Skiing this season has been over-the-top fantastic, mediocre, even bad...pretty much like every January I can remember for the last 30+ years. So what's really been different? Since the start of the season, ski instructor, John Gelb has skied regularly at Stratton,VT and Butternut, MA and shares his observations and 7 tips to have a seamless experience.
For starters, the large majority of resorts are requiring guests to "use their cars like their base lodge." While this is best practice, many of the differentiating features this season arise from avoiding indoor spaces.
1. Make a master checklist of what you need to bring. Walking to the lifts in ski boots isn’t fun and can be even worse if you need to make an additional trip because someone in your party forgot something.
2. Consider adding a small or medium backpack to your setup. Even a small one can hold important stuff such as extra hand warmers, an extra pair of old goggles, extra mittens, energy bars, chapstick, neck warmers, even candy when you need it.
3. Have a plan for drop-off, especially when traveling with young children. The prep time to get going can seem like FOREVER to small kids. Figure out a plan for the parking lot ahead of time and don't hesitate to divide and conquer. Hint—arrange a meetup close to the ski lifts. Watching a kid’s total emotional meltdown before he or she even gets on the mountain is unhappy even for a third party observer.
4. Figure out all the ski resort’s rules ahead of time. Do you need to make a reservation to ski or to park? Do you need a reservation for a place to sit in the base lodge? For example, at Stratton, guests need to reserve a table through the OpenTable app. Make your reservation ahead of time and be prepared to eat early or late and plan breakfasts and snacks accordingly.
5. Start your day early, or stay late. This season, it's taking longer for crowds to arrive, leaving the first couple of hours wonderfully uncrowded. The resorts are loading lifts at no more than 50% capacity and skiers are arriving more slowly, enabling less crowded trails earlier in the day.
People are also heading out a bit earlier than usual, as lodging restrictions are forcing many people to head to their cars to warm up or even go home for lunch. If you're able to stay later into the afternoon, you'll have the mountain all to yourself.
6. Be more courteous than usual and you’ll feel good all day. Remember, all of the resort staff are working harder to keep things safe so that they can stay open and we can have fun.
7. Lessons are running smoothly, but make sure to reserve them in advance. As a ski instructor, it feels the same: kids and adults want to learn, and I’m teaching them. The only difference is we’re all wearing masks, and I’m probably talking a bit louder than usual!
--> Related: The Inside Scoop on Ski Lessons During Covid
Once you're on the mountain and cruising down runs, things will feel about as normal as they can. With the right preparation you will have fond memories of skiing during the COVID pandemic. The ski resorts are doing the super difficult job of trying to comply with all COVID health regulations. Is it perfect? No, but skiing is a safe, outdoor activity and I totally forget about COVID each time I point my skis downhill. Stay safe and don’t miss this 2020-21 ski season!
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