Ski areas thriving despite virus

Ski areas thriving despite virus
Bromley Mountain

It’s safe to say nobody truly expected COVID-19 to have the substantial and long-lasting impact it has had when the virus first spread ferociously in the United States in mid-March of 2020.

Four powerhouses in the outdoor winter recreational business may not have anticipated the lingering of the virus to continue over into their busiest season of the year, but they have adjusted accordingly.

Willard, West, Killington (Vermont) and Bromley (Vermont) Mountains are all operating with the intent of providing an exhilarating escape for visitors.

Willard Mountain, 77 Intervale Road, Greenwich

Willard Mountain owner Chic Wilson opened up about being grateful to allow the 65 attendees at a time access to the total of 16 ski trails and a tubing hill.

Willard Mountain welcome sign

“I could not be happier with how our customer base is reacting to these rules,” Wilson said. “It’s a good thing we’re regulating the number of people coming to us, or else we would be overcrowded.”

The miscommunication or lack thereof from the state on what’s considered low-risk sports and whether or not the ski season would commence was threatening to the mind and pocket of Wilson.

He said he could afford to cut the dining experience but losing his lift ticket sales would have been the dagger to prevent him from breaking even.

Ski slope and tubing park at Willard Mountain.

“One helluva scary time for anyone that owns or operates a ski area… Nobody seems to know exactly what’s going on,” Wilson said. “Inside you have to cut your capacity by 50%. How do I prevent a mother with two kids in tow coming in to go to the bathroom?”

Willard Mountain is typically open in two-hour spurts Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursdays from noon to 9 p.m., Fridays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., but hours are subject to change especially with holidays and holiday weeks.

The best way to check availability for skiing and tubing is on Willard Mountain’s official website at http://www.willardmountain.com. You can also call at 518-692-7337.

West Mountain, 59 West Mountain Road, Queensbury

West Mountain welcome sign

Although no management personnel were able to comment by press time, Brian Lavine, a skier for 40 years and current teacher from Cobleskill, took time out of his day after shredding the slopes on Thursday to talk about his passion for West Mountain.

“A long time ago, I started a ski program there, and this is where we came. I brought kids here for six weeks,” Lavine said. “My daughter is getting ready to go back to SUNY Geneseo, so she’s here, and she’s never skied before, actually only a couple of times, so I’m taking her out skiing before she goes back to college!”

While following COVID protocols, West Mountain offers 31 trails and a tubing park to explore. Their website also provides a live feed of the trails to give visitors an idea of the conditions before they head over.

“It’s great to be outside and do stuff that’s normal,” Lavine said. “We just want to get some normalcy back. Hopefully as more and more people get vaccinated and the world starts to open up, we’ll be good, we’ll be back to what we were two years ago.”

“West Mountain has 100% mounted snowmaking and 100% lighted trails to make day and night skiing equally enjoyable,” its website says.

View from the parking lot of the ski slope at West Mountain.

Lavine said he credits the snowmaking, maintenance, accessibility and conveniency as reasons to why he enjoys making the hour-and-a-half drive to West Mountain.

Non-holiday hours to ski are Mondays from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Non-holiday hours for the tube park are Fridays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information and to view discount bundles and packages, go to https://westmountain.com/  or call (518) 636-3699.

Killington Mountain, 3861 Killington Rd, Killington, Vermont

Killington Mountain, the jaw-dropping attraction known to many as “the beast,” is a destination hotspot for skiers and snowboarders in the northeast.

Courtney DiFiore is the spokesperson for Killington/Pico Ski Resort Partners, LLC, and she provided insight on how the thousands of weekly visitors, both in-state and out-of-state, have been reacting to the COVID-19 protocols and restrictions.

Killington Mountain from the parking lot.

“While Killington Resort continues to offer a great skiing and riding experience, guests will notice a few changes this season, most notably, the need to plan ahead. Here, you’ll find our five steps to booking your Killington experience, starting with checking Vermont cross state travel guidelines. This season, as part of Operation Stay Safe, parking reservations are required on weekends and peak days.

”While parking is still free, having guests make reservations in advance is one of the ways we’re ensuring the wellbeing of all through the careful management of the number of people at the resort at any given time,” DiFiore said via email. “Face masks covering the nose and mouth are also required. Additionally, guests are instructed to pre-purchase their lift tickets online and use our outdoor pickup kiosks for a quick and contactless experience. Once on resort, guests will notice the lift cues are set up to allow physical distancing, base lodges have limited capacity and there are additional (new) food options in the form of local food trucks around the resort.”

One Killington, Vermont man who chose to remain anonymous walked-and-talked uphill on his way to meet up with some buddies, saying that he’s been skiing at Killington for anywhere from 20-to-30 years and that the pandemic won’t stop him.

“I ski every day, I have 65 days in now,” the man said. “When you live here, we have this thing called the 100-day club, so I’m part of that.”

DiFiore said the challenges with operating a ski resort during a global pandemic are inevitable, but the staff on-hand was ready to answer the call.

“The Killington team is filled with seasoned professionals making the transition from ‘normal’ operations to operating amidst a pandemic smoother than expected,” DiFiore wrote back. “While it has its challenges, we’ve been able to navigate the last 9 months together with the help from Powdr, our parent company, and created scalable and flexible plans.”

Killington is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays and Sudnays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. as well.

For more information on restrictions and practices to follow, go to https://www.killington.com/ or call at (800) 734-9435.

Bromley Mountain, Route 11, Peru, Vermont

Last but certainly not least is Bromley Mountain, located just outside Manchester, Vermont and the Green Mountain National Forest.

Marketing coordinator Savannah Strom explained how the slow-growing incremental snowfall and cold weather has created ideal conditions on the slopes. Forty-four inches of snow in the month of January generated countless “non-stop powder days” to cruise downhill and enjoy the scenery.

“So far this year, Mother Nature started off slow,” Strom said. “Snow-makers have been gifted with cold weather.”

Although the mountain is anywhere from 50 to 60% lower in attendance this season, Strom said they are 100% open with “place to roam.” She’s excited to see more smiling faces through the masks that serves as PPE during COVID-19 as President’s Day weekend quickly approaches.

“Skiing, snowboarding or whatever you do out on the mountain is a good outlet,” Strom said. “You can really hear the happiness on the mountain.”

Ticket sales, snowsports reservations and guest services are available Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., as well as Saturday, Sunday and peak periods from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information, go to https://www.bromley.com/ or call 802-824-5522.