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Skiers and snowboarders will notice changes this winter at Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort, which will reduce capacity in the lodge and in other buildings due to the coronavirus pandemic.

BAKER CITY — Skiers and snowboarders rejoice: Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort opens to season pass holders for the first turns of the season on Saturday, Nov. 28.

Peter Johnson, who manages the resort, said that snow conditions were better than had been expected earlier in the year.

“It’s looking really good,” he said. “This is by far the best snow, the most snow we’ve had this early. All the forecasts sound really good. We’ll see if those come through or not, but obviously with COVID, that changes everything for us.”

The slopes at Anthony Lakes can be expected to look a bit different this year. For a start, the resort is adopting a “zero tolerance policy” regarding the wearing of masks.

“It’s the state mandate, we’re going to be enforcing it,” he said. “We have a business to run, and it’s not a discussion point. Wear a mask or not come up, there’s a lot of other places to go skiing. For the state of Oregon, it’s required, so we’re going to be enforcing it.”

All guests and employees will be required to mask up “from the moment you pull into the Anthony Lakes parking lot to when you leave,” except while eating or drinking, and Johnson said that anyone who refuses to wear one will be asked to leave.

The resort is also adopting a sort of cohort-style approach to the ride up the mountain on the ski lift.

“If you show up in the same vehicle, you can ride the lift together,” Johnson said. “No one, we’re not going to force someone to ride with someone they don’t know. We’re going to have a lot of changes to our lift line and just asking people to ride with the people they drove up with.”

For example, someone who arrives at the resort alone will ride the ski lift to the top alone, and a group who carpooled to the resort will ride only with the members of that group.

Guests also will have to maintain a social distance of 6 feet, and Anthony Lakes will have a “floor walker” patrolling the lodge during business hours to help guests maintain their distance, disinfect surfaces and answer questions as needed.

The Starbottle Saloon will feature a new ski-thru window for service and will place an emphasis on providing outdoor seating, though a reduced amount of indoor seating will be available.

Notably, Anthony Lakes will limit the number of day tickets its sells to reduce the number of people on the mountain each day.

“It’s going to be a very tough year for us financially,” Johnson said. “Day tickets are our main source of revenue. I’ve heard some people say we’re just trying to push season pass sales; that is not the case at all. The reason we’re doing passholders only is that passholders generally make up about 25% of our daily skier visits. So the reason we’re starting with just passholders is so we can gauge and make sure we’re not going over capacity.”

The first two weekends of the season will be open only to season pass holders as Anthony Lakes works to gauge the number of people it can safely have on the mountain. Then the resort will open up to anyone with a voucher from a local lodging or small business, several of which have partnered with Anthony Lakes in an effort to support one another during the pandemic. The resort will cease day ticket sales when it reaches daily capacity.

”Everyone is feeling this, not just us,” Johnson said. “We’re in a position where, yeah, we’re going to take a huge hit, but we’ve set ourselves up to be able to survive one winter like this … we’re setting aside 20 tickets each day for anyone who shows up with a receipt from a locally owned small business, ideally a restaurant or a retail shop, for $40 or more.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic has upended almost every aspect of daily life, Johnson reminded people that finding recreational and exercise outlets was important, saying, “if we were any other business, it would make sense not to open this year,” but he felt it was necessary to provide a safe way for people to get outside.

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