On Nov. 3, election day, Vermont’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development released its guidelines on how ski areas across the state can operate this winter. The 13-page document covers everything from training and testing employees to how ski school and ski patrol can operate. This is in addition to ski area’s own rules.
Many Vermont areas, including Stowe, Okemo, Mount Snow, Magic and the Middlebury Snow Bowl will be requiring you reserve your ski days online ahead of time (Nov. 6 is when reservations open for Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass holders). Killington is opening its parking reservation system on Nov. 5.
But the biggest takeaways are how ski areas will handle guests. Here are the highlights:
Lift Lines: Lift lines will require a 6-foot space between parties of skiers/riders. Forget the mass corrals and expect to lines snaking around the base area. Strategy: There’s no two ways around this: lines will be long so try to ski on off-hours, weekdays and days when there are likely to be fewer crowds.
Lift Capacity: Since most lifts don’t have the option for riders to distance themselves by 6-feet (a state guideline), guests can travel with members of their own party or load at 50% capacity. For enclosed lifts (including bubble chairs), windows have to stay open. Strategy: Plan ahead, do the lift math and try to ski with your group of 4 if you are skiing a quad lift, or 2 on a double, etc.
Lodges: Day-use lodges will be able to take no more than 50% of their capacity and at no time no more than 75 people and must keep parties 6 feet apart. On top of that, just as being done in restaurants, the state is asking for reservation systems to be put in place (suggestions include a metering or ticket system) and that lodges collect the names, addresses and emails of everyone who enters and keep track of where they sat. There will also be time limits (the state recommends 30 minutes) for how long you can stay. And, with the 6-foot rule in place for all lines, lines for bathrooms are going to probably stretch out the door. Strategy: To paraphrase Killington’s CEO Mike Solimano, “Your car is your base lodge.” It’s where you will boot up, store your gear (most lodges will not be allowing you to leave gear) and, in many cases, eat your lunch. Look for take-out options to pop up around resorts. Bolton Valley, for instance, just signed a deal with the popular Mad Taco for a take out-only pop-up in what was formerly The Village Cafe.
Ski Schools: Look for smaller class sizes, mandatory temperature-taking, and warm-up breaks to take place in utility buildings or places other than the traditional lodges. Lessons may also have staggered start times. Some places, including Sugarbush, are limiting their kids ski school programs to previouslly enrolled students. Strategy: Make sure you know what your ski area’s ski school policy is well ahead of arriving and consider a private lesson. At Vail-owned resorts such as Mount Snow, Okemo and Stowe, a booking a private lesson ahead of time lets you bypass the reservation system and cut lines.
Opening photo: Killington Resort, courtesy Killington
Here are the full guidelines:Vermont Ski Resort COVID-19 Winter Operations Guidance – 2020-11-03