To Gaiter or Not To Gaiter? Is That Even a Question?

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Never in a million years – or even in the 25+ years I’ve been promoting SkiNC and SkiSoutheast – did I think I would EVER be posting a story or having conversations with “experts”, readers (and ALL of you guys and gals are experts, right?) and industry insiders about masks and the need for wearing masks to “protect” ourselves and others around us. But here I am doing just that.

This story could get REALLY long and convoluted, however I will try my best not to let that happen.

I’m guessing that everyone on the entire planet is well (or overly) informed about the need for wearing masks when in public. No matter where any of us stands on the subject, the fact remains that if we want to eat, shop, travel – or go skiing and snowboarding this season, we will be required to wear one.

That brings me to why I am writing this story.

Back in March, when experts began talking about the need for wearing masks, ONLY the N95 mask would actually protect us from the spread. Not long after, for whatever reasons you choose to believe, masks took the shape of about any design you can think of and some industrious people added coffee filters and sundry other things to add additional security. I wore various kinds of masks that family members created and settled on an old bandana (folded over a couple of times) as my “favorite” or most convenient to use.

Fast-forward to now and depending on who you trust or believe, not even the N95 masks are perfect and all others are decreasingly efficient in protecting us and others around us. Nevertheless, for now, we are a mask-wearing society.

Timing is Everything…

I was working with a client the other day who was in need of a drop-ship-style, ecommerce website and I ran across a gaiter mask that I liked. We don’t promote the sale of our products on that often, but we DO have an online store – see SkiSoutheast Store.

I asked one of our team to add the gaiter as a new product in our store, and we posted it and immediately started selling them to a number of you. (Thank you, by the way!)

The very same day, Duke University, Wake Forest University and others released information about the security AND lack of security that many masks fail to offer. Guess which style was voted as least secure? Yep, the gaiter. ..and in fact the study suggests that the lowly gaiter mask MIGHT be worse than not wearing a mask at all!

Here’s the reality – only the N95 mask (the one without the valve) is effective in protecting people and if everyone was walking around wearing those, we’d all catch hell, because there are not enough of them and they should be reserved for healthcare workers. All others are simply some measure of protection. The only real way to prevent yourself from getting or spreading the virus is to stay at home….period. Trust me, there are millions of people doing just that.

For the rest of us, the next time you’re out in public – look around. There is every kind of mask being worn and the vast majority of those are mere decorations or (excuse the intended pun here) MASKING the appearance of wearing protection.

By the time this story posts, there may be five more studies released on the subject of masks, but the truth is, the one pictured to the left is the only one that will really, really work. Laugh all you want, but it’s true.

By the way, I DID find the recent studies and findings interesting and you can read that for yourself here.

So WHY this Extensive Post?

So after I posted the new SkiSoutheast Gaitor for sale the other day, and subsequently read the study – I temporarily pulled the product to give me time to speak with people smarter than me. One such person is a medical consultant (and more importantly an epidemiologist) for one of the largest ski resort operations in the world. She is currently in discussions with three state and national ski area associations so she asked me to hold off on sharing (or giving her credit) for this bit of intel. However, I asked her about her ideas for the upcoming ski and snowboarding season and about how resorts MIGHT manage being able to open and operate while still in the midst of a pandemic.

Her answer was shockingly simple. She said, “Mike, if you only listen to the attorneys for these resorts, you would not open. If you only listen to the owners or accountants for these ski areas, you’d open business as usual. If you spoke with those in charge of attempting to find a way to operate, you’d hear something somewhere in the middle.”

That “something in the middle” as she called it was this – she shared, “Mike, what I’ve been told is that unless state Governors close that kind of gathering down, what we will see is mask-wearing will be required ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE at resorts if you are within six feet of another person.”

That would mean on lifts, in lift lines and even when walking around a crowded village. Of course, mask-wearing will be required when inside any shop, restaurant, bar, you name it. The only time a mask could come off is when you would actually be eating or drinking.

I asked her, “So as I understand it, some masks are good for protection and others might be worse than wearing no mask. What is your take?”

She answered, “As I said before, no mask is perfect. The only real protection is to stay away from people. Your readers will probably not like reading this, however, I am not quite certain where the idea of staying six-feet away would guarantee you won’t spread the virus. That is an arbitrary distance that just hit the public and not entirely agreed upon by everyone in my field.”

Okay, so the REAL reason I reached out to her was to get her opinion on the “lowly gaiter mask” for protection. When I asked the question, here was her reply: (It is long, so here it is in full.)

“Mike, as I have shared, no mask other than the N95 without the valve is really going to prevent the spread of the virus and even it is not infallible. However, you CAN take measures that will decrease your odds of getting or spreading it. Remember, that masks are worn for your protection and others around you. I have probably seen a thousand variations of masks and probably fifty-to-sixty percent of the masks that people are wearing offer little to no protection against the spread.

I would inform your readers that, no matter what style of mask they choose to wear, it isn’t enough by itself. Most of the recent studies are now recommending that you hold your mask up to a bright light – and if you can easily see light through it, then you’re not getting any or very much in the way of protection. Masks CAN and DO reduce the distance that water particles  -from a cough or loud speaking – can travel. In fact, some masks can cut that down to a couple of inches, again reducing the potential for spread.

Really, no matter the style of mask chosen, I would recommend that people take extra measures. I have been advising people to add another layer or two of a tightly-woven piece of cloth. A nice, cotton pillowcase is great. Cut that into a square large enough to place underneath the mask as an additional layer. For those who wish to wear a gaiter, I would tell them that they are just as safe to do so, if they add another layer such as I just suggested. Perhaps they could even fold down or double the gaiter for better usage.”

Armed with that intel, I showed her our new SkiSoutheast gaiters and she asked me for one!

She did offer one additional piece of intel that may not sit well with everyone…but we’re here to share. She added, “Mike, this is such an unprecedented time for everyone. There are so many aspects to how this pandemic is affecting people. There are so many subjects and things related to viruses that we haven’t even thought about yet and we will all have to be quick to implement solutions to these findings as they are revealed. Because of my own involvement and interests in skiing as that applies to mask wearing – here is something that I don’t think many have thought much about. What happens when you wear any mask outside in temperatures that are 10-15 degrees or colder? We breathe in very cold air through those masks. We exhale hot air. What happens? The interior and exterior of your mask gets wet, which is JUST what we don’t want.  Now approach someone close to you and start talking and you will be expelling water droplets into the air. Again, not what we want to see happen.”

Well damn. That will probably scare a ton of people.

She wrapped up our call with this, common sense statement, “People simply need to be careful when around others. Frequent hand-sanitizing, frequent hand-washing and just try to distance yourself as much as possible. That’s the wonderful thing about skiing. It’s done outside and it’s certainly possible to stay far enough away from others when enjoying a day on the slopes.”

Well, there you have it. Want one of our new SkiSoutheast Gaiters? Click here to purchase and represent us this season. Shop our store here.

Also, check back as we will be sharing news about when and how Ski Resorts will open this winter.

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