Vermont ski resorts confident in COVID-19 protocols, eager to begin season

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KILLINGTON, Vt. – Vermont ski resorts are preparing to kick off the winter season, welcoming back skiiers and riders for the first time since March.

Killington Resort will be the first to open its lifts – season pass holders can make their first runs of the season at 9 am on Friday, and trails open to the general public on Monday.

There are strict health and safety guidelines that visitors must follow on the slopes and in the base lodge. You’ll also need to reserve a parking spot and purchase tickets online. A full list of the resort’s safety protocols and requirements can be found on the Killington website.

Snowmaking continued at Killington Ski Resort Thursday. Trails will open for season pass holders on Friday.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep people outdoors as much as possible, and in terms of base lodges, we’ve reduced capacity substantially,” said Mike Solimano, President and General Manager of Killington and Pico Ski Resorts. “We’re using our RFID system that tracks people on the mountain to track people into the lodge, so we can know who was in what lodge at what time and work with the State on any contact tracing as needed.”

Because there’s a lowered indoor capacity, Solimano said skiers and riders may want to think of their vehicles as a base lodge, and avoid going into buildings when possible.

“It’s really important for guests to go to our website and look at the things that have changed,” Solimano said. “There’s a lot of new rules, but we think we’re still going to provide a great experience outdoors.”

Bolton Valley Resort also had their snow guns blowing on Thursday, with hopes to open up Thanksgiving weekend.

Snowmaking at Bolton Valley Resort Thursday morning.

Resort president Lindsay DesLauriers explained how some of the safety measures in place will already be familiar to skiiers and riders.

“So many of the guidelines are actually translatable between industries,” DesLauriers said. “The ski industry has restaurants, the ski industry has lodging, so a lot of those things can be taken from other sectors.”

In recent months, Vermont ski resorts came together to work with Governor Phil Scott on a reopening plan. It limits lodge capacity to 50 percent, or no more than 75 people. Resorts will collect contact tracing information for all people who enter their lodges, and a safety officer will be present to ensure compliance.

Ski lift lines will adhere to physical distancing guidelines, and facial coverings are required. Guests will have the opportunity to ride with members of their traveling party, or load at no more than 50 percent capacity with other skiers and riders.

“It’s really been clear to me that everyone is totally committed to the safety of our guests, the safety of our customers, the safety of our staff and to having a ski season,” DesLauriers said.

It’s been a long wait for Vermont ski resorts as they prepare to welcome back visitors safely. Jay Peak Communications Director JJ Toland even knew exactly how many days it’s been since the resort’s last day of operation.

“Let’s see, it’s been 248 days since we hit the killswitch on what was going to be our most profitable season to date last March,” Toland said. “To say there’s pent up anticipation in the staff is an understatement.”

Jay Peak snowmaking on Thursday, November 19 (courtesy: Jay Peak Resort)

Jay Peak is aiming to open for skiing and riding Friday, November 27.

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