Now that summer has come to an end, some may be thinking about the upcoming ski season.
Local ski areas have been working on plans for opening in a way that is healthy and safe.
The Connecticut Skiers Association has been meeting with officials at Mount Southington since July to come up with a comprehensive operating plan, said Jay Dougherty, Mount Southington president and general manager. The group has received guidance from the National Skiers Association and the state of Connecticut.
“Basically, (Mount Southington) will be limiting capacity,” Dougherty said. “Priority is going to go to our season passholders. We’re not going to make our passholders make reservations or anything like that, but day tickets will be limited.”
Along with a “more robust e-store,” Dougherty said that a lot of the food services at Mount Southington will be moved outdoors.
“We’re going to have food trucks that will be on site and we’ve purchased additional tables for outdoor seating,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty said that it will be easy for skiers to social distance on the slopes. However, lines to get on the ski lift had to be redesigned and the staff will be cleaning areas such as bathrooms more frequently.
“We’re requiring masks and all of the typical COVID-19 protocols,” Dougherty said. “There's going to be an increased frequency of cleaning things like bathrooms, indoor spaces. We’ve actually added a bag check here for our base lodge. A lot of changes.”
Those who come to Mount Southington together can sit together on the lift up to the mountain.
“If you arrive together in the same car, we have no problem with you riding the lift together,” Dougherty said. “We won’t force anybody to ride with somebody they don’t know. We don’t have large capacity lifts like they do up north so we’re not going to try to distance people on the (same) chair that don’t know each other.”
Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort felt the impact of the pandemic right at the end of its winter season.
“We were basically at the end of our winter season when (COVID-19) hit so obviously it hurt because we had to close down early in the winter season and we also had to close down the restaurant, which is year round,” said Laura Loffredo, director of sales and marketing. “It hurt and we had to lay off lots of people. We weren’t sure what it was going to look like and when we would be able to open, but we were able to open back up when we got the OK for restaurants...”
Powder Ridge was able to create different kinds of outdoor dining.
“We have the outdoor firepit now that you can have dining service around,” Loffredo said. “We have all sorts of tables out there on the deck … It really worked very well because the public was very comfortable coming out and dining.”
Powder Ridge offers year-round recreation opportunities. After a successful summer handling the occupancy restrictions and COVID-19 protocols, Loffredo said “they’re still going at it” with the fall sports — mountain biking, ziplining and disc golf.
Powder Ridge owner Shawn Hayes said he’s been in contact with state officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and managers and owners of other Connecticut ski areas to formulate a solid winter plan.
Plans include a bag check, mandatory mask wearing and buying date-specific tickets.
“In the past, you’re always able to either purchase a ticket online or just show up on site and get your day pass,” Loffredo said. “Because of occupancy requirements, we are going to require people to purchase their tickets online and it is date-specific. There may be a chance you’ll come on site and purchase your pass when you get here as long as there’s availability.”
By staying open through the winter, Loffredo says she is glad Powder Ridge will continue to offer ways of getting active outside.
“Getting outside, getting active, being able to communicate with people in a really safe environment,” Loffredo said. “Skiing, inherently, we are wearing masks and goggles so I think it’s just a great opportunity … We want to get kids out there, get them active and learn a new sport.”