Sunday Should Be An Awesome Day On The Slopes, But #Maskup

FeaturedFirst Trax

Just a heads up, I’m rambling today…so if you want to just check the SNOW REPORT, go for it.

One of the first things I do each morning in preparation for scribing yet another FirsTrax post – is to check my email, or “SkiMail” as I call it. Most of you know that unlike a lot of reporters/writers, I end every post with my email address, as I really like hearing from you guys – whether you like something I post or find me to be an idiot and simply want to call me one. (I’ve grown really thick skin over my 25 years of doing this column.)

There are usually a couple of emails from ski resort marketing or management peeps; perhaps a few from regular readers/viewers; and then – depending on whether or not I ticked people off with the previous day’s story – I’ll get a few responses. This morning, my SkiMail inbox was loaded.

On Saturday, we posted various photos, videos and content shares about how great the conditions were at the SIX ski areas that are up and running for the 2020-2021 ski & snowboarding season. Kenny Griffin posted some great stuff as he is still at Snowshoe Mountain. Brian Dix posted a nice video with a top-to-bottom run while at Cataloochee Ski Area. Reporter, Rudy Ryback even posted a nice video titled, Snowfari! – Fatbiking and Cross Country Skiing (check that out)

…and there WERE a few comments here and there about those posts, and thank you readers for those.

But no, the reason my SkiMail inbox was loaded this morning was due to a mid-afternoon piece that I posted titled, “Don’t Be The Reason Ski Season Gets Cut Short This Winter” (Feel free to check that story out.)

Most of the emails were like these:

Meimei Ma (long time reader and avid skier around the world) emailed, “I liked what you wrote about mask usage in terms of being important to keep ski areas open all season. Hopefully everyone who reads SkiSE regularly will pay attention.”

Joan Taylor wrote, “I want to commend you on what you wrote today about everyone needing to be mindful of wearing masks. I skied today and saw several people not wearing a mask in lift lines. It is a tough spot for ski resorts to enforce (mask wearing) but they have to. As you said, it isn’t important what people might personally think, to keep resorts open, and for cautionary safety, everyone needs to wear a mask.”

(There were hundreds like those.)

(Saw a lot like this one too.)

“JTSkiHard” wrote, “I think your story today about mask wearing was well timed and needed. A few of my friends and I skied on Friday and first-hand witnessed what you wrote about. While most wore masks, some didn’t. The lifties were walking around and asking people to pull their masks up, but these were pretty young lifties and their requests were mostly ignored. I noticed one, older ski patroller come over and she was not taking no for an answer and I saw that make a difference. I really think that resorts are going to have to put authoritative people in charge of patrolling the lift lines and I also think that there has to be penalties if people don’t cooperate and wear masks.”

One reader, Ben Woody took things a step further and also wrote, “I appreciate your post earlier today. I think most of your audience is interested in preserving the ski season (and our local resorts), despite where we may fall in terms of our personal views on COVID. I hope that Ski SE will continue advocating for personal responsibility this season. Thanks, Ben”

He also wrote an individual ski resort and the NC Ski Areas Association about his most recent trip:

“…That said, I also hope that resorts will actively enforce mask wearing and physical distancing, particularly in the lift areas. Many skiers today did not observe these requirements. It’s early in the season, not terribly crowded, and perhaps not a big deal – but I’m afraid by not being diligent with these necessary requirements, skiers will develop unsafe habits during this complicated season. Even worse, the governor’s office will catch wind of this and severely restrict occupancy at ski resorts. I’m willing to deal with the inconvenience of a mask to make this season happen – I think most skiers agree. The resorts are truly in a difficult position this season that I do not envy. As a life long NC skier I wanted to share this feedback. Ben Woody.”

On a Negative Note

One reader, (first name Bill), wrote: “Mike, I’m sorry, but I really thought your comment in your latest article concerning keeping the ski slopes open was reckless and irresponsible. (Especially when you posted) “Personally speaking, I would have no fear whatsoever of climbing on a chairlift with a stranger who was not wearing a mask. While I am not 10 feet tall or bulletproof, I’m just not overly concerned about it. If I get a virus, I’ll most likely get over it quickly.”

He added, “The basic message you just made is that this virus is not bad and the only reason to wear a mask is to keep ski slopes open, not to prevent the spread of the disease. Neither of those are true. Why you feel the need to dismiss it as nothing more than a virus and to suggest the only reason to wear your mask is to keep slopes open is beyond me.”

I’m a Nobody. A Small Fish in a Small Pond, called SkiSoutheast…But…

The only way I know how to respond to Bill and other readers who may feel that my story yesterday was in any way irresponsible – is to say that I believe you may be taking my comments out of context.

Those close to me will attest that ever since ski areas began closing last Winter and Spring, and all throughout the Summer, I have wanted to jump on this website and post my very opinionated and very strong belief about “all things Covid”, as they relate to our little world of skiing and snowboarding. However, I didn’t and I won’t.

This virus is real and like the Spanish Flu, H2N2, H1N1, Hong Kong, Asian and Swine flu – this one is to be respected as well. Viruses kill people every winter and that is horrible.

The CDC, WHO and other government agencies have taken to implementing lockdowns and restrictions that have greatly affected our lives in ways FAR more important than skiing & snowboarding.

The only thing that I was saying in my post on Saturday is that it doesn’t MATTER whether you feel you are ten feet tall and bulletproof to any virus. It doesn’t MATTER whether you are living in fear and don’t want to leave your bedroom, OR if you are like me and really have no fear at all about this virus. That does not matter.

The ONLY thing that matters is that we have rules in place that have been setup by our State Governor’s Offices; and our individual ski resorts have gone to immense measures to put protocols in place to protect ALL OF US. They are going to enforce these protocols in an effort CERTAINLY to protect their guests. They CERTAINLY have it as a goal to do everything possible to ensure that not even one person contracts covid-19 after a visit to their mountain. That IS THE GOAL.

However, we also have to be real and understand that ski resorts are also enforcing these measures to protect their own businesses and to ensure that they can remain open all season long and I, for one, am glad they are.

It is a WIN-WIN proposition for everyone.

I have friends and family members who have severe fear of riding chair lifts. I have friends who I’ve skied with for decades who can still only move at about five-miles-per-hour on the snow, for fear of falling and breaking something. I have friends and I know you do as well – who are acutely afraid of contracting covid-19. I respect those who feel that way. I would never judge them.

However, there ARE those of us who simply are not afraid of covid-19 or much of anything else. Don’t judge us/me either. I simply choose not to fear it. I don’t know WHY I am not fearful, but I’m just not.

HOWEVER, I WILL ABSOLUTELY wear my mask for those of you who are fearful. I will wear my mask because if I choose to dine somewhere, I am EXPECTED to. I wore my mask yesterday as I went to lunch at Fred’s General Mercantile’s Deli and I wore my mask when I visited with Beech Mountain Resort’s Talia Freeman on Saturday.

We need to get some of these made up! Click to Enlarge.

…and I will wear my mask when I am at any ski resort this winter…at all times other than when I’m in my room.

It is a VERY small price to pay this season.

I DO hope this clears things up for those of you who feel my story on Saturday was irresponsible. As I traveled around the High Country yesterday I (again) saw record traffic at the resort and shops up on Beech Mountain. They sledding hill was packed with more people on it than any season I’ve seen in years – for a first weekend of the season. So (thankfully) there seem to be tens of thousands of people who feel like I do – and they are visiting the mountain in force.

I DO have a lot of cool photos and videos to share from driving around the region yesterday and I will post those later. For now…

Enjoy you day and #MASKUP!

Email me as you like at [email protected]

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