New Mask Mandates, Crowds & Omicron Almost Steal Christmas Week

“The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason. “—Dr. Seuss

The forecast had looked good: snow on Christmas – 3 to 4 inches. Resorts had returned to much of their pre-Covid operations. This was going to be the Christmas week of years gone by. Until the Grinch got to work.

On Christmas morning around Vermont, skiers and riders woke to what can best be described as a “wintry mix.” Ski areas such as Mad River Glen closed for the day, giving employees a much-deserved day off.  Rain and freezing rain cut into the powder that had fallen a week prior. As the chart produced by Dan Mellinger of, showed, as of Dec. 28, the snowfall on Mt. Mansfield was the lowest it has been in a decade. It was as if the Grinch had picked clean any pockets of powder.

This chart shows how much snow has fallen on Mt. Mansfield as of Dec. 28 for each season. Chart compiled by Dan Mellinger of

Mad River Glen took the cake for all-time most honest (and best snow reporting) when it came back online with this report:

“Good news for some: a soft opening of the Sunnyside Double is slated for later this morning. Show up sometime around 11 a.m. to catch first rides and free-range to a slew of conditions up top.

Scouting missions in the last 24 hours found highly variable surfaces that would make regular resort-goers cringe, but we’re going for it. Thin, rocky steeps and a breakable hooky ice crust on the upper half makes you feel like you have to put the work in; visible grass is poking through in many areas; frozen washboard track marks from wandering snowcats are jaw-clenching; un-attended water bars come out of absolutely nowhere.
It all adds up to perfect conditions for trashing the brand new skis that Santa brought you last weekend (MRG Rental skis are not allowed on the Sunnyside Double). Crashing today could result in heinous injury; core shots are imminent. To make matters worse, snow could easily get tracked out to the point where we have to re-close the lift in the coming days if we don’t see enough new snow.
We’re not sugar-coating it: ski it if you can, but ski it at your own risk and within your ability level. Although you’ll run into some beautiful, impeccable grooming below the Birdcage and on the lower half of Bunny, there is no easy way down so challenges up top are reserved for expert skiers only!  Please obey all signage and closed signs and ropes. Otherwise, bring your rock skis and send it!

With limited terrain open and staffing shortages impacting some lift operations, crowds converged both in liftlines and on the slopes. The problem was not unique to Vermont. Even before Christmas, in New Hampshire  Attitash and Wildcat (both owned by Vail Resorts)  issued pre-emptive apologies, noting that staffing shortages would be impacting their operations. This, in a year when Vail Resorts sold 700,000 more Epic Passes than it did last year—a 47% increase over 2020/21. By comparison, that’s more than the entire population than the state of Vermont.

To make matters worse, Omicron began spreading quickly throughout New England. In Vermont, Stratton led the way with mandating masks on its gondola even before Christmas.  On Dec. 27, Killington followed, requiring masks on the K1 Gondola, on all resort shuttles and in all indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.  As of Dec. 29, Stowe was requiring face masks on its gondola. Since the start of the season, anyone who wants to enter a lodge at Vail-owned resorts has had to show proof of vaccination and wear a mask. Jay Peak has been requiring masks on its tram all season and last week offered the option of season pass refunds or deferral to Canadian citizens who wouldn’t be able to use their passes due to border restrictions.

Looking at all of this, it might seem like the Grinch might have stolen Christmas week. Yet, all the Whos down in Whoville were still skiing and riding.

So, with our apologies to Dr. Seuss:

How the Grinch Almost Stole Christmas Week

The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!

So instead of promised snow, he sent rain that was freezing.

It melted the powder and covered the hills.

With a thick sheet of ice that caused countless spills.


And then Omicron descended across the land

The Grinch just grinned—he knew he had the upper hand.

Lifties and wait staff, ski patrollers and instructors

Stayed home in quarantine. Oh, what a destructor!


In ski areas and ski towns, locals furrowed their brows.

What would happen to Vermont, at Christmas week now?

If the Grinch stole winter, what would there be left?

They wrung their hands and fretted. This was grand theft!


But still the cars kept coming. Parking lots were packed.

The groomers kept grooming, snowmaking was stacked.

Then manmade snow was spread out to cover the trails.

Winter it seemed, had delivered epic fails.


But skiers kept skiing and riders kept riding.

They just sharpened their edges and kept right on sliding.

The Green Mountains were still covered in white,

And for many, that meant life was still perfectly right.


Because despite the Grinch and Omicron and pernicious ice,

Simply getting outside and seeing snow was pretty nice.

And if Christmas week wasn’t as promised, maybe not-so-very-merry,

There was this one thought that brought smiles: it will snow in January.





Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.