by Joe Stevens
Hello Everyone –
I believe that most of you out there know that the ski season in the southeast came to a sudden halt for the 2019 – 2020 season on or around March 13 due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic. At that time, for the most part, playing on snow stopped, even though a couple of western resorts reopened, but shut down again when the situation took a turn for the worse.
That was just over seven months ago and wow have we been on a roller coaster ride ever since that time. Just when it seemed it was getting better, even without a vaccine, there have been an uptick of positive cases and deaths. This created most mountain operation staffs to go to their nearest whiteboard and start laying out a plan for the 2020-2021 ski season, that you might not realize but will starting sooner than you know it, probably around the Thanksgiving holiday.
Many of you know that my day job is serving as the Executive Director of the West Virginia Ski Areas Association. Due to that position I represent the West Virginia Ski Resorts during country wide meetings. In the past, a meeting or two would be held just so that we knew basically who the players were, so to speak.
Since the resorts shut down, like I said in March, it has been pretty much a weekly thing via Zoom. By a show of hands, how many of you actually knew what Zoom was all about (prior to Covid)? Now I would say, not many don’t know of that communication tool these COVID-19 days. I take this opportunity to also say, how many of you are already tired of the communication tool? But I am here to say that it is going to be with us for a while.
I think we all have heard of the saying about that so-called silver lining to bad situations and the weekly meetings of the ski area associations is an example of a good thing coming out of adversity. Seriously the call includes folks from Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Vermont, California, etc. During the hour-long chats, nothing is held back when discussing a topic and everything is transparent, meaning everyone is helping everyone.
I have found this very refreshing, as everyone knows just how competitive the ski industry is, that each representative has been open to telling it like it is, as it pertains to getting ready for visitors as the battle against COVID-19 continues. Each state association has been working with their state officials and knowing what works in New York or New Hampshire, helps as the resorts in the southeast make plans for the upcoming season.
Along with the various state representatives, staff members of the National Ski Areas Association have also joined in on the conversations each week. In fact, the NSAA, with the help of the ski areas associations, came up with a plan entitled “Ski Well, Be Well”, a playbook for ski areas to use to keep visitors and staff safe during the upcoming season. I have been pushing the snow word in some form or another since 1985 and in no other year have I ever seen the ski industry work together so closely. This is a good thing for skiers and snowboarders in the various regions across the country. Here in the southeast, skiers and snowboarders enjoy getting to go to various resorts to experience a variety of slopes. Because of the Ski Well, Be Well playbook, skiers and snowboarders will be able to feel confident, that resorts are operating from the same book. There may be a few changes here and there, but for the most part, things will be the same.
Now let’s talk about some of those changes, first off, if you haven’t already joined the Face Coverings band wagon, please note you will be requested when necessary to don one at the resort. The days of hanging out in the lodge, well, for the most part that isn’t going to be part of your experience. Hey, remember, you are at the resort to be out on the snow, not killing time in the lodge or cafeteria area. Be ready for some innovative ways to get rentals this year. In other words, what you have come to expect in years past, might very well be a bit different this year, all due to making sure everyone is safe because of COVID-19.
One of the biggest suggestions I am going to give you as you plan for the upcoming season, is to call ahead to the resort you are headed to visit. I am serious when I say there is a good chance things are going to be different and the only way you will know for sure what’s going on at the resort is to call ahead.
That brings me to another big thing for the upcoming season and that’s communication and I know every resort is going to do their best to let everyone know of what’s going on before they pull into the resort. If you have not been on to check a resort’s website for information, this season is going to be an excellent time to begin doing so. Every resort operator that I have spoken with has made it clear to me that they are going to be transparent and the majority of the messaging is going to occur on the resort’s website.
Plus, do not take offense if an employee asks for you to wear your face covering, when it is necessary. They are only doing their job and keeping you and everyone else safe.
That’s it for this week, thanks for joining me for my weekly thought process. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be warm, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. This season is going to be a challenging one and as I have been saying a lot lately, just keep the plow blade down and keep pushing.