Rolling up into a parking lot at Stowe Mountain Resort on a warm and sunny weekend in March to find locals AJ Payack and his fiancée Kayla Zakrzewski seated in camp chairs behind their Jeep Cherokee, grilling food and enjoying a Vermont craft beer, wouldn’t be out of the ordinary during a typical ski season. But had you seen them doing the same thing a couple months earlier when winds were ripping and temps were below zero … well, you might scratch your head and wonder.
But this is no ordinary year. With resorts across the country limiting access to base lodges and other internal spaces as a safety measure during COVID-19, skiers and snowboarders have been forced to adapt. For many, that has meant utilizing their cars to serve not only as transportation, but as ski locker, warming hut, water stop, baby changing station, favorite breakfast/lunch spot, après-ski hotspot and every other amenity typically provided at resort base areas.
“It was tough when we had a few weekends of negative-degree wind chill, but if it is in the 10s and 20s and sunny, you can’t beat hanging out in the lot,” Payack said. “When it is really cold, we will try and warm up in the car for a little bit instead of hanging outside. If it’s really bad, we’ll just go home. It’s been fun this year.”
The couple, in their late 20s, have been skiing Stowe every weekend and on weekdays whenever possible, as well as visiting Bolton Valley and Cochran’s for night skiing. Payack, who grew up in New Jersey, moved to Stowe two years ago to start a business, Vermont Organic. They live just three minutes from Stowe’s slopes, which is helpful when plotting out the ski day.