Ski season winds down after tough year thanks to pandemic

Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 5:00 PM EDT
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KILLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The ski season is wrapping up across our region, though a handful of resorts are still open. It’s an industry that took a huge hit because of the pandemic.

The signs of spring are all around us but the die-hard skiers at Killington are still making turns.

“We ski but we don’t necessarily love the cold,” said Robin Belsky

Belsky says she looks forward to spring skiing every year. And, she’s not alone.

“A little sun, a little tailgating, a lot of friends,” Belsky said.

The good vibes extend down the access road to the Lookout Tavern where owners are putting a positive spin on a tough year.

“It was kind of a roller coaster, a little bit of good news, some really bad news, and then it was encouraging as well,” said Phil Black, the owner of the Lookout Tavern.

From Killington to Ludlow, another Vermont ski town, the pandemic’s impact on the industry is downplayed.

“We had a ton of beginners who were purchasing equipment rather than renting,” said Patrick Ross with Tygart Mountain Sports.

Molly Mahar is the president of Ski Vermont, the industry group for the state’s ski areas.

“From a COVID perspective, it was a success,” Mahar said.

But, there is no doubt, there was a downside. With the quarantine restrictions in place, it’s estimated COVID-19 had a direct cost to ski resorts in lost business of around $100 million. While season pass visits were up, day tickets were off around 40%. And peak holiday visits were down roughly 35%.

“It is really important that the Department of Tourism has the resources they need to be able to get out to the world and tell them, ‘Hey listen, we are open for business,’ we are welcoming visitors back,” Mahar said.

Mahar says in the short term, big capital projects at ski areas could be put on hold as they absorb the losses. She says future jobs could also be impacted.

“I don’t know that there are very many industries in the state that don’t rely on tourism directly or indirectly,” Ross said.

That’s because skiing, no matter the conditions, is not just about the snow.

“It was tough with the quarantining, I think, for everybody. Vermont had it particularly hard. But we were here to enjoy it,” Belsky said.

Mountain officials at Killington say the trails will be open into May, weather permitting, however, they are already looking forward to a flurry of summer activities that are currently being planned.

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