As the world around us comes to a halt, it’s only rational to wonder what it all means for the ski industry.
The short answer: Not much. Yet.
Preventive measures to battle the coronavirus get more drastic every day (more accurately, every hour), as our communities try and figure out the best ways to contain COVID-19 and prevent any further spreading. College classes are increasingly moving to online, remote forums. The NBA has indefinitely suspended its season. The city of Boston has cancelled this weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, and is in the early stages of wondering what to do about next month’s Boston Marathon. Even the NCAA tournament, one of the biggest annual events on the sports calendar, is limiting its in-house audience to essential staff and some family.
That’s only the beginning.
All ski resorts in Italy have already shut down, as that country deals with life under heavy quarantine. In New England, meanwhile, it’s business as usual, even as other facets of our daily life come to pause.
“The well-being of our staff and our guests is our top priority,” Sunday River spokesperson Karolyn Castaldo said, “and as of right now, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state of Maine, nor any travel advisories or restrictions in this region.”
It was a bit of a different story elsewhere. In Colorado, a traveler who skied at Vail and Keystone resorts tested positive for the coronavirus last week. Operations, though, are continuing as usual.
Not so in the women’s World Cup. On Wednesday, officials canceled the remaining races due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mikaela Shiffrin was scheduled to return this weekend in Åre, Sweden, after spending the last six weeks away from the circuit while mourning the death of her father.
Thus far, there haven’t been many coronavirus-related activities cancelled in New England. The Special Olympics of Vermont has postponed its Winter Games, scheduled for March 22-24 at Pico Mountain. Besides that, as of now, your spring calendar of events is fully intact.
“Like other resorts in and outside of our industry, we are closely monitoring updates and implementing guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization, as well as those from our local health authorities,” Castaldo said. “The resort’s normal policies for changes to ticket and lodging reservations remain in place, and we do not have any changes planned for other events and operations at this time.”
According to a survey by Skiology Matt on his Northeast Skiology Facebook group (one I can not recommend enough), nearly 20 times the amount of respondents said it was unlikely that coronavirus would affect the length of anyone’s particular ski season. (As of Wednesday, only 46 said it was likely; 45 maybe.) Granted, that’s from a hardcore ski audience, but it does suggest that skiers and riders will not let the virus stop them from normal activities.
Still, it’s likely that ski areas can expect some decline in visitors. That’s an offshoot that is bound to come to fruition. And, never mind what this week’s warm weather might have done to the snowpack (the snow stake atop Mount Mansfield took a depressing dive this week), not having that sustainability from visitor dollars could force some ski areas into uncomfortable corners. In other words, maybe a lack of snow won’t be the reason that skiing and riding season comes to a close earlier than anyone wants for expects.
But we’re not there yet. Maybe we won’t get there.
However, with the swift nature that protective measures have been taking place, it wouldn’t be outlandish to expect the virus to affect your time on the mountain. Unfortunately, we will have to stay tuned in order to discover what’s next.
Mascot fever at Wachusett
In brighter news, Wachusett Mountain promises to battle some of the warm stretch we’ve seen this week with more snowmaking through March, potentially keeping its eye on a closing date in April. Thanks to Wachusett’s extensive snowmaking operations and pumping capacity, the mountain still maintains base depths averaging more than three feet, this despite only receiving nine inches of natural snow in January and in February.
On Friday, some well-known locals will be checking out the conditions at Wachusett, when the Massachusetts ski area hosts a special learn to ski or snowboard day. Sports mascots including Blades (Bruins), Wally (Red Sox), and Pat Patriot (Patriots) are scheduled to join the festivities. The package is only $30 (including a beginner lesson, beginner lift ticket, and rental equipment; a $69 savings). Register online at www.wachusett.com Also at Wachusett, Daylight Saving Time has become Daylight Saving Ski Time, when lift ticket prices are rolled back. Ski or ride any night for only $39 from 2-8 p.m. or $35 from 4-8 p.m.
World Pro Ski Tour hits Waterville
The World Pro Ski Tour is touching down locally this weekend, with events scheduled to be held at New Hampshire’s Waterville Valley Resort all weekend, leading up to Sunday’s dual super slalom race. The race will feature the best dual-format alpine racers in the world, including World Championships silver medalist, Phil Brown, current tour leader and NCAA champion, Robert Cone, winner of the last Tour stop and former U.S. Ski Team member, Michael Ankeny, and World Cup racers including Linus Walch, Magnus Walch, and Adam Zampa. Two-time Olympic goal medalist Ted Ligety, who joined the tour last year after retiring from the U.S. Ski Team, was eliminated in the early rounds.
Race events include a festival-style finish area with live DJ sets, giveaways, food, drinks, hospitality and more.
The WPST tour finals will take place April 4-5 at Sunday River.
Steals and deals
More than a handful of St. Patrick’s Day parades in the area may have been cancelled over concerns over COVID-19, but there are still some ski deals in the works for March 17. Mount Snow, Waterville Valley, and Sugarbush’s Mount Ellen will all offer $17 lift tickets for the day. Mount Snow will also have live Irish music on the Cuzzins Deck Stage.
New England Ski Journal TV visits Cranmore Mountain Resort
Check out the latest edition of New England Ski Journal TV, where we take a trip to visit the always-bustling New Hampshire vacation destination of North Conway, including Cranmore Mountain Resort, one of the most historic ski areas in all of New England and site of this weekend’s Hannes Schneider Meister Cup. Tune into NESN Friday afternoon at 2:30 for an all-new episode when we’ll travel to Jay Peak Resort to get the latest from Northern Vermont’s popular resort. (Episode repeats March 19 at 6 p.m. and March 25 at 2 p.m.)