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New statewide guidance for NH ski resorts

Published: Oct. 5, 2020 at 5:34 PM EDT
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LEBANON, N.H. (WCAX) - New Hampshire has released its guidelines for the upcoming ski season. But some resorts that own mountains in New Hampshire and Vermont have already issued guidelines of their own.

“We will be scaling back the number of visitors, at least initially,” said Bonnie Macpherson of Okemo Mountain.

Okemo is owned by Vail Resorts which has ski areas in Vermont, New Hampshire and New York. The company has issued guidelines for the winter season which include social distancing and masks at all times, except when heading down the slopes.

“We are going to make snow like we always do, we are going to open every chair like we always do, every trail. So, we are just going to be in alignment with whatever those agencies decide,” Macpherson said.

New Hampshire’s new statewide guidance includes health screenings at the ticket counters. Personal items, like bags, will not be allowed in the base lodges which means skiers and riders will be changing into their gear at their cars. It’s a change for an industry that has a huge economic impact across the region.

“Critical, absolutely critical,” said Randy Haskell of the Boot Pro.

The Ludlow business rents and sells gear to people heading up the mountain to Okemo. Employees there are confident, despite COVID-19, the upcoming season will be strong.

“You know, a lot of people are using their vacation homes, living here and we are seeing the results of that,” Haskell said.

Other businesses are adapting their model. The Hatchery has been serving breakfast and lunch on Main Street in Ludlow for almost two decades. But the takeout window is brand new.

“The takeout has been really good this year. And we are going to do curbside pickup for the winter so nobody will have to freeze,” said owner Christy Stocker.

Vail is reporting an 18% increase in season pass purchases compared to this time last year. Though officials say some of that is due to credits from last season, which was cut short.

“There is really a pent up demand. People want to feel normal,” Macpherson said.

The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development is working with the health department to fine-tune its guidelines for the winter ski season. Those guidelines are expected in the next few weeks.

Another factor for the upcoming ski season is Vermont’s continuing travel restrictions. The resorts rely on visitors from southern New England, New York and New Jersey. People coming from those areas could be required to quarantine before hitting the slopes.

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