Call it wishful thinking. Or a slippery index finger.
The temptation came in the form of an e-mail, touting a 20 percent discount on stays at The Lodge at Spruce Peak. Based on my own wishful thinking, I had already reserved a pair of priority days at Stowe Mountain Resort in mid-March via my Epic Pass. So, when my wife, a Vermonter at heart, recognized the potential of staying slopeside for the weekend, she booked, fully aware of all the COVID-19 protocols in place in the Green Mountain State.
Within 24 hours, the resort sent a form to my wife, asking her to state her current quarantine status, which, she thought, seemed odd for a trip planned four months down the road. More curious, the next day, a Spruce Peak representative called and wanted to go over the process, including a detail of what services would not be available at the resort over the weekend of…Nov. 21-22.
Now, as much as I would love to trek the whole family to Stowe this weekend, I also understand the viability of such a venture isn’t feasible. For one, Stowe, along with every other ski resort in New England, has yet to run the lifts this season, partly in thanks to a brutal warming trend that finally seems to have run its course. But more importantly, we, as a family, haven’t undergone the protocol in order to cross the state line.
That thought process is seemingly different than much of the grumbling I’m noticing from frustrated skiers and riders feeling shut out of the state this winter.
Vermont has some of the strictest — and most successful — quarantine travel requirements in the entire country. Visitors are asked to either quarantine for 14 days, or for seven days followed by a negative COVID test. For people with a career outside of Zoom, or with children not currently in an all-remote mode for schooling, that’s a near-impossible task.
It has all led to plenty of online bravado from those intent on not altering their winter plans, not to mention the vitriol being dished out by those who feel their entitlement should come ahead of the recent spike in COVID cases in Vermont.
Look, we can argue all day about the potentially-low transmission rates in the open, winter air of the ski slopes, or the fact that the state of Vermont recently saw its first COVID death in more than three months. It still doesn’t give out-of-staters the assumed authority to proceed with plans no matter the validity. Lying about personal quarantine is like giving a math answer without showing the work. You got to go on your trip. Neat. Now, stop being part of the problem.
It’s not like the resorts are thrilled with the state’s COVID-19 winter operations guidance, which requires contact tracing, not to mention the whole hassle of chasing guests down prior to arrival. Such was the case last week when my wife figured out that she had booked for the wrong month. She had a cordial conversation with a Spruce Peak booking rep, who thanked her for being so understanding about the situation. I know, it’s shocking, but it seems many folks aren’t as understanding or flexible when it comes to the state telling them there are rules to adhere to prior to their visit.
How much do you really think the resorts enjoy having to make those calls over and over again?
“People here are not happy,” the rep told my wife.
How could they be? As it stands now, the holiday money-making period for the Vermont ski industry is in neutral. Resorts, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, heck, even the random Maplefields, where skiers and riders stop for gas and a coffee are going to be hurting over the coming weeks and months. It isn’t like Killington, Mount Snow, Jay Peak, Sugarbush, and the like are, willingly, keeping everybody out of their state. Everybody is, instead, just hoping and praying not to make a bad situation even worse.
“I do think there’s a really serious feeling amongst all of the presidents and GMs that we really do not want to be a vector for this virus,” Bolton Valley president Lindsay DesLauriers said. “It is so important for us all from a business perspective that we have a winter. Losing the winter would be very devastating. So we are highly-motivated to operate safely and to make sure that ski areas are not the site of a super-spreader event.”
That’s not to equate that residents from surrounding states aren’t welcome, so long as visitors can adhere to the protocols in place. The fear is, though, that many will not pay any attention to the rules in place, leading, perhaps, to an increase in COVID cases. How does that help the perception of the person who does choose to undergo the quarantine requirements?
There’s going to be a general suspicion among Vermonters of anyone without a green license plate roaming the roads this winter. I feel almost as if I should post any negative test results on my dashboard just as a safe haven for passage. That doesn’t speak to any unwelcoming personalities of the state of Vermont, which has opened its arms to me for some 30 years. It’s more of a matter of being lumped in with a crowd of selfish warriors.
A super spread at the start of the season could be devastating for Vermont ski areas. Paying attention to the requirements — and actually following them — might help save your favorite spot.
Who could have guessed? In the midst of a pandemic, there are bumps in the road to your skiing and riding experiences. But the more you ignore the requests, the more possible it becomes that things will get shut down.
We’re not writing Vermont off for the winter in this house. We will try and plan quarantine, if possible, in the coming months and make a go north if we’ve followed everything to the request of the state. It might only be one trip. Maybe two.
I’d rather go this weekend and every weekend following until mud season arrives. I have too much respect for what the state is asking though. Particularly because of what it might mean moving forward.
Call it wishful thinking that such thought would be the general consensus in order to try and protect our winter.