Wherever I go, with my face partially hidden by my Sugarbush logo face mask, I inevitably get asked, “So what is going to happen this winter?” Since many jokingly believe I predicted the onset of the current pandemic and sold Sugarbush just a few weeks before COVID-19 hit, I am sure they are looking for a definitive answer. So, I am happy to give one.
Let’s start at the beginning. We will surely begin snowmaking as we normally do around November 1st if the temperatures permit. In fact, while you may think we have been taking the summer off and relaxing amid the uncertainty, we have actually been hard at work all summer long performing our routine maintenance on our 16 lifts and fleet of on-mountain vehicles. We are also starting to recruit for the winter season, and we are giving a lot of thought to what the new normal for this winter is going to look like. I am very confident for skiing and riding, but exactly what that will look like and what it means for auxiliary activities will only be known as we get closer to opening day. As our plans continue to develop, we will be sure to share them with you.
Science increasingly shows that wearing a mask outdoors lower the risk of contracting the virus significantly. To help simplify things a bit, we do not have gondolas or bubble quads to the chagrin of some, but now that seems as though it could be an advantage. Open air doubles, triples and quads as discussed in a recent New York Magazine article appear to be less of a risk than an enclosed space. Science is showing that the greatest risks come from poorly ventilated indoor environments when masks are not worn, social distancing is not practiced, and when the duration of the stay is fifteen minutes or longer. We will likely continue to know even more about the virus in the weeks and months ahead.
But given what we know now, it is likely that the normally large weekend and holiday indoor crowds will not be allowed in restaurants, bars, rentals, and ski and ride school. It may be that online reservations will become our new normal, as it has for golf this summer and for dining a Hogan’s Pub. It may be that more people are working at home or in their second homes here in the Mad River Valley and that our skier visits could get spread out over 7 days instead of being concentrated on Saturdays and a few holidays. Wouldn’t that make for a better experience? It may be that there is more demand for private ski and ride lessons that become more like group privates with friends and families signing up together rather than being placed with strangers. It may be that we have more outdoor dining and après options in the Lincoln Peak Courtyard and elsewhere.
Of course, the current quarantine measures that are in place here in Vermont and elsewhere will need to be followed and weekend visits for out of state guests could be impacted. There are still many unknowns today, but our team here at Sugarbush and throughout the Alterra Mountain Company family have been working on solutions these past several months, so that we are prepared to adapt to whatever happens in order provide all of you with the best experience possible. Being part of Alterra Mountain Company has been a real advantage, as we are able to share ideas and create solutions together as a large team rather than having to go it alone.
So yes, I am confident that we will be skiing and riding this winter. We will just all have to be flexible and more patient than our Type A personalities are used to. It is time to start getting the quads and core back into shape and checking your equipment. Opening day is nearer now than closing day last spring.