I want to preface this post by saying I was super nervous to ski during the pandemic. It turned out to be a lovely time.
It’s winter and there’s only one good thing that comes with that: ski (and snowboard) season. My awesome dad (also known as Rippin’ Russ while on the mountain) planned a quick getaway to Vermont for our first trip of the season. This was my first time skiing in Vermont in a couple of years, so I was stoked to get back to my old stomping grounds. However, some of that stoke was diminished when I thought about the intricacies caused by trying to enjoy life during a pandemic like having to reserve a spot on the mountain and only being allowed inside the lodges for a certain amount of time. In the end, though, I am so close to saying that I had some of the best experiences while skiing during the pandemic (my hesitation is only because it sounds absurd to say). Let me break it down for you.
We skied at two mountains during our trip: Killington and Pico. Both resorts use the Epic Pass system, which means you can load your passes for the mountains (and any other mountain that uses Epic Pass) on one card through an online system. From the announcement and rules linked here, it seems that all Epic Pass resorts will be following the same general rules during the pandemic.
Plan your trip:
Epic Pass resorts are asking that skiers reserve both lift and parking tickets ahead of time. While tickets can be purchased the day of, they are subject to availability. The whole process upon arriving at the mountain is super simple. You drive up to a parking attendant and he or she scans your parking pass. You park, put on your gear (I will be discussing this later), and then head to the outside kiosks that distribute Epic Passes. If you already have a pass, you’re good to go and can start shredding!
The state of Vermont is asking that all travelers quarantine before entering the state along with receiving a negative COVID-19 test result. People can quarantine after they enter Vermont, but that would be quite a hassle for someone wanting to ski for just two days. Killington’s website says:
- Travelers arriving to Vermont in a personal vehicle must complete either a 14-day quarantine or a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative test in their home state and enter Vermont without further quarantine restrictions.
- Travelers arriving to Vermont who have not completed a pre-arrival quarantine must complete either a 14-day quarantine or a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative test in a Vermont lodging establishment or with friends and family (travelers must stay in their quarantine location for the duration of quarantine other than to travel to and from a test site).
Arrive at the mountain:
Alright, so you scanned your pass, parked and you’re ready to go. Now what? There are two options. The resorts recommend that guests gear up at their cars and head straight to the mountain. However, the lodges are open at a limited capacity, so it is possible to get ready inside and even store your bag in the lodge. If you do want to enter the lodge, make sure you have your pass ready and mask on because they will scan the pass upon entering and request that you put on a mask if you aren’t already wearing one.
Now that you have gotten your pass and geared up, you’re read to carve out some lines in the mountain! Luckily when I was skiing, there were absolutely zero crowds and I never had to worry about social distancing. There are two things worth mentioning, though: First, the mountain is not requiring chair lifts to be filled to capacity for social distancing reasons. They even have guidelines to follow so you know how to fill different sized chair lifts. Secondly, you must wear your mask while waiting in line. The attendants don’t care if you’re literally going from skiing right onto the chair lift. You must have your nose and mouth covered by either a coronavirus-type mask or a regular ski mask. However, you can pull the mask down while you’re actually in action.
Obviously skiing burns some energy, so you’re bound to want a snack or to head inside for a quick warm up. The Epic Pass resorts are offering grab-and-go type food and are requesting that guests do not stay inside for more than 30 minutes. Sorry buddy, there won’t be any glass clinking at the bar with your homies for a mid-day or après ski beer. While I was at Killington, they had a small outdoor food hut that offered soup and chili, plus a Waffle Cabin (my personal favorite), and that worked out perfectly. However, I can see that being an issue when it’s a 5-degree day and more people want to get inside.
There are so many different hotels around ski resorts, and while I can’t speak for them all, I can tell you that the Best Western in Rutland, Vermont was operating, but with coronavirus stipulations. There was no maid service during my stay and while they still do have breakfast included in the price, it’s not a hot make-your-own breakfast that you can eat with a bunch of families around. I do have to say they did have a surprisingly large food offering: pre-warmed, pre-made breakfast sandwiches, individually wrapped bagels and pastries, granola bars, yogurt, and more. Dad brought some eggs and bacon with us to our hotel and then grabbed some other side items from the hotel, so it worked out just fine.
Just typing this out really has me in awe with how put together the mountains are for ski season. The mountains were not crowded at all and the personnel stuck to the COVID-19 guidelines very tightly. In all honestly, skiing has to be the safest thing you can do during the pandemic besides sitting in your own home or hiking by yourself far away from humans.
Of course, I am just speaking from my own experience. I recommend that anyone planning a trip looks at the resort’s guidelines multiple times to make sure they’re prepared and ready to go. I think people can have an overall “normal” ski trip, which is the best thing ever, in my opinion. It really felt like the pandemic didn’t exist for once. What a treat. Of course one thing will never change: the feeling of bliss you get when you glide through some freshly groomed trails.