NORTH WOODSTOCK — In a return to some normalcy, the White Mountain Attractions Assn. is hailing Thursday’s opening of the Mt. Washington Auto Road for the 2020 season and the imminent openings of the Polar Caves Park, Lost River Gorge and the Akua Beach surf simulator at the Whale’s Tale Water Park.
The association has 17 member attractions, WMA President Charyl Reardon said on Wednesday, and while most are still closed due to the safety guidelines in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, some have re-opened or will do so soon.
Alpine Adventures in Lincoln opened last week, she said, while the Flume Gorge has been open since Memorial Day.
“You have to be happy to be moving towards getting open and welcoming visitors back,” said Reardon, in summing up the feelings of association members, “but all the while you still have to recognize that COVID-19 hasn’t gone away. We’re taking all the proper precautions and implementing all the proper guidelines to make sure everyone – both visitors and employees — are safe.”
At the Auto Road, which has taken visitors to the top of the tallest mountain in the Northeast since 1861, keeping everyone safe means restricting travel to “drive yourself” only, said Crispin Battles, who is the marketing director of both the Auto Road and the Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center.
In a prepared statement, he said guided van tours “are on hold as we develop protocols and procedures to keep our employees and customers safe.”
“All businesses — retail, lodging, hospitality and attractions — are making extraordinary efforts to adapt their business models to keep their employees and customers safe. The Mt. Washington Auto Road, and its sister company, Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center, are no exception,” said Battles. “In fact, every aspect of our businesses have been analyzed and adapted to provide customers with the safest possible experience, without sacrificing any of the excitement and fun.”
Whale’s Tale, on its Facebook page, said it had received permission from the state to open the Akua Beach ride only as of Wednesday.
Billed as “the only wave of its kind in New England,” Akua Beach will be open to groups of 10 or fewer riders.
In addition to the above attractions, Reardon said member ski areas are preparing to open later this month for summer activities “and hopefully, we’ll get some good news from (Gov. Chris Sununu) later in the week as to when amusement parks can open.”
Asked about the financial challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, Reardon said “most attractions can get through the season” if they are able to open on or about July 1.
That said, bus tours, which represent a small, but growing segment of business in the spring and early summer, have been cancelled due to the pandemic, but tour operators have kept their fall tours “on the books for right now,” said Reardon.