Following the lead of their corporate parent, four New Hampshire alpine ski resorts -- Wildcat, Attitash, Mount Sunapee, and Crotched Mountain -- have announced that “Reservations will be required to access our mountains” during the 2020/21 season.
Recently, Vail Resorts, which is based in Broomfield, Colo., and operates 37 resorts worldwide, including those four New Hampshire locations, defined how it was going to do business in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Among those ways is a reservation system and an emphasis on minimizing human contact.
Jessyca Keeler, the executive director of Ski NH, a not-for-profit, member-based trade association that supports 30 alpine and cross country ski areas in the Granite State, on Sunday said that the association is aware of what Vail has proposed and that it, too, is looking at ways to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
She cautioned, however, that while there will be many similarities in how that happens, some resorts may have their own additional precautions, and possibly, reservation systems.
But as of Sunday, she said only one Ski NH member – Mount Sunapee – has declared that it will utilize a pass-holder reservation system, but that system will also be in place at Wildcat, Attitash and Crotched Mountain, none of which are members of SKI NH.
On their websites, all four of the Vail resorts in New Hampshire say that the reservation system is intended “…to give you peace of mind knowing that you will have the space you need to feel safe and physically distanced, no matter what day you visit.”
“Reservations will be required to access our mountains,” the websites said, adding that “For the vast majority of days, we anticipate our mountains will be able to accommodate everyone who wants to ski or ride at our resorts.”
In an Aug. 27 letter to guests, VAIL CEO Rob Katz said the reservation system is one of several pandemic changes that include requiring all guests to wear face coverings “to get on the mountain and in all parts of resort operations, including in lift lines and riding in lifts and gondolas.”
“We want to provide assurance to our guests that we will do our very best to minimize crowds at all times – be it a holiday weekend or the unpredictable powder day,” he said. “We believe this approach will help ensure a safe experience for everyone, while prioritizing access for our pass holders.”
Bretton Woods, which is New Hampshire’s largest alpine ski area and a SKI NH member, plans to open for Thanksgiving and, on its website, said it, too, was looking at ways to make the resort safer.
“We may be implementing pre-purchase policies for day tickets and rentals,” a message on its website states, “and some of our services could be modified or not offered until we can safely do so.”
Loon Mountain on Aug. 26 said that 10 days earlier “all New England Pass and resort-specific winter season passes were moved off sale” and that it, Sunday River and Sugarloaf — with which Loon participates in the New England Pass — “will be offering different sets of pass products to allow each of us to best address the uncertainty and potential challenges of operating under COVID-19 this winter.”
Loon expected to present its pass products after Labor Day.
“We’re all trying to figure out what it (the upcoming season) is going to look like and in terms of ticket sales or pass sales or reservations, that’s going to vary for everyone because not everyone operates the same as Vail,” said Keeler.
Overall, she said Ski NH is “trying to encourage touchless ticket or pass purchases and whatever we can do to get people straight to the lift to avoid contact.”
She said Ski NH, as well as individual members, are working on how to accommodate customers who purchase tickets in advance and have a change in plan, stressing that “everybody knows this is a different time and we want to be as consumer-friendly as possible.”
Once Ski NH has figured out what each member is doing to control the pandemic and how that may affect their operations, that information will immediately be made public, said Keeler.
While positive about the 2020/21 season, Keeler acknowledged that it may bring fundamental changes to both skiers/ snowboarders and alpine resorts.
In some cases, “It’s probably going to be harder to just drive up and buy a ticket,” she said, “which is why it will be so important for people to do their homework” before heading to a resort.
“Know before you go,” said Keeler.