As skiers and riders pulled their gear out of storage ahead of last ski season, no one really knew what to expect.
A new and wildly unknown pandemic had stopped the previous ski season in its tracks and upended what we had come to know as “normal.” Rumors of reservation systems, limited lift and restaurant capacity, and mask requirements floated throughout the ski community, but no one truly knew what the season would look like.
As we now know, after seeing viral images of unprecedented crowds and abnormally long lift lines, these new requirements deterred few.
While it’s no longer our first rodeo, certainty about the upcoming ski season is far from reality. The outdoor portion of skiing — the part that involves standing in lift lines and sliding down snowy slopes — largely will be back to normal (with the exception of some lingering mask and capacity restrictions).
But the après aspect is much more volatile.
Uncertainty continues to surround après ski, which typically consists of large groups of people gathering at indoor spaces at area bars and restaurants. With constantly changing state and CDC guidelines, some resorts will be requiring masks indoors while others are simply recommending them. Capacity restrictions will be commonplace for many mountains, with some resorts choosing to be more lenient than others. But overall, this season’s après-ski scene will be much closer to normal.
While this sampling is by no means every resort in New England, it’s likely you’ll find similar protocols in place regardless of where you decide to ski this winter.
Cranmore Mountain Resort
Zip’s Pub is arguably the pinnacle of après-ski in New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley. On any given day during a normal season, you can find skiers and riders jammed into the bar, enjoying live music and local beer, regardless of where they skied that day.
Unfortunately, for those who look forward to it, there won’t be any shoulder-to-shoulder standing room this year (or any standing room), but regulations will be relaxed compared to what they were last season. Face masks will be required when entering anywhere that serves food but can be removed while at a seat or eating and drinking. There will be no indoor capacity restrictions, although, like last year, there will still be a one-hour time limit while dining. There might be some smaller bands inside at Zip’s Pub this year, and outdoor concerts aren’t out of the question.
Stowe Mountain Resort (and other Vail-owned resorts)
Like last season, Vail Resorts has come up with comprehensive guidelines and requirements that are uniform across all of its resorts. Similar to last year, face coverings will be required indoors while at any VR ski area, including at restaurants and bars. And while they will be serving at an increased capacity this year, reservations still will be required to dine.
Cafeteria-style restaurants aren’t typically a part of most après-ski agendas, but if you do end up grabbing some food, it’s important to have proof of vaccination for all people over the age of 12. And regardless of what restaurant or bar you end up at, Vail Resorts will be utilizing cashless transactions to minimize the exchange of physical money between hands.
Sunday River Resort
On-resort après spots at Sunday River will have much more relaxed policies this year. In addition to requiring cashless payments, Sunday River will be offering takeout at select restaurants for those who choose to enjoy après from the comfort of their homes. Unlike last year, restaurants and bars won’t have capacity limits, though don’t be surprised if your favorite après spot has fewer tables set up than during any pre-pandemic season. There also will be standing room allowed at bars, which should really instill a sense of normalcy. There will be live music for the first time since the 2019-20 season. Masks will be recommended indoors, but there will be no requirement for guests to wear one.
At Wachusett, specific protocols for the upcoming season are still up in the air. But it’s likely all restaurants will be welcoming skiers at full capacity. Masks and vaccines won’t be required, but masks will at least be recommended indoors. If everything goes as planned, Wachusett will be hosting bands twice per week, giving everyone something to do once the lifts stop spinning (or when it’s time to let the old legs take a break).
Killington Mountain Resort
One of the most renowned après scenes in the Northeast is primed for a fairly “normal” season. While masks will be recommended indoors, resort officials are not planning on requiring them. As of now, unlike many other resorts, there will be no capacity restrictions on any indoor space. For some of the busier indoor spaces around the resort, this could change.
The HomeLight Killington Cup, which is a part of the Audi FIS Ski World Cup Tour taking place on Nov. 28, will be regulating capacity in the form of a $5 cover charge (the proceeds of which benefit the Killington World Cup Foundation).
Prior to entering the event, guests will be expected to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of the event. While this is a bit more stringent than the resort’s anticipated protocols throughout the normal season, the Killington Cup is a high-capacity event that tends to get a big turnout.
At the Wobbly Barn — the crown jewel of Killington après — COVID protocols are still up in the air. The club was open for a Halloween party in which guests had to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter, but plans have not yet been announced as to how the club will be managed moving forward this season.