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Masks and reservations required for Mount Sunapee, Stowe, Okemo and Mount Snow

  • Spruce Peak Village at the Stowe Mountain Resort. File photo by Jim Welch/VTDigger vtdigger file — jim welch

Published: 8/28/2020 9:35:59 PM
Modified: 8/28/2020 9:35:51 PM

This winter, skiers and snowboarders at Mount Snow, Stowe, Okemo and Mount Sunapee will be required to wear masks and make reservations to get on the hill, under new guidelines released by Vail Resorts, the national ski resort company that owns or operates seven mountains in the Twin States and 27 others across North America.

Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts, wrote an open letter Thursday laying out the ski areas’ plans for winter.

In March, Vail — like most ski areas — closed all its resorts for the remainder of the 2019-20 ski season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Vail’s Vermont resorts have since reopened for summer activities, and are now prepping for the winter ahead.

At Vail’s resorts, masks will be required for anyone loading and riding chairlifts and gondolas, when inside all buildings, and during all ski and snowboard lessons.

“No one will be permitted on the mountain without a face covering,” the letter states.

The letter also noted that masks will be “encouraged” in all public spaces throughout resort towns, and Vail will encourage communities to make them a requirement.

Additionally, all mountaingoers will be required to make a reservation before skiing or snowboarding. Katz said that’s necessary because, in some cases, the number of people on the mountain will need to be managed to make social distancing possible.

“For the vast majority of days during the season, we believe everyone who wants to get on our mountains will be able to,” Katz wrote. “However, we are not planning for the majority of days; we are planning for every day of the season.”

On holiday weekends or days with unpredictably good weather, Katz said it won’t always be possible to let mountains operate at their normal capacities — which is why Vail is mandating reservations. However, Katz’s letter acknowledged the possibility that, during the season, the company could decide the reservation system isn’t necessary at every resort.

Vail also recently announced opening dates for all of its resorts. Mount Snow will open Nov. 14, Stowe on Nov. 20, Okemo on Nov. 21, and Mount Sunapee on Nov. 25.

Early-season skiing will be reserved for pass-holders only. Lift tickets won’t be sold to the general public until Dec. 8.

Other new rules include a limit on the number of people allowed in resort restaurants, a ban on full-service bars at resorts (though packaged beer and wine will still be sold), daily health screenings for all participants in the Ski and Ride School, and reorganized seating on gondolas and lifts, so only related parties ride together.

Katz wrote that the future remains largely uncertain and that plans could change at any time, especially if state and local regulations change.

But for now, he said, this is how Vail hopes to keep its resorts open this winter.

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