RUNNING SPRINGS, Calif. — Snow Valley Mountain Resort will open November 16 after receiving almost two feet of snow over the past week.

The fresh powder is enough for Sabrina Leslie to make the two-hour drive from San Diego to Running Springs. No stranger to the slopes, Leslie has been skiing since she was five, but when she headed up the mountain this week, there was something else on her mind.

What You Need To Know

  • Snow Valley Mountain Resort will November 16 for the winter season

  • Safety measures include sanitizing all public areas and placing guests in their own chairlift, unless they're with family

  • The resort is hiring about 400 seasonal workers, with some positions leading to full-time management roles

  • Other local resorts have announced opening dates, including Mountain High Resort (November 14) and Big Bear Mountain Resort (November 18)

“Growing up, I always wanted to be ski patrol or a ski instructor, or one of those two things,” said Leslie. “But you know, there’s college, and parents don’t want you to be a ski bum all your life.”

This season, Leslie has a chance a live out her dream. She applied for a job as a ski instructor when she found out Snow Valley is hiring about 400 seasonal workers. It comes at a time when the pandemic put the brakes on her career as an insurance broker.

“I wasn’t able to verify insurability anymore, meet with people, make sure that they are who they say they are, verify driver’s licenses, stuff like that,” she said. “And so, I’ve been at a standstill.”

As Kevin Somes, vice president and general manager of Snow Valley Mountain Resort, explained, this season brings the added challenge of keeping workers and guests safe during the pandemic as they prepare to open in a couple days. Safety measures include consistently sanitizing all public areas, placing guests in their own chairlift unless they're with family or a group, limiting the size of group lessons, and establishing physical distancing protocols for indoor and outdoor spaces.

“San Bernardino is in the purple tier, so we’re not able to operate indoor food or beverage service,” Somes said. “So we’ll allow people to go in and pick up their food in the cafeteria, but then you’ll have to come back out on the deck. And on a day like today, it’s sunny. It really shouldn’t be a problem.”

Snow Valley isn’t the only resort eager to open after the recent dump of snow. Mountain High Resort in Wrightwood delayed their opening a few days after four employees tested positive for coronavirus. The resort has since conducted contact tracing and followed safety and cleaning protocols. They opened Saturday to season pass holders only and will open to the general public November 15.

Big Bear Mountain Resort is also slated to open to pass holders November 18 and the general public November 20.

No matter which resort skiers and snowboarders visit, Somes believes there will be a big turnout this season despite the pandemic.

“I think, based on the fact that people are tired of being cooped up at home all the time, I think there is a great wave around the country and really the world, people wanting to be outdoors and enjoying recreation,” he said.

Especially applicants like Leslie, who noted that working in the mountains would be a welcome relief from the stress of being unemployed.

“It has been a struggle, and so this, I just look at as the mountain has always been my escape, and so why not escape and be happy and make some money, and have fun doing it?”