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Schweitzer CEO 'willing to shut down' ski resort if guests don't mask up

Masks are required in ski lift lines at Schweitzer and the executive team is staffing the areas until midday on weekends.

SANDPOINT, Idaho — Schweitzer Mountain Resort could close to skiers and snowboarders if people refuse to mask up during their visits. 

The Panhandle Health District Board passed a mask mandate for North Idaho in November after previously voting to rescind one for Kootenai County just one month earlier. There are exceptions for children and people with medical conditions, among others. 

Schweitzer opened early for season pass holders on Nov. 21, 2020 before shifting to normal operations. 

Masks are required in the ski resort's lift lines and the executive team is staffing the areas until midday on weekends, according to a Facebook post made on Thursday. Face coverings are also mandatory in indoor spaces where it is not possible to maintain six feet of distance from others. 

In the same post, CEO and President Tom Chasse urged guests to mask up, adding that he is "willing to shut down the entire operation" until additional lifts and terrain are opened if guests do not wear masks.

"As we continue to voice our position, a reminder to mask up from everyone would be helpful. I was out on Sunday and felt as though 90% of our guests were masked up when I was in the lift line, a huge improvement from opening weekend," the post reads in part. "That being said, we don’t have enough staff to be in all places at all times. It’s unrealistic to staff every bathroom, every lift line and every indoor space to remind guests to mask up. If we cannot get this under control, I’m willing to shut down the entire operation until we’re able to open additional lifts and terrain."

RELATED: Schweitzer Mountain Resort opens to the public Monday under COVID-19 safety regulations

Chasse said he has personally fielded a variety of comments related to pandemic operations at Schweitzer, with some people angry that the resort is enforcing mask-wearing while others believe they have not enforced it enough. 

Many comments on the Facebook post expressed support for Chasse's statement, while others criticized Schweitzer for requiring masks.

Though the resort has passed its deadline to roll season passes forward, Chasse said he is willing to offer anyone an opportunity to reconsider. 

"Bottom line - if you’re uncomfortable with our current process, procedures, and expectations relative to Covid, I would be more than happy to roll your season pass to next year as long as you do so by Friday, December 11, 2020. The decision is yours," he wrote. 

The full post from Chasse is as follows:

Here we are in December, with a couple of weeks of operation under our belts. We’re making progress as we adapt to the Governor’s roll back to stage 2 and the Panhandle Health District mask mandate, but we still have work to do. I’m sure you’re aware that the pandemic has become somewhat of a political issue locally. The Panhandle Health District mandated mask wearing throughout the 5 northern counties of Idaho “when social distancing of 6’ cannot be maintained.” I believe that the length of a ski provides fore/aft distance and the setup of “ghost lanes” in our lift staging areas provides lateral distancing. In an effort to step up our game, we stated that masks are required in our lift lines, we created a narrow point of entry with appropriate signage and we staffed these areas with our executive team till mid-day on the weekends. Additionally, we have our mountain host team working the lift lines in an effort to remind everyone of our expectations. 

After all of the work we have put in to be proactive in support of the PHD mandate, certain portions of our community have not shown the same support. The local Bonner County Commissioners entertained a proclamation to defund the Health District and repeal the district wide mask mandate. The Bonner County Sheriff also made a public statement that he and his department would not enforce the mask mandate. The conflicting messages in our community create challenges for us and we can only do so much to get everyone on the same page in order to keep our operation going all winter long. 

As we continue to voice our position, a reminder to mask up from everyone would be helpful. I was out on Sunday and felt as though 90% of our guests were masked up when I was in the lift line, a huge improvement from opening weekend. That being said, we don’t have enough staff to be in all places at all times. It’s unrealistic to staff every bathroom, every lift line and every indoor space to remind guests to mask up. If we cannot get this under control, I’m willing to shut down the entire operation until we’re able to open additional lifts and terrain.

Personally I’ve fielded a variety of comments related to our current Covid operational processes – some are angry that we would even consider enforcing mask wearing while others believe that we’ve done very little enforcement. It’s obvious we can’t make everyone happy with our Covid response. Although we passed our deadline to roll season passes forward on November 15, 2020, I am willing to offer anyone an opportunity to reconsider if they choose. Bottom line - if you’re uncomfortable with our current process, procedures, and expectations relative to Covid, I would be more than happy to roll your season pass to next year as long as you do so by Friday, December 11, 2020. The decision is yours.

We’ll continue to do what we can and hope that all of you will be proactive and encourage everyone to cover up. Just ask them, “do you want to be the reason we can’t ski/ride all season?” Like seatbelts, or taking your shoes off when you enter someone’s home, it’s a simple request. 

Skiing and snowboarding are not essential functions during this pandemic but we understand the importance of having some normalcy in these unprecedented times. We need everyone to do their part. Hopefully we can all slow the spread and continue to shred. 

Be kind. Be compassionate. Have patience.

RELATED: Inland Northwest ski resorts prepare for opening day with COVID-19 restrictions in place