Polis extends ski area closures, restricts evictions 

DENVER — Those holding out for an early May Colorado ski trip saw their hopes dashed late Thursday as Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order that extends ski resort closures until May 23 at the earliest. 

The move effectively ends the 2020 ski season as most resorts, even when not forced to shutter early due to COVID-19, close in late April.

“Mountain communities, where many of Colorado’s premier ski areas are located, have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 outbreak in the state. Medical centers in these areas have limited ability to meet the needs of individuals with COVID-19,” the order said. “Further strain on their resources creates a risk that medical personnel in the area will be unable to provide needed care to residents and visitors to our mountain communities.”

While most resort operators accepted weeks ago the fact that the season was over, some, including the Wolf Creek Ski Area , planned to move ahead with reopening plans. 

Polis said during a press conference Friday that certain ski areas may be permitted to reopen Memorial Day weekend or in early June, but he acknowledged that “only a few will have enough snow to do it.”

The state will analyze virus-spread data gathered over the next several weeks as Colorado begins to relax stay-at-home orders, require resorts to implement additional safety and hygiene measures, and ensure home counties sign off prior to allowing any resorts to reopen, Polis said. 

The resort closures, which went into effect in March, have devastated the ski industry. 

Vail Resorts Inc. (NYSE: MTN), the Broomfield-based operator of resorts such as Breckenridge and Keystone, estimates it will lose $200 million in revenue.

In addition to the resort closure extension, Polis issued an executive order Thursday that restricts landlords’ abilities to evict commercial and residential renters. It aso limits public utility disconnections. 

The order, which replaces one that expired this week, discourages evictions for another 30 days, allowing renters and business operators struggling to pay rent to remain in place through May.

“The economic impacts of COVID-19 are significant and threaten to undermine the economic stability of many Coloradans and local businesses. The risk of contamination posed by COVID-19 necessitated closure of multiple businesses,” according to the order. “Employers and employees in virtually all sectors of the economy have been hard hit. We must take action to shore up economic security, employment, community cohesion and community recovery.”

Not only does the order provide relief for struggling renters, it keeps the courts from being bogged down, freeing them up to “do the necessary criminal work they need to do,” Polis said. “…We have enough to deal with in this” COVID-19 crisis.

Polis noted Friday that the order does not free renters from their lease obligations. 

“All renters need to pay their rent; it’s just a question of when,” he said. “If they can’t pay in April or May, they certainly need to pay in June [because evictions] courts will soon be back to full capacity.”

An additional executive order issued Thursday extends for 30 days a previous order that suspended certain Colorado statutes to expand the scope of services provided by telemedical professionals. 

“COVID-19 is a highly contagious viral disease that has spread throughout many Colorado communities, across the country, and across the world. To protect the public health and mitigate exposure to and the spread of COVID-19, Colorado health-care providers, including veterinarians, must be able to use telehealth services whenever possible. These services, including low-cost telephone, internet, audio-only, and live video, are widely available and accessible to health-care providers and patients,” the order said. 

Approximately 4.47 million Americans overall made initial claims in the week ending April 18, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s figures Thursday morning, a drop of 810,000 million from the week prior. More than 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past five weeks.