Skiing and COVID-19: 2020’s Wintery Mix

Lily Hansen, Staff Writer

The Coronavirus pandemic certainly ended life as we knew it back in March of this year. Schools and businesses were closed, pro-sports were put on hold, and normally crowded public areas were completely cleared of human life. But slowly and surely, the world began to open up again throughout the summer and fall months. Socially-distant trips to the beach, outdoor dining, and the return of football were all heralds that life was gradually returning to normal. But our Lord and Savior Dr. Anthony Fauci reminded us recently that this false sense of improvement will not last. As the temperature drops and the snowstorms roll in, COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing and the chances of having a “normal” winter have gone out the window.

Now, I’m sure there’s one question that has been ricocheting off the brains of all you skiers and snowboarders out there: AM I GONNA BE ABLE TO SHRED THIS YEAR?!

I’ll give you the short answer first, in order to avoid anxiety attacks: yes. Yes, you will be able to shred this winter. But it will be in a way that you have never done before. Local resorts have had to get creative in order to meet COVID-19 safety standards while ensuring skiers and riders are still having fun playing in the mountains. In this article, I’ve outlined how just a few of our beloved ski areas are operating this winter so that you can plan ahead and stay safe.

 

Cannon (Franconia, NH)

Opening Day:

As of October 26th, Cannon is planning on opening its doors on November 27th.

 

COVID Requirements:

They will be requiring face masks to be worn at all times when a six-foot distance cannot be put between guests, including inside the lodge. Before your arrival, you will be asked whether or not you are feeling sick, if you have traveled anywhere outside of New England in the last 14 days, and if you have been exposed to anybody with COVID. Much like at school, if you answer “yes” to any of the questions, Cannon asks that you stay home.

 

Tickets/Passes:

The deadline for season pass sales was November 1st. As of now,  there will be limited ticket sales that will be available online and in advance.

 

Lodge Access:

Cannon is one of the few ski areas that is still allowing guests to store their bags inside the base lodge. Lodges will only be accessible to those who are able to present a season pass or a lift ticket at the doors. The cafeteria will be open for “grab and go” service, and the mountain encourages guests to eat outside in order to limit the number of people in the lodge. The Cannonball Pub will also be open but will have limited seating. 

 

Loon (Lincoln/Livermore, NH)

Opening Day:

While snowmaking began on November 1st, Loon has yet to announce when it will be opening.

 

COVID Requirements:

Masks will be required indoors and out, and social distancing will be enforced. Loon will also be screening its guests upon arrival, similarly to Cannon.

 

Tickets/Passes:

Day passes will be limited and must be bought online. They are available for contactless pickup at various locations. Tickets will also be reloadable for future visits this season. Loon will be offering all of its regular season passes as well as two new ones: the MiD Pass ($589) which allows access to Loon Monday through Friday. Its blackout dates are December 28-31, January 1, and February 15-19. Passholders are also given 25% off discounts on day-tickets for up to two friends. Loon is also offering a discounted student version of the MiD Pass for $449, available for ages 6-24 years old. However, these passes will only be sold in limited quantities.

 

Lodge Access:

Loon will be converting all its lodges into restaurants with limited capacity this season. That being said, guests will have to boot-up at their cars and carry day-packs in order to hold the items they need on the slopes.

 

Saddleback (Rangeley, ME)

Opening Day: 

After a long 6 six years, it has finally been announced that Saddleback Mountain will be opening on December 15th, 2020. They have added a new high-speed lift, an expanded lodge, and increased snowmaking.

 

Tickets/Passes:

Due to the financial impact the pandemic has had on its guests, Saddleback is offering discounted prices on all of its tickets and passes this season.

 

While Saddleback has yet to announce any more information about the 2020-2021 season, they have said that they will be taking all of the precautions necessary to ensure that its staff, skiers and riders stay safe and able to enjoy Saddleback once again.

 

Sugarloaf (Carrabassett Valley, ME)

Opening Day:

Sugarloaf has not yet announced a specific opening day but is planning to shortly.

 

COVID Requirements:

Masks are required at all times when social distance can not be maintained. Sugarloaf is allowing winter neck gaiters to function as masks as long as they cover your mouth and nose. They are not requiring any COVID screenings.

 

Tickets/Passes:

Sugarloaf is offering all of their regular season passes in addition to the Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective Pass. They are also encouraging guests to purchase day tickets online at reduced prices. However, these sales may be limited on peak days. Sugarloaf will also be adding RFID machines in their lift lines so that ticket checking can be contactless.

 

Lodge Access:

Like Loon, Sugarloaf is not allowing any bags to be stored in its lodges. Guests must put on their gear at their cars and even bring a bagged lunch to eat on the mountain. This will allow the mountain to limit the number of guests in the cafeteria and lodge areas. Restaurants will also be open at limited capacities, and guests will be encouraged to order take-out instead of dining in.

 

Hotels/Lodging:

Sugarloaf is still offering guests lodging but will be following strict safety guidelines.

 

Sunday River

Opening Day:

Sunday River has yet to announce a specific day of opening, but they have said that the mountain will first be open to pass-holders. Access for day-tickets will be added later in the season.

 

COVID Requirements:

Masks are required inside and out (except when eating), and social distancing will be enforced. 

 

Tickets/Passes:

Sunday River is still offering its regular pass and ticket sales, but may be requiring reservations for both in the coming weeks. Both tickets and passes can be purchased online and can be picked-up at contactless kiosks, located at all of the base lodges. RFID machines have been installed in liftlines and guests will no longer be required to ride the chairlift with anybody they do not know.

 

Lodge Access:

Sunday River is not permitting anyone to spend more than 30 minutes inside of its lodges and cafeterias. Gear bags are not allowed inside, and guests are highly encouraged to use the lodges as little as possible. Sunday River’s many restaurants will only be taking reservations for parties under eight.