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Mountain High delays its ski opening after four positive COVID-19 tests

Empty Mountain High ski lifts and slopes
Mountain High ski lifts and slopes have been empty since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
( Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The Mountain High ski area has delayed its season opening after four employees tested positive for COVID-19, management said.

The resort, in Wrightwood, reported on Twitter and its website that “we are currently following protocols for contact tracing and employee safety. Because the health & well-being of our employees, guests, and community is paramount, we are not opening the resort at this time.”

“Four have tested positive,” said resort spokesman John McColly. “That’s enough for us to switch gears and go into our safety protocol. ... So we sent everyone home today and we’re not going to open tomorrow as scheduled.”

The next steps will probably include testing for “everyone who has been involved with the ticket office,” McColly said. He said he didn’t know how many were showing symptoms.

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The message to the resort community is “don’t panic,” McColly added. “Opening day has been delayed but it’s still coming. ... It’ll be here before you know it.”

The Mountain High announcement said that “once we have completed our safety protocols and know the environment is safe for all, Mountain High will open” for the season.

The resort had been expected to open Thursday, after the season’s first significant snowfall last weekend, 4-6 inches. Snowmaking had begun, and night operations had been expected to follow in early December.

The move comes as other California winter resorts rush to open with pandemic restrictions in place. The season’s first big snowfall, dusted California winter resorts with up to 20 inches of powder, with many slopes due to open in coming days and weeks.

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Mammoth Mountain will open Friday — a day earlier than planned — on the strength of 12 inches of fresh snowfall.

Mammoth spokesman Tim LeRoy said in a Tuesday release that the resort would open chairlifts 1, 2, 3, 6 and 11. He noted that individual lift tickets for the coming weekend are sold out but that Ikon passes (which cost much more and cover more days) are still available.

At Big Bear Mountain Resort’s Snow Summit and Bear Mountain, management set an opening date of Nov. 18 at Snow Summit for all BBMR passholders (and Nov. 20 for everybody else). Snow Summit will be open daily after that. The resort’s Bear Mountain will start Nov. 20 and will be open Friday through Sunday until further notice, management said.

Nearby in the San Bernardino Mountains, Snow Valley Mountain Resort reported 18 to 20 inches of snow, bolstered by snowmaking that began at 7 p.m. Sunday. So far, it hasn’t set an opening date.

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At the Mt Baldy ski area in San Bernardino County, a phone message reported on Wednesday that the resort’s scenic chairlift is running Fridays through Sundays. The area was expecting snow beginning Nov. 12.

For the three days ending Nov. 9, the National Weather Service reported 18-20 inches of new snow at Snow Valley, 18 inches at Snow Summit, 12 inches at Big Bear Mountain Resort, 6 inches at Mountain High Resort and 6 inches at the end of Mt. Baldy Road.

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows in the Lake Tahoe area reported up to 9 inches of snow over Saturday night. Encouraged by low temperatures, Squaw Valley started snowmaking on both of its mountains. Those resorts tentatively plan to open Nov. 25.


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