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New California Lockdowns Won’t Allow For Holiday Ski Vacations

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Americans hoping to visit some of California’s best ski resorts this Christmas have been left disappointed by the imposition of new stay-at-home rules by the state authorities to control rising cases of COVID-19.

The regional stay-at-home order, which came into effect earlier in December, is likely to last until at least January 1, covering the majority of the Christmas holiday period when many families would usually be taking skiing vacations in the state. Although many ski resorts remain open, the new rules prohibit overnight stays in hotels and other lodgings, preventing Californians who do not have a local ski hill from visiting ski resorts this Christmas.

chairlift at mammoth mountain

Stay-At-Home Order Disrupting Ski Season

California’s new stay-at-home order is having a significant impact on ski resorts in the state in the early part of the winter season and over the Christmas holiday. The new rules apply to any region of the state when ICU bed capacity falls below 15%, and are currently in place for Southern California, Eastern Sierra and Greater Sacramento, covering most of the areas where the state’s ski hills are located.

While the new rules do not stipulate that ski resorts in these areas must close – indeed, California Governor Gavin Newsom stated that “outdoor recreation facilities may continue to operate” under the order – they are nonetheless restricting skiing access. In particular, the order requires Californians to stay at home as much as possible, stay within your county when traveling, and not drive more than 2-3 hours away from home.  

This will prove a significant barrier to Californians and other out-of-state skiers hoping to get a few days on the slopes this Christmas and enjoy some fresh air and outdoor exercise. Many visitors to the ski resorts of the Eastern Sierra and Lake Tahoe regions live more than 2-3 hours drive away and would normally plan to stay in local accommodation, however this won’t now be possible over the Christmas period.

In particular, the stay-at-home order will affect visitors to the interior resorts around Lake Tahoe, as well as Bear Valley and Mammoth in the Eastern Sierras, which are more than three hours drive from California’s major coastal cities. While these resorts remain open to visitors, access to them for most Californians and other out-of-state visitors will be difficult under the current restrictions.

view over downtown LA towards the mountains

The outlook is better for skiers in Los Angeles, as the resorts in the mountains north and east of the city, including Bear Mountain, Snow Valley, Mt Baldy and Mountain High, will remain open and are more accessible within 2-3 hours drive. Day skiers from LA will therefore still be able to enjoy some skiing trips over the holidays, although they will not be allowed to stay in resort overnight.

snowboarder on slope

Local Lockdowns And Travel Restrictions Main Obstacle For Skiers  

Ski resorts across America have made huge efforts to remain open and operating close to normal this season, introducing a number of new rules to allow skiing to continue amid the pandemic. Since ski hills were forced to close early last March as the pandemic swept across the country, resorts have had several months to prepare new practices and rules to enable them to open safely for the winter 2020/21 season.

ski lift line

The changes have included measures that require skiers to book their days on the hill in advance, wear face coverings in resorts and on lifts, and practice social distancing. With these new plans in place, ski resorts hoped to open as normal this season, albeit with reduced capacity, offering American skiers and boarders the opportunity to continue getting some time on the slopes while the pandemic continues to limit other activities.

New Changes Canadians Can Expect At Ski Hills This Winter

However, the resorts are powerless to stop the imposition of local lockdowns and travel restrictions, which will to limit the ability of skiers to visit in the upcoming season. The launch of new COVID-19 testing facilities at airports and other locations across the country may help to make safe travel to ski resorts easier as the season continues, but measures which close accommodation and prohibit travel will continue to cause disruption to skier’s plans.

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories


Monday 14th of December 2020

Many of Tahoe’s ski Resorts are on the Nevada side. So it won’t really impact those from the Bay Area who can book an hotel in Reno or South Lake Tahoe. Nice try to scare people away, but it won’t work.


Sunday 13th of December 2020

The restrictions haven't made sense in a long time. At this point it's just to get us ready for a world of top down totalitarian control.