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Ski Resort Response to COVID-19

cdskier

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Perhaps places should give full pass refunds and just do day ticket-only this year.

That said, I could certainly envision a world where lodge access is limited but anyone with a pass can use the chairlifts whenever they want.

Everyone keeps talking about the lodges, but there's a lot of other areas that would be impacted by social distancing requirements as well. It is conceivable that there are some sort of limits on who can be on a lift together (or how far apart people need to be on a chair). Any sort of restrictions like that decreases your uphill capacity. So now if you still allow anyone with a pass to use the chairlifts whenever they want, where will all those people be if there's less uphill lift capacity? Standing in the lift corral making those lines longer? How do you enforce social distancing there? Bottom line if there's social distancing requirements, I think the number of people on the mountain needs to be restricted.

I also don't agree with the earlier analysis in this thread that on an average Saturday resorts are only slightly above 50% capacity as is so we don't need to worry too much. If the numbers provided are accurate and the normal Saturday crowds that you see are really only "50% of capacity", then "50%" won't work as a viable benchmark to allow for proper social distancing requirements. Those numbers were also from pre-Epic and pre-Ikon days in the northeast (10 years ago), so I think that also calls into question whether they would even still be the case today.
 

prsboogie

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Line corral distancing would actually be the easiest to achieve S.D. Tips to tails with a foot between or place a pole every 6 feet and act like adults. Rope off a 6 foot area between each grouping (left to right) Done.

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Everyone keeps talking about the lodges, but there's a lot of other areas that would be impacted by social distancing requirements as well. It is conceivable that there are some sort of limits on who can be on a lift together (or how far apart people need to be on a chair). Any sort of restrictions like that decreases your uphill capacity. So now if you still allow anyone with a pass to use the chairlifts whenever they want, where will all those people be if there's less uphill lift capacity? Standing in the lift corral making those lines longer? How do you enforce social distancing there? Bottom line if there's social distancing requirements, I think the number of people on the mountain needs to be restricted.

I think there are two main reasons for the lodge talk:
1) they are the most deeply affected places at the mountain
2) unless you ski somewhere really busy like large So. Vt resorts, Hunter, Loon or Sunday River, I doubt that lines/chair restrictions will be that big of an issue. Visits are likely to be down significantly due depressed economic activity and reluctance by a segment of the population to go out and ski in crowds in the first place.

Places may very well have a lower limit on the number of tickets they sell. I just wouldn't expect it to be an issue more than a few days out of the year. If I'm a pass holder with other time to ski, I'd be tempted to stay home on days where the vibe/experience is unlikely to be fun anyway (e.g. MLK weekend).
 

ss20

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I also don't agree with the earlier analysis in this thread that on an average Saturday resorts are only slightly above 50% capacity as is so we don't need to worry too much. If the numbers provided are accurate and the normal Saturday crowds that you see are really only "50% of capacity", then "50%" won't work as a viable benchmark to allow for proper social distancing requirements. Those numbers were also from pre-Epic and pre-Ikon days in the northeast (10 years ago), so I think that also calls into question whether they would even still be the case today.

I agree that in practice 50% is a garbage number. I went to the RI beach when they were capped at 75% and you couldn't squeeze another a$$ on that beach past 11am. I went to an auto race in NH where they're capped at 50% capacity and they filled the main lot and went into the overflow parking lot. Even here in CT, the local track is reduced to 25% capacity which is roughly what they would fill to on a typical Friday night race. In all three cases keeping six feet apart was a joke at how impractical it was.

My argument was more that states are focused on limited capacity by a percentage, and that a majority of ski resorts have a design capacity wayyyy beyond what would be practical for them to handle. Exceptions being Magic, Mad River, Smuggs. But even on a mid-winter Saturday at Killington you can have lift line out of the corral and the Bear parking lot will be less than 75% full, Skyeship even less.
 

slatham

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Lodge capacity and lift/slope capacity constraints are two very different issues to solve, and hopefully will be tackled separately by the authorities.

Looking at lift capacity (can we all agree there is no issue once on the slope?), it is well documented that outdoor activity is very low risk. Sitting with someone on an open air lift increases that risk, but the increased risk is very minimal if both parties are wearing a mask (remember, technically the guidance is 6' distance, OR a mask). Given current summer outdoor activities - golf, disc golf, adventure parks, lift served mountain biking, trails, parks, farmers markets, pools - I am not aware of any state mandated restrictions on capacity (please correct if wrong). Given the current situation in the Northeast I would be very surprised if any state required limited capacity on lifts. On the other hand, ski areas may wish to do so to reassure and attract customers (i.e you can ride single on a double if you wish, etc).

So I do not think season pass holders will be restricted from access, though they may be required to "reserve" or pre-notify that they plan to ski on a particular day.

The bigger issue is lodge capacity, where there are state mandated indoor capacity restrictions and protocols. Thus unlimited access to the lodge cannot be guaranteed. To me this is not that big of an issue, even if I am not at my home Mountian, except for bathrooms. Here is where areas will need to thread the needle as you can't deny access to a bathroom (well, at least not without causing even greater issues). Unfortunately, many ski areas have their bathrooms well inside the lodge, if not also down a narrow stair case. I foresee a lot of porta potties......

The most significant issue, however, will be if current travel restrictions continue. For instance, the current VT quarantine rules for all of the NY tri-state counties would eliminate a huge market for VT ski areas. If this played out it could be a boon for NY State ski areas but really hurt VT. And of course this is fully out of the control of the ski area.

On the other hand, could there be more demand for NE regional skiing due to lack of interest in flying out West??

The range of possible outcomes is incredibly wide. And right now very very unknown.....
 

ss20

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The most significant issue, however, will be if current travel restrictions continue. For instance, the current VT quarantine rules for all of the NY tri-state counties would eliminate a huge market for VT ski areas. If this played out it could be a boon for NY State ski areas but really hurt VT. And of course this is fully out of the control of the ski area.

I am banking on Vermont doing away with the quarantining requirements. Only because keeping them during ski season would be economic suicide to an extreme degree.
 

xlr8r

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I am banking on Vermont doing away with the quarantining requirements. Only because keeping them during ski season would be economic suicide to an extreme degree.

I am not so sure, VT seems to be sticking to the numbers, and I and many expect the virus to get worse in the fall. I can easily see VT staying relatively locked down next winter to metropolitan counties, which in turn will be a boon to NY and NH.

The biggest issue I still see is the base lodges. While many of us are used to booting up at our car, most of the GP are not. Most Base lodges on a weekend or Holiday are packed, not only with people but with all the bags and gear as well. I think it might be prudent for areas to utilizes decks or patios by putting out heating lamps to keep crowds down inside this winter.
 

thetrailboss

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Not to get on a tangent, but another real big threat to the ski season is the current administration's limitations on employment visas. Ski areas rely on foreign help to fill their positions and the administration is using the pandemic to justify barring more visas.

As to the pandemic, I see it continuing to be uneven with some states remaining restrictive and others not so restrictive depending on the leadership of said state. I have a hard time seeing a full-blown ski season until there is a vaccine. We're having a hard enough time getting people to just wear masks.....
 

mbedle

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Not to get on a tangent, but another real big threat to the ski season is the current administration's limitations on employment visas. Ski areas rely on foreign help to fill their positions and the administration is using the pandemic to justify barring more visas.

As to the pandemic, I see it continuing to be uneven with some states remaining restrictive and others not so restrictive depending on the leadership of said state. I have a hard time seeing a full-blown ski season until there is a vaccine. We're having a hard enough time getting people to just wear masks.....

I think if we still have high unemployment, they should be fine filling those positions.
 

180

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If you have seen New Zealand is reporting large local crowds despite international travel restrictions. Everyone is going to want to ski this winter.
 

mbedle

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Let's just say that if we are under some sort of capacity restriction and social distancing requirements, the ski experience is going to very different this season. Weekend lift lines will be unlike anything we have ever seen at the major resorts. Can you image the Stowe gondola going up with one person or the quad with only 2 people on a regular basis? I would expect to see that all lifts will run at all times a particular resort is open to alleviate lines. Resorts might have to rethink their skinning rules to allow skinning during operational hours. Wind holds will send most people to their car to stay warm. Lodges will become breeding grounds for Covid 19 infections (think of you ski mask as a Covid 19 dispenser). I don't know about all you, but my nose runs from the moment I leave my truck until I get in the lodge at the end of the day. Beards covered in snot and ice, melting in the lodge after skiing. Snot soaked ski masks laying around, people blowing their noses non-stop. Not sure how they are going to operate the bars at the ski resorts. Mid afternoon the lodge is at capacity and the majority of the people occupying the lodge are hanging out having a drink, how are people that booted up in the lodge going to get in to take off their boots and leave? As someone said, I could see huge tents setup as temporary lodges for people to get out of the weather.
 

deadheadskier

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If you have seen New Zealand is reporting large local crowds despite international travel restrictions. Everyone is going to want to ski this winter.
I tend to agree. Skiing is by and large a sport for high income people. Comparable in summer would be pleasure boating. From all reports I've read, boating is having a record season in terms of the number of boats sold.

So, I don't see demand for skiing diminishing much at all even if unemployment remains high. This will especially be true if there are restrictions still in place for youth team sports.

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Let's just say that if we are under some sort of capacity restriction and social distancing requirements, the ski experience is going to very different this season. Weekend lift lines will be unlike anything we have ever seen at the major resorts. Can you image the Stowe gondola going up with one person or the quad with only 2 people on a regular basis? I would expect to see that all lifts will run at all times a particular resort is open to alleviate lines. Resorts might have to rethink their skinning rules to allow skinning during operational hours. Wind holds will send most people to their car to stay warm. Lodges will become breeding grounds for Covid 19 infections (think of you ski mask as a Covid 19 dispenser). I don't know about all you, but my nose runs from the moment I leave my truck until I get in the lodge at the end of the day. Beards covered in snot and ice, melting in the lodge after skiing. Snot soaked ski masks laying around, people blowing their noses non-stop. Not sure how they are going to operate the bars at the ski resorts. Mid afternoon the lodge is at capacity and the majority of the people occupying the lodge are hanging out having a drink, how are people that booted up in the lodge going to get in to take off their boots and leave? As someone said, I could see huge tents setup as temporary lodges for people to get out of the weather.

I'm not super optimistic for gondolas or trams this year. Apparently Killington was going to/is running theirs this winter. Not something I've followed though. Trams have such terrible capacity that I'd rather hike up from the Flyer to the summit of Jay Peak on a weekend under depressed lift capacity anyway.

Singles lines could get interesting, too. I think you could reasonably put two singles on each side of a quad, but we'll see what the conventional wisdom holds by the time ski season rolls around.
 
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I tend to agree. Skiing is by and large a sport for high income people. Comparable in summer would be pleasure boating. From all reports I've read, boating is having a record season in terms of the number of boats sold.

So, I don't see demand for skiing diminishing much at all even if unemployment remains high. This will especially be true if there are restrictions still in place for youth team sports.

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I do, too, with the one caveat that I'd expect day trip places to bear the brunt of the crowds (Wawa, Sunapee, Hunter types) over the resort types. If capacity in town is an issue, it can be hard to justify doing an overnight.
 
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