SAM Magazine—Montpelier, Vt., Nov. 3, 2020—The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development in cooperation with the Vermont Department of Health, Vermont Department of Public Safety, and the Vermont Ski Areas Association released operating guidance today for the state’s ski areas. The guidance details a variety of requirements that ski areas must adhere to this winter, along with other suggested measures, all aimed at community, employee, and guest safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
To start, Vermont ski areas must build customized operating plans in accordance with multiple state and federal regulations covering all aspects of business, from lodging capacity to lift queues.
Ski areas are mandated to collect the name, phone number, and email of every guest to the resort each day for contact tracing purposes, similar to New York state guidelines for ski areas. Guests must also attest that they are in compliance with the state’s travel and quarantine policies. This information can be collected in advance online or on site.
“Resorts must be able to demonstrate to state authorities that each guest completed an attestation. Attestations must include a warning that failure to comply with the state’s travel and quarantine policy may result in the loss of future skiing and riding privileges,” the guidance states.
Vermont ski areas must also put in place a quarantine process that aligns with the state’s strict travel guidelines for long-term seasonal workers traveling to Vermont, to restrict them from interacting with other employees or guests for the 14-day quarantine period, or seven days with a negative test. The state is also encouraging a decrease in out-of-state staff and volunteers who come only on weekends. Such workers are not required to adhere to the existing travel policies, but they are asked to reduce social contacts and avoid crowds outside of work.
Guests will be able to ride lifts with members of the same party, or load at no more than 50 percent capacity singularly. Enclosed lifts shall only serve members of the same traveling group or provide six feet of distance between traveling groups. Windows of enclosed lifts shall remain open.
Lodge capacities will also be restricted to 50 percent, or 75 people per any unique indoor space, whichever is less. Resorts are also encouraged to collect contact tracing information for guests entering a lodge, including time in inside and where they sat, though it is not mandated.
“From the beginning, Vermont has taken an extremely conservative approach in its response to COVID-19. It has been a successful approach, but it’s come at great expense to our hospitality industry," said Vermont Ski Areas Association president Molly Mahar. "This is the ski industry’s biggest hurdle when contemplating the upcoming winter season—as the majority of our skier days typically come from out of state—but we have been very proactive in educating skiers and riders about the guidance in the best interests of the health of guests and ski area employees.
"We have been working with the state for several months to get our guidance released, and a last-minute addition is asking our guests to certify their compliance and collect contact tracing data. With weeks now to go before the start of the season, this will be a challenge to implement. However, our ski areas are committed to doing everything they can to meet this guidance," said Mahar.
Vermont’s restrictions to cross-border travel and handling COVID-19 have been both lauded and criticized in recent months, in community groups and in the media. Vermont maintains the lowest rate of infection and death rate in the country since January 2020, according to the CDC.
Read Vermont’s winter resort operating guidance here: https://accd.vermont.gov/sites/accdnew/files/documents/Vermont%20Ski%20Resort%20COVID-19%20Winter%20Operations%20Guidance%20-%202020-11-03.pdf.