Ski season is here, but like all activities where people are gathered in groups, this year it will look a little different. Resorts are continuing operations with strict safety measures in place, but people are nervous about spending time in the mountains with COVID-19 looming over their heads.
Sankar Swaminathan, MD, an infectious disease specialist at University of Utah Health, answered questions submitted through Ski Utah's Instagram about how to stay safe and healthy during this unique winter season.
What is the best type of mask to wear while skiing?
Slow the spread by wearing a mask with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19. Make sure you wear it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.
Does exposure to cold weather increase the chances of getting COVID-19?
We do not know definitively at this point. Cold weather can increase susceptibility to some other respiratory viruses, though.
Is it dangerous to put my kids in a ski lesson?
If kids are old enough to maintain proper precautions like adults—mask wearing, distancing, hand washing, etc.—then they should be fine.
What is your best advice for eating on the mountain?
Eat outside or in your own car whenever possible. Take your mask off to eat only around those already in your family bubble. Bars and restaurants are some of the most dangerous places to be in terms of COVID risk.
Are masks worn outdoors a bit excessive?
Every risk is additive. If you can be assured that you will not be near any other person at all times, taking your mask off outside might be okay. But the less you touch your face and mask, the better. And because the cases numbers of COVID are still at extremely high rates, there's no reason to not practice safety measures while you're outside of your home.
Will resorts stay open?
"Resorts have been working all summer long to create safety guidelines in order to open and stay open," says Ski Utah. "But that takes cooperation and patience from skiers and riders. Plan ahead, take care of yourself and comply with resort policies. We can have a great season if we all work together to stay safe."
All Utah ski resorts are taking extra precautions to keep recreationists and staff safe and healthy. It is important to follow the guidelines set into place while on the mountain and do your part to stop the spread. Whether that is wearing a mask and a neck gaiter, maintaining six feet distance in the lift line, riding up the chairlift only with those in your "bubble," or eating lunch at your car in the parking lots, you can alter your routine to keep you, your family, and your friends safe.
See you on the slopes!