Winter sports enthusiasts hoping to visit Aspen’s world-famous ski resorts this winter will now have to plan for taking a COVID-19 test before traveling.
Authorities in Pitkin Country, Colorado, where Aspen’s four ski resorts are located, will require all overnight visitors from outside the county to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The new rules, starting December 14, are a first for ski resorts in North America, adding an extra item to skiers to-do lists before traveling to the resort this season.
The announcement means that all skiers and boarders planning overnight vacations to Aspen this winter season will have to take a COVID-19 test prior to travel in order to visit the resorts, and avoid a mandatory 10 day quarantine or a potential USD$5,000 fine. Day-trippers will not need to take a test prior to travel.
From December 14, all visitors from outside of Pitkin County staying for one night or longer will be required to complete a Travel Affidavit, proving that they have received a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours prior to arrival.
Both PCR and rapid antigen tests will be accepted as proof of negative COVID-19 status, although PCR tests are preferred.
The new requirement will affect those who have planned to travel to Aspen for the Christmas holidays, with the last-minute announcement meaning that many skiers will now have to plan to find a testing site and ensure they and all members of their party have been tested before travel. This will add another item of preparation for skiing vacations to Aspen this winter.
Travelers Facing More Hurdles To Access Ski Resorts
The authorities in Pitkin County have decided to introduce the requirement for overnight visitors to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken before travel in order to try and protect the local community and enable the ski resorts to continue operating amid the pandemic. The decision represents a first for ski resorts in North America, which, if successful, could be rolled out to other mountain destinations.
Ski resorts see an influx of visitors from various locations in the winter season, making them potential hotspots for spreading the virus. Aspen’s ski hills typically attract over 1mn visitors each winter, with the last full season in 2019 seeing 1.55 million people travel to the resorts. While many resorts have implemented new rules to enable them to stay open while preventing the spread of COVID-19, it remains to be seen if these will be enough to keep local communities and travelers safe during the winter season.
As a result, testing before travel could become a more common requirement if existing measures implemented by ski resorts, such as pre-booking of ski days, enforced social distancing, mask wearing in public areas, and limiting of apres-ski activities, are not seen as sufficient to prevent the spread of the virus.
Taking a COVID test before travelling to ski will be a small price to pay given that access to some resorts in the US is likely to be difficult during this winter season. For example, California’s stay-at-home order is limiting the ability of residents to travel to the state’s ski hills for vacations over Christmas. The use of tests before travel could therefore become an important way for skiers to continue enjoying access to resorts, enabling them to continue operating safely during the pandemic.
COVID Testing Becoming Common Travel Requirement
US travelers are having to get used to a new normal for domestic and international vacations during the pandemic, as taking a COVID-19 test before travel is becoming increasingly common.
Many US states and international destinations now require proof of a negative test result for new arrivals in order for them to gain entry or avoid lengthy periods of self-isolation. Airports across the country are now offering COVID-19 testing prior to departure or on arrival, including Denver International Airport – the nearest major airport to Aspen.
As the travel industry adjusts to the new normal of the pandemic, initiatives such as pre-travel testing are likely to gain ground, particularly over the next year while the vaccines are still being distributed worldwide.
Although tests add to the cost of vacations, with more testing sites becoming available and airlines increasingly including testing options in their booking process, the pre-travel test will likely become a normal part of travel routines over the coming months.
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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