The Valley News has been selected to add two journalists — a photojournalist and a climate and environment reporter — to our newsroom through Report for America, a national service program that boosts local news by harnessing community support.

Please consider donating to this effort.

The Upper Valley’s small ski areas hope pandemic will present opportunity

  • Cory Grant, president of the Lebanon Outing Club, kicked off the snow-making season at Storrs Hill in Lebanon, N.H., Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. “We are going to be open and we’re going to try our hardest to keep everyone safe,” he said of measures the ski area is taking to prevent coronavirus transmission, including closing the lodge except for one-way traffic to restrooms, requiring masks and distancing while waiting in lines, and adding an outoor serving window for the kitchen, among others. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valey News photos — James M. Patterson

  • A crew from Lowery Builders, from left, Ralph Stearns, Bruce Allen, Raymond Lowery, and Don Cota, pour concrete into a form that will serve as a foundation for a covered outdoor area off the back of the Storrs Hill ski lodge in Lebanon, N.H., Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. The lodge will be closed indoors due to the coronavirus pandemic, but this extension will provide some shelter for skiers. “Try to come ready, because there is no inside,” said Lebanon Outing Club President Cory Grant. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Gus Thompson, 12, of Norwich, steps into his bindings after hiking to the top of the slalom course due to the lift being down with coach Jane LeMasurier, left, and teammate Elena Trempe, 14, of Enfield during Ford Sayre ski practice at Whaleback in Enfield, N.H., Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. The team will compete in an open race at Gunstock on Saturday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 11/20/2020 10:29:11 PM
Modified: 11/21/2020 10:19:12 PM

LEBANON — Cory Grant fired up a snowmaking cannon — the eternal and optimistic sign of the upcoming ski season — at the base of the Storrs Hill Ski Area’s ski jump landing ramp on Wednesday morning.

The Lebanon Outing Club president has been a busy guy lately, getting the area ready with the coronavirus pandemic in mind. Masking and social distancing protocols are in place. Construction work continues on a couple of lodge projects that will address virus issues.

The Twin States’ destination ski resorts may be fretting about how COVID-19 might impact their seasons, but the Upper Valley’s smaller areas sense opportunity. If the snow falls soon, the weather stays cold and visitors adhere to the rules, they believe good things await.

“I really do think we’re going to see a lot more traffic,” said Grant, whose organization partners with the Lebanon Recreation and Parks Department in operating Storrs Hill. “It’s weird to plan a huge, successful season in a pandemic, but we have a great plan to move forward with, and we’re going to give it a go.”

Small ski areas don’t have the financial wherewithal to employ some of the methods that big resorts will this winter. They’re focusing on the ski experience itself instead.

Vail Resorts — the megacompany that operates Mount Sunapee — will require skiers to reserve their time on the mountain in advance this winter. Dartmouth Skiway can’t do a reservation system, but it will require an online lift ticket purchase, new general manager Mark Adamczyk said. It is through that system that he’ll be able to monitor visitor numbers.

“There will be limited capacity depending on the time of the year and the day of the week,” said Adamczyk, who arrived from Colorado’s Winter Park resort to succeed longtime and retired GM Doug Holler in May. “You can purchase a ticket that morning but in advance of coming up here, so we know the quantity of people before they head up. … The days of waking up and heading to the Skiway are not in play.”

Upper Valley areas also restricting lodge access, a response to COVID-19 gathering limits in Vermont and New Hampshire. Skiers can enter to use bathrooms or rent equipment, but that’s about it.

“We’ve taken out seats and tables to make sure that we do have that 6-foot spacing inside,” Whaleback director of mountain operations Gerd Reiss said. “There will be plexiglass barriers inside, like in the rental shop, and we’ll have an entrance and exit door for traffic flow. It should be no problem, and someone will be at the entry station to limit people so we’ll only have five or six people in the rental shop at one time.”

Suicide Six is emphasizing what general manager Tim Reiter calls the “ ‘drop-and-go-ski’ attitude to our cherished days on the slopes,” he recently wrote on the South Pomfret ski area’s website. Customers will be asked to gear up in the parking lot, keep their bags in their vehicles and tailgate for their meals, although Suicide Six plans on offering grab-and-go food options.

“The big thing is the lodge is going to be used to get rental equipment; we’re going to keep our food service outside,” said Courtney Lowe, vice president for marketing at the Woodstock Inn and Resort, which owns the ski area. “There will be very limited use of the lodge. It sounds like that’s probably one of the largest challenges of all of the resorts that I’m hearing through conversations with the Vermont Ski Area Association.”

Grant is going one better at Storrs Hill. The pandemic has led him and Lebanon Recreation director Paul Coats to move forward on two construction projects: an extension of the Lebanon area’s lodge roof to cover its deck for a ventilated outdoor rest space and a waist-high fire ring between the lodge and surface lift for warming up.

“It’s kind of a dream that I’ve had for the past few years, to expand the lodge,” Grant said. “Working with Paul a lot, we kind of came up to make that dream a staged reality.”

Upper Valley areas won’t be able to avoid some hits to their money-making apparatus this winter.

Reiss said he’s split Whaleback’s popular Thursday night race series — one that sometimes draws more than 200 people — over Wednesday and Thursday evenings, with a maximum of 20 four-person teams in each session.

Suicide Six’s Granite State patrons will have to honor Vermont’s rules, which currently require a 14-day quarantine for non-essential travel or seven days with a negative COVID test, Lowe noted; the same guidelines apply to the Quechee Ski Area. Storrs Hill is expanding the number of ski lessons offered but reducing the size of each class.

For each change, however, an opportunity seemingly arises. Grant will double Storrs Hill’s public skiing hours on Saturdays (noon-9 p.m.) and Sundays (noon-7 p.m.) to provide more time for people to visit.

He and his peers are expecting to see folks on the slopes.

“Our season pass sales have been positive,” Dartmouth’s Adamczyk said. “And that shows that people are looking forward to getting outside — and getting outside close to home.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at or 603-727-3226.

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2020 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy