New Mexico ski resorts say they legally cannot enforce the governor’s mandatory 14-day travel quarantine, for people visiting from high-risk states. However, the governor’s office and the United States Forest Service feel differently.
“Enforcement is not something we’ll be able to do. Being on federal land, we are not allowed to discriminate based on where someone is from. We can’t check IDs or do anything like that,” says Ben Abruzzo the owner of Ski Santa Fe and the Sandia Peak Ski Area.
Seven of the eight ski areas in New Mexico are located on federal land. The executive director of Ski New Mexico, George Brooks, says that means they operate through Ski Area Special Use Permits, which requires them to play by certain rules. Brooks says among those rules is not being able to discriminate against people based on where they are from.
“We do want to follow all the state’s guidelines and we will do that. However, it becomes very suspect for us to at the ticket window or as people arrive for then to check IDs, I mean you can’t even check IDs when you go to vote. So, I think people would be a little concerned if we started checking IDs at the ticket window,” says Brooks.
35% of people who visit New Mexico ski resorts are from out of state. Tuesday, KRQE News 13 spoke with the Red River Ski Area, Ski Santa Fe, and the Sandia Peak Ski area, all of which said due to that anti-discrimination rule, they will not be checking license plates or driver’s licenses.
Abruzzo says he has been blocked by that anti-discrimination rule once before.
“A few years ago we wanted to do a locals day where we were going to give a significant discount on lift tickets to New Mexico residents and we were not allowed to do that, from the federal government because they considered it discrimination,” said Abruzzo.
The Taos Ski Valley, which is on both federal and private land, plans on having single day visitors sign a pledge, signaling they are following the rules.
In response, the Governor’s Office says: “While New Mexico ski areas may be located on federal land, they are not federal entities, they are businesses located in and licensed by the state of New Mexico and are required to adhere to the rules and restrictions set by the state.“
The statement goes on to say: “ski areas are directed by the state to inform customers of the state’s current restrictions, including occupancy limits and mask-wearing, in addition to the executive order requiring travelers from high-risk states to self-isolate for 14 days.”
All ski areas in New Mexico have released winter operating guidelines in which they all outline practices for a COVID-19 safe season, including limiting capacity, mask-wearing, and informing visitors of the travel restrictions.
The U.S. Forest Service Region Three, which oversees all national forests in New Mexico, says:
“While the Forest Service is not the enforcement agency for the quarantine order for the State of New Mexico, the State of New Mexico and corresponding authorities can still enforce state orders on federal land which would include Ski Areas that hold Ski Area Special Use Permits such as the areas you mentioned. The Forest Service strongly encourages that everyone following the guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control and all New Mexico state health orders.“