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Vermont ski resorts planning for a winter season with fewer COVID-19 restrictions

Skiing at Okemo
Ski Vermont media kit
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Skiing at Okemo

Ski resorts in the Northeast are more optimistic about the upcoming winter as they begin planning for a season with less restrictive COVID regulations. But most resorts plan to require masks when visitors are indoors.

Ski resorts in the Northeast are more optimistic about the upcoming winter as they begin planning for a season with less restrictive COVID regulations. But most resorts plan to require masks when visitors are indoors.

Many of Vermont’s ski centers target opening in mid-November, hoping to attract visitors for the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Last year COVID-19 restrictions and the closure of the Canadian border put a damper on resorts’ operations. But this year most mandates have ended and most ski areas are planning to require masks in certain indoor areas.

Okemo Mountain is owned by Vail Resorts. Bonnie MacPherson is the communications manager for its three Northeast resorts. She says COVID restrictions in place last winter have been eased.

“The big change that I think everyone’s going to enjoy is that here won’t be any required facemasks outdoors and we won’t be enforcing any sort of social distancing. We still will require masks being worn indoors," says MacPherson. "And the other thing is that we are no longer going to be requiring a reservation in order to ski for a particular day. That was something that we did last year and that reservation system has been eliminated.”

Middlebury College owns the Rikert Nordic Center, a network of more than 50 kilometers of cross country and snowshoeing trails, and the Snowbowl, a downhill ski center that hosts a number of collegiate competitions along with public skiing.

General Manager Michael Hussey said last year there were no events but this year they will return and will follow the requisite alpine or nordic organizations’ mandates for COVID restrictions. He adds that for general public use, masking will be required indoors.

“Last year we had all of our COVID protocols in place including everybody had to make a reservation to come into the ski area, to enter the parking lot. And we won’t be doing that this year." Hussey adds, "The biggest thing for us is we’ll be mask mandating indoors. Other than that we hope it to be, you know if there is such a thing anymore, business as usual. We will be operating our lifts and our lodge spaces as normally as possible.”

Ski Vermont is the trade organization representing all ski resorts in Vermont. Spokesman Bryan Rivard says while there will be variations, skiiers should expect similar COVID policies at resorts across the state.

“I think we’re looking at a much less restrictive access. We’re optimistic about having the border back open and travelers coming in. So I don’t think we’re going to be seeing a lot of the issues that we had last year. We certainly aren’t expecting to see the quarantine period that they had previously," says Rivard. "So I do think that when it comes to resorts there is kind of a standard but it’s unofficial where no one’s going to be masking outside. Lifts will likely be operating very similar but just like normal. And then when it comes to indoor I think that’s where you might see some of that variation but I don’t think you’re to see any necessarily really hard differences between them. I think as a whole they’re fairly aligned.”

At Okemo, MacPherson says the pandemic has changed their overall operations for the long term.

“We have learned a lot of best practices that came out of this pandemic and things that we will continue. Things like we’re going to continue to be cashless. We’ve learned a lot about managing our lift lines and also the way we manage our chair lift mazes, you know those lines. I mean we’re not selling lift tickets on site anymore. That’s all done through the internet or over the phone.”

According to Ski Vermont, Mount Snow, Stowe, Okemo and Sugarbush are planning to open the weekend of November 19th and 20th. Killington attempts to be the first resort in the state to open but has not yet announced an opening date.

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