DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- Detroit Mountain ski area is implementing new guidelines during the COVID-19-era in preparation for the upcoming ski season, which is slated to begin in mid-November.

With the help of the Minnesota Ski Areas Association and state government agencies, the new procedures are designed to promote a more socially distanced environment and limit indoor congregation areas inside the ski lodges to protect the health of skiers and snowboarders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are making some changes for the upcoming season operationally,” said Brian Faris, guest services and events manager at Detroit Mountain. “But, at the end of the day, we are going to be fully operational and be able to accommodate all of our guests, but it’s just going to look and feel a little bit different.”

Faris said all of the skiing, riding and tubing will occur on the hill as normal, but dining service will require a reservation in order to limit patrons inside the café. He also said this will bring the ski area more inline with how golf courses and restaurants have been operating since COVID-19 restrictions began loosening in Minnesota.

Skiers and snowboarders will also need to book their lift tickets in advance through Detroit Mountain's website before heading to the slopes, he said, which will help the staff manage traffic flow on the hill and limit congestion points in the lodge. Skiers and snowboarders should expect to wear a face covering while in the chairlift line and while boarding the chairlift, he said.

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“This is the standard going forward and then we’re going to be able to pivot from there,” said Faris.

Signage encourages individuals to stay six feet apart in anticipation of the start of ski season on Detroit Mountain. (Michael Achterling / Tribune)
Signage encourages individuals to stay six feet apart in anticipation of the start of ski season on Detroit Mountain. (Michael Achterling / Tribune)

The Minnesota Ski Areas Association provided the new guidelines to each of its 18 listed ski-area members and each area will be implementing variations of their guidelines depending on their area layout.

“We created a winter operations guide based-off of the Stay Safe Minnesota protocols from the governor’s office,” said Bo Bigelow, executive director at the Minnesota Ski Areas Association. “As an association...we talked about creating a consistent feel for the guests across all the ski areas.”

Bigelow also said they consulted with members of the governor’s office, Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry and Minnesota Department of Health on their winter operational plan.

“The on-hill part of the experience is going to be very much the same,” he said. “Skiing, naturally, just as a sport, lends itself to social distancing and to having personal protective equipment like gloves and face coverings.”

People will notice the changes at the base area and in the ski chalets, Bigelow said.

Both Bigelow and Faris expect this ski season to be more busy than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic and individuals looking for more activities to do outside.

The ski season on Detroit Mountain is expected to begin on the Friday after Thanksgiving, but, depending on when the mountain can start making snow, the season will begin as soon as they have a 24 to 36-inch base of snowpack. Last year, the mountain opened the week before Thanksgiving.