May 2020

Mountain Spy :: May 2020

"Can I ride the chair by myself during the coronavirus pandemic?"

Written by David Meeker | 0 comment

QUESTION: I’m planning to come skiing there this week, but am nervous about sitting on the chairlift next to strangers who might be infected with the coronavirus. Can I ride the lift by myself every time?

In mid-March, as coronavirus fear spiked, the Spy was eager to see how resorts were handling social distancing. And between the first calls and the last, the situation changed dramatically. Resort closures went from a trickle to a flood. The change in tenor and tone was striking. Even so, what mattered most, then as always, is how front-line staff handled the question, not whether the resort allowed singles to ride alone.

We separated the calls into two groups to illustrate how quickly the environment, and the message, evolved.

Have a suggestion for a future question? Send it to dave@saminfo.com. If we use your question, you're immune for that issue.

CALLS MADE ON FRIDAY, MARCH 13

MOUNTAIN 1, MI

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose snowsports.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Um, I mean. Uhh, I guess I haven’t heard an official determination on that. I mean that’s a fair and valid question. We try to obviously get our chairlifts to capacity. I mean tomorrow is a busier day, but not as busy as during the middle of the season. Um, let me see here. Like I said, it’s not a question I’ve been asked yet, but totally a valid one. Hang on one second, just bear with me.
Holding…
Staff: OK, so I just spoke to our area manager. He said he would expect most of our lifts except for the X lift to not be a problem. Just tell the ticket checker your request and that accommodation would likely be made. There just needs to be some understanding on your part, and you might need to wait a minute or two when there’s a slow time.
SAM: OK, great.
Staff: Right, so we just recommend that you ask the ticket checker and he’ll accommodate you as much as possible. On the bigger chair it might be harder. So with a little bit of understanding on your part, just ask the ticket checker for now, and it’s actually something we’ll be addressing in our staff meeting tomorrow morning.
SAM: Awesome. Thanks for asking your manager. Are there any other precautions the resort is taking?
Staff: I mean, we’re constantly being informed by our parent company. They’ve distributed extra cleaning supplies and things like that, and we’re taking additional precautions for public spaces. But skiing is a great activity to do outdoors, so just enjoy yourself and wear your face mask.
SAM: Exactly, thank you!
Staff: Of course. Have a great day.

Score: 8
Comment: Never any shame in putting a customer on hold to get a definitive answer. Makes the customer feel valued. Every time.



MOUNTAIN 2, MA

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Ah, it’s doubtful you could ride single, just because of the amount of people. Oh actually, sorry, I’m totally lying. Like, it’s been not busy. I’m sure if you asked they might let you do it. Hold on one second.
Holding…
Staff: Yeah, I just checked you’ll be able to do that.
SAM: Great, thanks. I know you might be getting weird questions lately.
Staff: No, no. We totally understand.
SAM: Thanks! So I should just ask a liftie then?
Staff: Yeah, just let them know, say, “Hey, I just want to ride single.” And you’ll be fine.
SAM: Are there any other precautions the resort is taking that I should be aware of?
Staff: Um, there’s nothing that you need to be aware of that we’re preventing. We’re doing a lot of excessive cleaning. This, that, and the other thing. Um, we may be reducing seating in the base lodge. I would just say, eating outside would be nicer anyway.
SAM: OK, sure. That makes a lot of sense.
Staff: But yeah, it’s not a requirement, but there will be less seating area in the base lodge.
SAM: OK, thanks very much.

Score: 5
Comment: Confusing start, but the reassurance grew towards the end. Guess it’s between me and the liftie at the end of the day.

MOUNTAIN 3, VT

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose hotel operator.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Um, yeah, I think you should be able to do that. You just have to let the other people around know that you want to ride alone.
SAM: So can I let the lift operator know that I don't want to ride with other people, or is this even something you’re allowing people to do?
Staff: Um, yeah. You can let the lift operator know. You probably have to do it every time. I’m not sure how many people will be here this weekend.
SAM: OK. Sure. Are there any other precautions the resort has taken that I should be aware of?
Staff: Um, I mean we’re continuing business as usual, but are taking the extra precautions like cleaning and sanitizing as directed. Silence…
SAM: OK then. Thanks. Guess I’ll talk to the liftie.

thumbs downScore: 4
Rating: Um, not a lot of meat to this response. For such a popular resort, you might hope their front line staff were better prepared.

MOUNTAIN 4, VT

Answering phone: Operator.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Yep. They have a single line.
Silence…
SAM: So I can still ride by myself, though?
Staff: Hold on. Let me find this one statement. OK. (quoted a document) So we are following guidelines, like person to person guidelines for how close people can be. So we don’t, like, have tables in our lodges anymore. And we’re not filling up… so yes. So each line is like, lines for people who are together, and then there is a single person line. So you would just be in the single person line. So yeah…
SAM: So, I just tell the liftie then I want to ride by myself.
Staff: They also suggest… so we canceled all our live music and events. But we suggest to avoid the base lodge during the busy eating times. Or pack a lunch and eat it in the car, or bring it here and eat it somewhere away from people.
SAM: Right. That all makes sense. Thanks for the head’s up. I just wanted to make sure I could ride solo if I didn’t want to sit next to strangers.
Staff: Oh yeah, of course. It’s like when you get in and are almost sitting on someone’s lap! Ha ha! Yeah, we’re not letting that happen anymore!
SAM: Great to know! Thanks again.
Staff: Of course. Have a nice day.

Rating: 7
Comment: Clear enough. And the lighthearted attitude helps a lot in a time of uncertainty.

CALLS MADE ON TUESDAY, MARCH 17

MOUNTAIN 5, WA

Answering phone: Automated machine.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Yes. We are suggesting that you only ride with the people that you came up in the car with, or ride alone.
SAM: Perfect. That solves that.
Staff: Yep, and just so you know, the lodge is very limited. We’re only allowing people to warm up 15 minutes at a time. We do have grab-and-go snacks in there, but the bar is closed. And we are also suggesting people eat their lunches in their car.
SAM: That all makes sense. Thanks for staying open!
Staff: OK, great! Well, have a good day.

Score: 8.5
Comment: A simple, concise, and very clear answer. Crisis messaging doesn’t have to be a 10 minute explanation, especially when things can change so fast.

MOUNTAIN 6, UT

Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: When are you planning on coming up?
SAM: Either today or tomorrow.
Staff: Well, today is actually our last day of operations, so if you don’t come up today… yeah.
SAM: Oh, bummer. Well I might be able to sneak away this afternoon. If I do come up can I still ride the chair by myself?
Staff: Yeah. That shouldn’t be a problem at all.
SAM: Cool. So just ask the liftie when I’m in line?
Staff: Yeah.
SAM: OK thanks I’ll do that.
Staff: OK perfect. Have a good day.

Score: 5
Comment: Not her fault for closing, but a chirpier attitude would always be appreciated!

MOUNTAIN 7, MT

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.

** NOTE: The automated message gave a nice update on the resort’s coronavirus policy and operations schedule. Of all resorts called, this was the only resort to do this, which was super helpful.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Yeah. Absolutely. Just tell them you want to single ride. Single rider only.
SAM: Great. So I should just ask the liftie?
Person got distracted and began talking to another customer for a few minutes… WTF?!
Staff: So yeah, we’re open, but you can always make that request.
SAM: Cool. So just ask the liftie?
Staff: Yeah, I mean, you don’t even need to ask the liftie, just tell the people next to you that you want to ride by yourself. I mean, at this point, no one if going to argue.
SAM: Great, thanks!

Score: 6.5
Comment: Pretty laid back, but exuded the confidence I was looking for. Don’t multitask, though.

MOUNTAIN 8, NH

Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Abbbsolutely. Yes! Absolutely. Just let the liftie know you’re single and staying single.
SAM: Awesome. Thank you. Is there anything else the resort is doing to take precautions?
Staff: Um, it’s basically bring everything you need. There is one door in the lodge that’s open for the bathroom. But no rentals or information desk. No lessons. We are selling some prepackaged salads and snacks and drinks from the window, but we’re asking people to gear up at the car and just come and ski. And if it’s nice enough, we have a bunch of picnic tables we’ve set up at least six feet apart.
SAM: Great. Thanks so much.
Staff: OK, no problem. We look forward to having you.

Score: 8
Comment: Another clear answer with simple and logical instructions. Easy for anyone to follow!

MOUNTAIN 9, VT

Answering phone: Automated machine.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Sure! We will only be running our chairlifts for another few hours today, and then will be ending our season.
SAM: Oh, bummer. I thought you guys were staying open.
Staff: We were planning on it! But we just decided—
SAM: No, I get it! It changes every day.
Staff: Yeaaah. I’m so sorry. But in the event you come and if you ever wanted to ride by yourself, that is something that is no problem.
SAM: Great to know, thanks!
Staff: You bet. Take care.

Score: 8
Comment: Not her fault they were closing. The friendly attitude and reassurance, regardless, is much appreciated.

MOUNTAIN 10, AB

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Absolutely. Yes, we have that measure in place. For the gondola or chairlift, you can ride with anyone in your party or by yourself.
SAM: Great. So that applies to any chairlift?
Staff: Yes. So that’s a procedure we’ve already put in place so we can remain open. You have the choice. So if you are traveling with, say, three other people and you want to sit with them on the chair, then absolutely. But if you’re riding by yourself you do not have to sit with anyone else on the chairlift. Or the gondola.
SAM: Great. Is there anything else the resort is doing that I should be aware of?
Staff: Not really that would affect your skiing. We don’t have any indoor seating at the moment. So everything is outside to prevent everyone being in the same area. We are selling tickets still, but that will be outside on the deck and not inside at guest services, because a line inside could cause some issues as well. And then we have closed a few of our restaurants also, X and Y restaurants have been closed for now.
SAM: Great info. Thanks. And thanks for staying open!
Staff: Of course, have a great day.

thumbs upScore: 9.5
Comment: This gal talked about three million miles per hour, but the information was clear and direct. Her attitude was positive and happy. She also gave me the exact information I needed so I knew what to expect when I got there. Nothing more, nothing less. This is the best kind of message you can give your customer when they have a simple question. One less cup of coffee for this chick and it would have been a perfect 10 :)

Identity revealed: Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada