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Winter in Big Sky will look different this year

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What we can all do to keep cases down and the lifts spinning

By Gabrielle Gasser

BIG SKY — Winter is coming and with it comes a concerning spike in COVID-19 cases as well as a revised operations plan for Big Sky Resort.

In the Town Hall discussion on Oct. 19, Troy Nedved, general manager of Big Sky Resort, and Matt Kelley, health officer with the Gallatin City-County Health Department, discussed concerns about COVID-19 headed into winter, as well as the resort’s plans for operating during a pandemic. 

Town Hall also included special guest Missy Botha, head volleyball coach at Lone Peak High School who is celebrating the girls’ undefeated season. 

Although their regular season was cut short as the entire team as well as Botha are in quarantine due to a positive COVID-19 case, the postseason still remains. Botha said the Lady Bighorns are now scheduled to play Manhattan Christian, their last regular season game, the day after they are cleared to leave quarantine.

After a challenging season affected by a lack of fans and injuries, Botha has big expectations for the girls and expects them to be competitive in the postseason. 

Kelley discussed the recent spike in COVID-19 cases and attributes the current surge to how connected Gallatin County is with the rest of the world. He expressed worry both for what will happen to case numbers and hospitalizations over Halloween weekend and for the entire winter.

“We are at the cusp of cold and flu season which will make it difficult to determine who has COVID and who just has the crud,” Kelley said. 

While he is worried, Kelley is also hopeful that we will have a vaccine in the next five to six months. Though all of our problems will not be immediately solved by the arrival of a vaccine, it will be a “light at the end of the tunnel,” according to Kelley. 

“Going back to late March, the first press conference we had in Gallatin County was the day we got our first case. One of the things I said was, ‘we need to treat each other with respect and dignity and kindness and grace’ and I think we need to keep doing that and making sacrifices for one another.”

In order to ensure that Big Sky can stay open, Kelley emphasized that, even though we are social creatures who want to be together, we need to make sacrifices for the benefit of those around us.

Nedved echoed Kelley saying, “It’s a collaborative effort and we all need to own that responsibility.”

Big Sky Resort has been working with other resorts in the industry to develop a plan to “get open and stay open” according to Nedved.  “It’s really nice to see that everyone in the industry got together.  It wasn’t a competition,” he said.

Nedved, who has been general manager for just under a year, spoke about how the North American ski industry was able to learn a lot from South America to inform their operating plans for this winter. Big Sky will be requiring face coverings in lift lines, on lifts and inside public buildings. They will also put an emphasis social distancing and encourage visitors to eat outside if the weather allows.

According to Nedved, “Big Sky resort is different, we have a lot of acreage to work with which means a lot of elbow room.” 

In addition to a COVID-19 operating plan, Big Sky Resort is also still working towards their goal of net zero emissions by 2030.

Kelley and Nedved wrapped things up on a more positive note—they are both looking forward to hitting the slopes again and getting in some therapeutic powder turns. 

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