Ski resorts are counting on a return to normal on the slopes



“What’s new is a lot more optimism.”

FILE— In this file photo from December 16, 2020, a snowcat maintains a trail at the McIntyre Ski Area in Manchester, New Hampshire, with ski areas across the country gearing up for the 2021 season. File photo AP / Charles Krupa

JAY, Vermont (AP) – After a winter with mask warrants and restrictions on the number of people on ski lifts, ski resorts expect the coming season to look more like pre-pandemic days on tracks.

All virus related protocols at resorts will vary depending on where they are located and the local health rules in place. Some resorts require masks indoors and in restaurants, others may continue to limit the number of skiers on the slopes for a better experience, and some will require people to show proof of vaccination at some sites.

“What’s new is a lot more optimism,” said JJ Toland, spokesperson for Jay Peak Resort in Vermont.

While many resorts did better than expected last season as people walked out during the pandemic, ski areas with the strongest public health restrictions, such as Vermont, took a hit, Adrienne Saia said. Isaac, Director of Marketing and Communications for the National Ski Areas Association. . On top of that, the US-Canada border has been closed, so resorts like Jay Peak, which depend on these visitors from the north, have lost business. Now they are hoping to catch up with last season, but it does not come without challenges.

The continued difficulty in finding seasonal ski workers was more pronounced during the pandemic. A survey found that about six of the 10 ski areas indicated they could not fill all of their positions for last season, which is an increase from the 2019-20 season, according to Isaac. Some resorts offer enrollment bonuses and increase their starting salaries to attract staff.

The National Ski Areas Association doesn’t expect to see limited capacity on chairlifts, restrictions on who people can ride with and much less, if any, outside mask requirements, said Adrienne Saia. Isaac, Director of Marketing and Communications.

“I think when it comes to the outdoor ski area experience it will be more like it has been in seasons past,” she said.

Some resorts will look different with new offerings such as Loon Mountain Resort in New Hampshire, which will launch its new eight-person high-speed chairlift with heated seats and tinted bubble – the first in the East – and Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado, which will have 250 new acres of land for beginner and intermediate skiers.

Colorado-based Vail Resorts, which owns 34 ski areas in the United States and Canada, including Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont, Park City Mountain Resort in Utah, and Heavenly Ski Resort in California, removed its reservation system in line this season, but continues some COVID-19 restrictions in place.

Face coverings will still be mandatory indoors and on buses, but unlike last season, skiers and snowboarders will be able to breathe freely in ski lifts, chairlifts and gondolas, unless masks are required by local public health authorities. Reservations will be required for dining at many mountain restaurants, and customers will be required to show proof of vaccination to dine indoors at the busiest cafeteria-style quick-service restaurants.

Vail Resorts has also demanded that all of its staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 and undergo daily health checks.

“We are really lucky that the heart of the ski and hike experience takes place outdoors,” said company spokeswoman Jamie Alvarez, noting that most of the persistent COVID-19 restrictions are ‘apply to indoor environments. “We hope this season will be like what our customers expect from a normal season.”

The Aspen Skiing Company, which includes Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass in Colorado, requires people to show proof of vaccination in certain locations, such as at company-owned and operated hotels and restaurants. full-service as well as certain activities “where prolonged close contact without a mask may occur”. Vaccinations are not compulsory to access the ski lifts.

In the Arapahoe Basin ski area near the Continental Divide west of Denver, all employees will need to be vaccinated, but customers will not experience any of the health restrictions put in place last season.

“We follow what the state requires of us and what Summit County Public Health requires of us, so we just stay in tune with them,” A-Basin spokeswoman Katherine Fuller said. “If they change their guidelines, then we will change our guidelines.”

It will again cap the number of unrestricted season passes available and sell 10% less than last season, as well as the number of lift tickets it sells daily, Fuller said.

“Due to our small number of COVIDs (last season), we realized we can do well as a business and also make our customers happier by having fewer people on the mountain,” Fuller said. “Restricting crowds works very well. … We are moving away from the standard operating procedure of getting as many people up the hill as possible.


Peipert reported from Denver.


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