“It’s going to be a weird, weird winter.” That thought kept going through my head as one by one ski areas announced their operating plans. Goodbye long lodge lunches, talking to strangers on the chairlift, apres-ski beers at the crowded bars. Hello reservation systems, socially-distanced lift lines, mask-wearing and booting up in your car. But one thing hasn’t changed. There will be skiing and riding. There will be snow. There will be smiles, as Sugarbush’s digital ad campaign promises—hopefully broad, powder-eating grins. For a full run-down on what will be different see “What Winter Will Look Like.”
Make no mistake, you may have to work harder for those. Last season Vail Resorts announced its new $599 Northeast Value Pass. City-dwellers who might have previously hopped a plane from JFK or Logan to Vail’s Eagle Airport jumped on it. So much so that Vail Resorts sold more than 850,000 Epic Passes—an 18 percent increase over last year. Other ski areas, including independents such as Magic and Bolton Valley, also saw a surge in season pass sales as skiers realized that day tickets would be the first to get cut off if capacity limits are met. The Indy Pass, good at 54 ski areas, including Bolton Valley, Magic Mountain and Suicide Six in Vermont is seeing more than six times the sales that it had last year, Powder reported.
On weekends and holidays, capacity will be an issue. Perhaps midweek, too. Vermont has also seen an influx of new residents in its ski towns. The town of Winhall, near Stratton and Bromley, recently saw 54 new students in its school, a 25 percent increase The New York Times reported. Near Mount Snow, the Dover school system saw 32 new kids. Of 300 families who have condos at Bromley, 100 never left last March.
It might be easy to raise an eyebrow at out-of-state plates and wonder how many visitors have quarantined. But when the one major Covid-19 outbreak of the summer hit a ski town (14 cases were reported after a private party at a Killington hotel), locals were as much to blame. “Don’t be the reason we end our season,” is a slogan that we all should take seriously, locals as well as visitors.
So how do you navigate this new world? I’ll tell you my plan. This will be the season to ski midweek and to seek out those smaller mountains: places where the lift lines are rarely long, passholders are usually locals and the powder is often plentiful—places like Burke and Bolton, Middlebury College Snow Bowl and Magic, Mad River and Mt. Ellen, Suicide Six and Pico. — Lisa Lynn, Editor.