By Tommi Mandell, Staff Writer
During the winter months, many skiers head to Vermont from all over the Northeast. This year, however, is proving different. After an abrupt end to the ski season at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mountains are finally open again, but with some changes. To see Killington’s look back on the abrupt ending to the reopening of the mountain, refer here.
While the mountains may be open, the access to them changed—particularly for out-of -state skiers. On Killington’s website, there is a “Know Before You Go” section, explaining Vermont’s out-of state-travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Okemo’s website has a similar “Know Before You Arrive” page referring to Vermont’s travel guidelines.
Instead of arriving to the mountains on a whim, guests must make reservations prior to showing up for their day on the slopes. At Okemo, the reservations are general for anyone wishing to be on the mountain. Killington informs skiers to purchase their lift tickets online and retrieve them at contactless kiosks. The reservations at Killington are for parking and have shifted to only being necessary on high capacity days (the weekends and “Peak Days”).
Killington also initiated “Operation Stay Safe.” This plan refers to skiers’ cars as their “base camps,” encouraging skiers to “boot up” at their cars instead of in the mountain’s lodges. Additionally, where many skiers would normally head into the lodges throughout their day to warm up or enjoy a snack, “Operation Stay Safe” encourages skiers to use their cars for that purpose instead. For Killington’s “Operation Stay Safe,” video, refer here.
On the mountains, face coverings are required. On Killington, guests can hear an auditory reminder to keep masks on. Repeating “The Beast [a nickname for Killington Mountain] thanks you for wearing your mask. Unless you’re wearing it like a chinstrap or your nose is hanging out. Then The Beast is disappointed in you. Don’t disappoint the Beast.” Another reminder Killington has both auditorily and on their website is “Shred it, don’t spread it.”
Chairlifts also have adjusted operations. At Killington specifically, instead of filling chairlifts to maximum capacity to ensure quickly moving lines, only members of the same traveling party are permitted to fill a chairlift to capacity. Singles are only paired with other singles when distancing allows (bigger chairlifts permit singles to sit distanced apart). However, singles have the option to ride certain chairlifts alone, but not all of them.
Killington has staff stationed at many areas of the mountain, reminding skiers to have their masks on properly, to stay distances, and to keep areas of high traffic clear. At lodges, skiers have a 30 minute time limit to be seated indoors. To get into the lodges, skiers must wait on a line for other skiers to leave the lodge, have their passes scanned to enter, and proceed to a table.
Skiing in Vermont may look different this year, but the season is continuing in seeming compliance with COVID-19 restrictions.