Updated November 23, 2020
Getting into the mountains is as important as ever. The refuge they offer, as well as the opportunity for wellness, solitude, and adventure, are invaluable. Indeed, we’ve all been longing to return. Relative to all the ways our country is starting to “open up,” outdoor recreation is a recommended and lower risk way to return to normalcy. Open fresh air with natural ventilation and plenty of sunshine make it harder for the coronavirus to latch on to us human hosts. But going to the mountains is not without risk. In addition to the host of hazards we normally encounter, we must now endeavor to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We ask you to work with us to manage this new risk to the best of our abilities.
SMG is open for business for the Winter 2020-21 season. Although we will be modifying many aspects of our operations, the quality of our staff and trip offerings, and of course our spectacular wilderness venues will remain unchanged. In addition to the general operational guidelines listed below, this winter we will make the following changes:
- Avalanche Courses will be primarily field-based and integrate select online learning modules.
- The Williams Peak Hut will have an earlier check-out time and later check-in time to allow for cleaning between hut rental groups. Read the full Williams Peak Hut COVID protocol.
- We will not run any overnight guided & catered hut trips this winter—we hope to see you next winter! Guides are available to come up to the hut and join your group for skiing during the day.
SMG will take every common-sense effort to shield our customers and our staff from COVID-19 and from all the hazards posed by travel in the mountains. Some activities, like day hikes and backpacking, can be conducted while reasonably engaging in the common efforts to which we’ve become accustomed to limit the transmission—social distancing at least 6 feet apart, use of face coverings or masks, and more frequent handwashing/sanitizing.
It will not always be possible to maintain physical distancing and avoid touching shared equipment during some activities such as multi-pitch technical climbing. Likewise, it will be impossible to maintain social distancing in the event of an accident or injury that requires a guide to administer first aid. Although we will be making changes to how we conduct technical climbing programs (see below), we can only do so much to mitigate transmission. Please don’t hesitate to contact us regarding which of our trips present greater and lesser risk for COVID transmission.
So we ask for your help—please read the following plan for how we intend to best protect our staff and guests. Many of these steps are common sense approaches recommended by the CDC, our medical director, or are emerging as common practice in the outfitting and guiding industry as it responds to COVID-19. Be prepared for our trips with face coverings and hand sanitizer. If you’re ready to get back outside, then so we are we!
- SMG Headquarters has been re-configured to allow for better ventilation and for easier disinfection of equipment and the facility.
- SMG Guides will conduct and document a COVID-19 symptoms self-check as part of a normal daily hazard and risk assessment. If guides are feeling sick, showing symptoms, or have had a possible known exposure to COVID-19 they will stay home. We ask of all our guests to please do the same.
- SMG will be screening clients for COVID-19 as part of our usual registration. We have a few additional questions related to COVID-19 on our standard Acknowledgement of Risk form. We will attempt to follow-up with a symptom check during our normal pre-trip confirmation process 1-2 days prior to your outing. Finally, our guides will conduct a final symptoms check on the day of your program as part of our standard pre-trip briefing.
- SMG has also added an additional COVID-19 and sanitation section to our standard pre-trip briefing.
- All reasonable attempts will be made to maintain social distancing.
- Anytime adequate social distancing cannot occur during a trip, guides and guests will be required to wear a face covering. Please bring face coverings for you and your group.
- Opportunities for handwashing and sanitization will be available to guests and guides at key points throughout trips. No-touch handwashing stations will be available at popular venues. Please bring your small containers of hand sanitizer for you and your group.
- Equipment provided to guests will be disinfected if it is appropriate for the material. Any gear that cannot be adequately cleaned and sanitized will have additional “Time Out” requirements to ensure that any virus remaining on the product will have sufficient time to perish.