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Skiing in the Pandemic

ski diva

Staff member
So what's it like skiing during these challenging times? How are crowds? How's parking? Are people social distancing? Wearing masks? Any reservation problems? Post your impressions about your ski days here.

For example: I'm not too impressed with the so-called capacity limitations. I think it's been pretty crowded. And like many of you, I think the lift lines have been long. But I think that's probably because the chairs are loading with fewer people, so things are getting backed up.

What do you think?
I’m really happy with Sunday River so far. Lines are still policed. This week has gone back and forth, most people are wearing their masks, but some “first day skiing for the season” folks need more reminders by patrol in line than those of us who’ve been coming out for weeks already now. Not really surprising. Honestly, besides being sure to wear a face covering in the appropriate places (which is now feeling like a habit to me and has gotten much easier to maintain with the colder weather), not spending time inside for apres’, and riding alone or spaced out on lifts.. skiing feels the same as always to me.

I park at my condo on the mountain (but we also don’t have parking reservations in general and have lots of parking areas at different bases, and I haven’t heard anything bad about this so far) and we don’t have reservations for passholders to ski here.. So the logistics haven’t changed at all for me outside of testing ahead of ski weekends. Lines can look long in some areas due to fewer boarding the lift together and spacing between lines, but for the most part now they move faster than high volume weekend and holiday period days in normal years because there aren’t as many people. I think this has more to do with the recent weather than the pandemic though. Sunday River has most of their lifts going at this point which really spreads people out. This should continue to improve with increasing terrain.

I’m so thankful I’ve been able to get out so much already. I’ll have 20 days in by the end of this vacation week period, and hope to have many more in the months ahead. I feel safe outside and have tested weekly as required with no issues. No complaints here yet.
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I am looking forward to trying again after the vacation ends. So lucky to be able to ski midweek and avoid the crowds!

My experience thus far at Hunter was not promising. I skied both the day before, and the day after, the huge Northeast snowstorm. (Remember that? It was right before the even-more-huge rainstorm that washed away much or all of the snow.) The day before was nice, no big crowds, people generally acting human. The powder day was a bit nightmarish. Much of the mountain wasn't open, crowding the lifts terribly, and the human factor was, er, problematic. Starting next week, I'll be sampling Hunter, Windham, and Belleayre with the Hudson Valley Ski Club, including a free lesson! Here's hoping!


Angel Diva
I skied with a few friends at Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee, and Alta in early December. We were home before the holiday period started. My general impression is that independent destination resorts like JHMR and Alta have done more effective training for lifties and other staff regarding mask usage and distancing in lift lines. That's based on first-hand experience and what I've been reading from Divas and others.

While a few lifties at GT were reminding people to cover their noses while in the lift line or as they were getting ready to load a chair, that happened less consistently. GT still does hand scanning of lift tickets or passes. The scanners were asking people to turn their ticket, if necessary, in order to keep a little farther away. We were at GT on a sunny Saturday that was the first weekend with pretty good snow coverage, so locals were out in force. The lift line for the teaching/beginner terrain stayed long well into the afternoon. People were pretty good about mask usage indoors in general. At JHMR and GT, we mostly went indoors for a quick stop in the restroom.

Turns out that Alta has a big advantage when it comes to distancing at the base of lifts because they use the "front row" process for the lift lines. The basic idea is that there are a set of parallel lanes that end at a pre-loading area in front of the RFID gates. When the gates are clear and there is space after the gates that is the actual loading zone, a liftie calls out "Front Row" and the groups (1-4 people) at the front of each line pull out, turn 90 degrees, and head towards the RFID gate. Don't know how things worked before RFID was installed for 2007-08 but by now it's standard practice that's well ingrained for Alta regulars. There is no Singles lane this season.

Plus Alta has a lot of space for longer then usual lift lines with ghost lanes in between for spacing. For instance, Instead of 6 (or 7?) lines for Sugarloaf (mid-mountain lift), there were 4 lanes with a 3-ft ghost lanes in between. When it was busy the lanes were three times as long as usual, with the end marked by small blue fences that blocked entry to the ghost lanes. On Friday morning when it was busy, they were adding length around 10:30. On the previous days, there was a double length that was taken down after 11:00 or so. But if not busy at all, people can always duck the ropes and not have to go all the way to the end. There were similar adjustments to have more length and spacing for Collins and Wildcat.


Angel Diva
I am trying to remain hopeful. Although I do recall one of my ski instructor friends pointed out that I have a bad habit (probably due to spending more than 20 years of my life doing risk analysis!) of seeing the worst case scenario! One of my doctors, also a skier, recently said just get outdoors and ski! He is all about keeping people moving and healthy as much and as long as possible. He works in Cancer Center‘s so I appreciate his encouragement! I also plan to mine the experience already developed by @ski diva! it’s always helpful to have someone who’s been there already! Right now my biggest worry is getting my car packed!
We went to our small local mountain on the discount night last Saturday. We will choose different hours next time. A lot of 20 somethings not wearing masks properly, hanging maskless in the lodge in big groups, wearing masks with breathing holes for nose and mouth. No enforcement. I would bet non-discount times are safer. Since we weren’t inside for more than the restroom, I felt we were fairly safe. I have been very cautious and, other than working, haven't been indoors with anyone other than my spouse and children since early March. Outdoors has been different. We are always masked but I’m all for mountain biking and skiing whenever possible. I agree that we’ve all got to keep moving.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I've found non-holiday weekdays so far to be great, and I'm happy with my car-lodge setup after tinkering with a few details. The big powder day was a crowded, logistical mess, and I'm waiting for the holidays to be over before venturing to the resort again. Mostly I feel as though we're all still waiting for the season to really get started, since it's been a little warmer than usual and with one weeklong exception, we haven't had any natural snow.

The big powder dump we got here in central VT was interesting. There were hundreds of people in the lot of our little community hill taking advantage of the backcountry opportunities. I've never seen so many cars in the lot. At first I thought this was an indication of how popular backcountry skiing would be in general this year; later we realized that most of the crowds were people from the Burlington/Stowe area just coming down for the snow, which missed the northern part of the state.
I'm interested in people's experiences with lift lines and parking, so thanks to everyone for reporting on that.

I had one great day and one day that wasn't worth the hassle and time due to so much time spent in lift lines (the parking situation was bad too--I barely squeaked in before it filled). I've been watching webcams and reading reports and long lines and full parking has been the norm, though it is the holiday break.

I know they aren't loading full chairs and people are driving separately, so I know why these things are happening. (I also know that these things don't translate into crowded runs, necessarily.) We were planning on taking overnight trips to areas further from Seattle so we wouldn't have to deal with lift lines etc, but now I'm wondering if that's just the way it is necessarily going to be. I hate to kennel the dog and pay for a hotel just to stand in someone else's lift lines.
My experience has been basically the same as what @MissySki describes. Except, I think I'm less tolerant of lines and crowds. Past years I've always utilized the singles line to lessen wait times and fill chairs. Without that as an option, I have found the wait times longer than past years. Between that and the lack of snow, I've definitely been skiing shorter days than usual.
I talked to Mr. Blizzard today, who said that Killington had great snow, and the lift lines weren't bad at all, but the runs were crowded. I said, "?" and he said there weren't enough trails open. He said it got crowded by 10, and he left by 11.
Lucky you.

Quite a few of the Vail owned mountains in the Northeast had left their web cam “offline” since the beginning of the season (Hunter, Mount Snow, Stowe)
I noticed that Stevens Pass (now a Vail property) no longer has a cam that shows their main lower mountain lift. I don't know if they took that out when they bought the place, or if it's a recent thing.

But. there is a DOT cam on the highway that shows the parking lots and any highway backup, so you can tell what is going on looking at those. The Stevens Pass web cam page used to include these DOT cams, but they no longer do.
A lot of 20 somethings not wearing masks properly, hanging maskless in the lodge in big groups, wearing masks with breathing holes for nose and mouth. No enforcement.
Ahh - perhaps they are related to the bros of Killington, or at Mountain High in California, according to @Après Skier :

":cry: much of the clientele consists of packs teenage boys who were raised by wolves"
(See https://www.theskidiva.com/forums/index.php?threads/hi-from-southern-california.25316/#post-424535 )
I noticed that Stevens Pass (now a Vail property) no longer has a cam that shows their main lower mountain lift. I don't know if they took that out when they bought the place, or if it's a recent thing.
Sunday River did the same...no more webcam showing one of the main bases (this location also tends to have the longest lift lines....coincidence? probably not).
A few of the southeast ski resorts also changed the orientation of their webcams so that lift lines aren't in view.

An exception is my home mountain in northern VA, Massanutten. Someone posted a screen shot on another ski forum. Immediately someone who doesn't ski there was critical of what was perceived to be lack of distancing in the lift lines. Since I ski there all the time, I could easily see that people were not as packed together as usual. For a holiday week, it was clear that capacity limits were working.

Massanutten is not requiring reservations for season passholders or Indy holders. Using a staggered timeframe for day tickets, with property owners getting more advance access than resort guests (timeshare, condo rental) or the general public.