The next shoe to drop in the coronavirus pandemic is the early end to ski season in the Sierra. On Saturday, Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company both announced they would be closing their c0mbined 49 ski resorts in North America, effective Sunday, March 15. These include Heavenly, Northstar, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows in the Lake Tahoe area.

The resorts say they will "reassess" the situation in a week, on March 22, but it seems clear that ski season is likely over for everyone who heads to Tahoe this time of year.

In a statement, Alterra Mountain Company CEO Rusty Gregory said, "After careful thought and deliberation of our duty in the face of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, and in what I believe is in the best interest of our guests, employees and local communities, Alterra Mountain Company will suspend operations at our 15 North American ski resorts, starting the morning of Sunday, March 15."

Alterra said it would work with guests to arrange refunds, though they expected "heavy call volume over the next several days."

Gregory added, "I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this short notice will undoubtedly create. We look forward to welcoming you back to the mountains as circumstances improve."

Alterra's resorts include Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain and Big Bear Mountain Resort in California; Stratton and Sugarbush Resort in Vermont; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Tremblant in Quebec, Blue Mountain in Ontario; Crystal Mountain in Washington; Deer Valley Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah; and CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures in British Columbia.

As KRON4 reports, Vail's resorts include Keystone and Breckenridge in Colorado, as well as Vail; Park City Mountain Resort in Utah; Stowe Mountain in Vermont; and Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada.

These closures follow on similarly unprecedented mass closures of cultural institutions, sports venues, nightclubs and bars, and many more parts of American society in the face of this rapidly spreading virus.

As this opinion piece in Newsweek should be a wakeup call for everyone in their 20s and 30s who isn't worried about the impacts of this virus. We are a few weeks behind Italy in this epidemic. Italy didn't take many of these steps. And things may get much, much worse here in a very short amount of time.

Also, there are now reports of a 55-year-old in Hubei Province in China who may be Patient Zero in the pandemic, who was first reported sick on November 17 — but it is still far too early to know if this is true.

Photo: David Klein