Pandemic prompts permanent upgrades at area ski resorts

Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 5:37 PM EST
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STOWE, Vt. (WCAX) - If you’re thinking about hitting the slopes this winter, you’ll notice some COVID policies have been relaxed while other practices are here to stay.

As the trails get a fresh coat of snow for the new season, Stowe is getting the resort ready for new visitors.

“We’ve been able to back off and take the plexiglass down and get a little bit closer indoors,” said Bobby Murphy with Stowe Mountain Resort. “You’re going to find that our indoor spaces are going to be used a lot more like they used to.”

While some visitor experiences are returning to that pre-pandemic feel, some infrastructure investments are here to stay. “More opportunities to congregate outside but with the ability to go inside -- kind of have the best of both worlds,” Murphy said. They added outdoor seating and warming stations have stuck around. Also, the grab-and-go food options will continue. “You can pull up to a window, grab some food and drinks and keep going really.”

The resort is staying cashless and increased cleaning schedules remain. On the mountain, upgrades to RFID technology and the testing of on-phone lift tickets have also stuck.

Stowe isn’t the only one with COVID carry-over. “Continue to attract people and make the experience more enjoyable, which ultimately is better for the state because it brings people to the ski areas,” said Bryan Rivard with Ski Vermont. The Vermont Legislature in 2021 allocated $2.5 million to the ski industry to keep them running and to make some operational upgrades for guests. Rivard says since then, resorts have also invested their own money into outdoor upgrades for comfort and advancements in touchless tech. “With the economic drive that the ski industry has, that it is beneficial to invest that money when needed because we do get it back.”

Beyond allowing travelers to feel comfortable visiting, Rivard says the changes made have also driven up efficiency for many resorts. “In terms of spreading folks out and efficiency, yeah, I think it has done a lot to keep people moving and maximize their time on the mountain,” Rivard said.

Back in Stowe, Murphy says one lesson he hopes carries over from the pandemic is planning ahead. “When you do, that helps us plan for the experience. So the more purchases that are done with advance, the more we can prepare the resort and the arrival for people,” he said.