If you plan on trying to climb Jay Peak on Tuesday morning to check out any potential new snowfall the Vermont resort could receive during the early portion of the week, resort general manager Steve Wright will likely be there to greet you.
Now that ski areas across the Northeast have closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has led many — including some novice — uphill skiers to try and earn their turns. The lack of lifts has led to skiing-hungry visitors who might not have the necessary knowledge it takes in the backcountry.
Jay Peak has discouraged uphill travel due to the absence of grooming and ski patrol operations . This has led to frustration from the “I’ve been doing this since the Carter administration” segment, but from Jay Peak’s perspective, it’s not a risk worth taking.
In fact, the resort has already barricaded its Stateside entrance.
But if that isn’t enough of a deterrent, Wright’s pleas will serve as backup.
“I will be happy to have conversations with folks who don’t understand why their personal enjoyment takes a back seat to the safety of our staff and the community at large,” Wright said. “I think for the most part, our local community understands that skinning just is not a responsible act at this point, both for their own safety as well as the larger Jay community.”
Skier safety was an issue on Saturday at Pico, where the Pike trail had frozen over into an ungroomed, skating palace. A report from the scene detailed how a hiker tried to navigate this rock-hard landscape in ski boots, only to slide 700 feet.
The injured party had to be carted off and immediately became an example of the many reasons why many ski areas have preached over the last week that uphill travel is not recommended. The police department in Jackson, N.H. has even threatened to arrest trespassers on Black Mountain.
We are receiving complaints from Black Mountain staff of trespassing skiers. A reminder, Black Mountain is private…
Neither Pico nor neighboring Killington has updated its uphill policy to discourage uphill travel under the current landscape. But the warning is clear: “DO NOT count on ski-area personnel to be available to assist you. Uphill travelers assume full responsibility for personal safety and any injury, death or damages when traveling on resort premises during non-operating hours. In the event of an emergency during non-operating hours, uphill travelers must call 911. Be aware that on-mountain cell phone service is not always available or reliable.”
As one member of the Ski the East Facebook group noted, “Conditions aren’t icy. They’re ice.”
Injuries lead to rescues, which lead to individuals tending to one another when we’re supposed to be staying away from one another.
Others, like Gunstock, are still open to hikers, with three uphill routes open for visitors.
While we're closed for winter ops, our 3 Uphill Routes are open to ascend & ski/ride/hike down for free, but @ your own risk. We all share a responsibility to ourselves & our community in these uncertain times. Please avoid congregating in groups & make smart, healthy decisions. pic.twitter.com/1betjgPsjt
— Gunstock Mountain Resort (@Gunstockmtn) March 19, 2020
Depending on how much snow New England ends up receiving from this storm, it could mean more headaches for ski resorts trying to discourage uphill travel. If it snows, people will come, even when they are supposed to be hunkering down at home, in their own communities.
Thus, if crowds start coming, Wright may not end up being the only one attempting a role that would normally be ill-fitted for ski area personnel: Trying to keep people away.