Northeastern ski resorts are more optimistic about the coming winter as they begin to plan for a season with less restrictive COVID regulations. But most resorts plan to require masks when visitors are indoors.
Many Vermont ski resorts are targeting opening in mid-November, hoping to attract visitors for the Thanksgiving long weekend.
Last year, COVID-19 restrictions and the closure of the Canadian border put a damper on resort operations. But this year, most terms are over and most ski areas are planning to require masks in some interior areas.
Okemo Mountain is owned by Vail Resorts. Bonnie MacPherson is the communications manager for her three Northeastern resorts. She says COVID restrictions in place last winter have been relaxed.
âThe big change that I think everyone will appreciate is that here there will be no mandatory masks outside and we will not apply any kind of social distancing. We will always require masks to be worn indoors, âsays MacPherson. âAnd the other thing is we’re not going to require a reservation to ski for a particular day anymore. This is something we did last year and this reservation system was taken away. “
Middlebury College has the Rikert Nordic Center, a network of over 50 kilometers of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails, and the Snowbowl, an alpine ski center that hosts a number of collegiate competitions as well as public skiing.
General Manager Michael Hussey said last year that there had been no events, but this year they will return and follow the mandates required from Alpine or Nordic organizations for COVID restrictions. He adds that for general public use, masking will be mandatory indoors.
âLast year we had all of our COVID protocols in place, including everyone had to make a reservation to enter the ski area, to enter the parking lot. And we won’t do it this year. Hussey adds: “The most important thing for us is that we will impose the mask inside. Apart from that, we hope it will, you know if there is still such a thing, business as usual. We will operate our elevators and lodge spaces as normally as possible. “
Ski Vermont is the professional organization representing all ski resorts in Vermont. Spokesman Bryan Rivard said there will be variation, but skiers should expect similar COVID policies at resorts across the state.
âI think we are looking at much less restrictive access. We are optimistic about the reopening of the border and the arrival of travelers. So I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of the issues that we had over the last year. We certainly don’t expect to see the quarantine period they had before, âsays Rivard. âSo I think that when it comes to seaside resorts, there is some kind of standard, but it’s not official where no one is going to hide outside. The elevators will probably work very similarly, but as usual. And then when it comes to interior, I think that’s where you might see some of that variation, but I don’t think you’ll see any necessarily very harsh differences between them. I think overall they’re pretty aligned.
At Okemo, MacPherson says the pandemic has altered their overall long-term operations.
âWe have learned a lot of good practices from this pandemic and things that we will continue. Things like we’re going to continue to be cashless. We have learned a lot about the management of our ski lift lines and also how we manage our chairlift mazes, you know these lines. I mean we no longer sell lift tickets on site. Everything is done via the Internet or by telephone.
According to Ski Vermont, Mount Snow, Stowe, Okemo and Sugarbush plan to open the weekend of November 19 and 20. Killington is trying to be the state’s first resort to open, but has yet to announce an opening date.