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Ski resorts counting on a return to normal on the slopes

A skier goes off a jump at the

A skier goes off a jump at the terrain park at Living Memorial Park, in Brattleboro, Vt., in February.  Credit: AP/Kristopher Radder

JAY, Vt. — After a winter with mask mandates and restrictions on the number of people on lifts, ski resorts are expecting the upcoming season to be more like the pre-pandemic days on the slopes.

Any virus-related protocols at resorts will vary depending on where they are and the local health rules in place. Some resorts are requiring masks indoors and at restaurants, others may continue to limit the number of skiers on the slopes for a better experience and some will require people to show proof of vaccination at certain venues.

"What’s new is a lot more optimism," said J.J. Toland, a spokesperson for Jay Peak Resort in Vermont.

While many resorts did better than expected last season as people got outside during the pandemic, ski areas where public health restrictions were the strongest, like in Vermont, suffered a hit, said Adrienne Saia Isaac, marketing and communications director for the National Ski Areas Association. On top of that, the U.S.-Canadian border was closed, so resorts like Jay Peak, which rely on visitors from up north, lost business. Now they hope to make up for last season, but it doesn't come without challenges.

The perennial difficulty of finding seasonal ski workers has been more pronounced during the pandemic. Some resorts are offering sign-on bonuses and raising their starting wage to attract staff.

The ski association does not expect to see limited capacity on chairlifts, restrictions on who people can ride with, and far fewer, if any, mask requirements outdoors, Isaac said.

"I do think as far as the outdoor experience of ski areas, it’s going to look more like it has in seasons past," she said.

Some resorts will look different with new offerings such as at Loon Mountain Resort in New Hampshire, which will debut its new high-speed eight-person chairlift with heated seats and a tinted bubble — the first one in the East.

Colorado-based Vail Resorts, which owns 34 ski areas in the United States and Canada, including Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont, Park City Mountain Resort in Utah, and Heavenly Ski Resort in California, has scrapped its online reservation system this season but is keeping some COVID-19 restrictions in place.

Face coverings will still be required indoors and on buses, but unlike last season, skiers and snowboarders will be able to breathe freely in lift lines, on chairlifts and in gondolas unless masks are required by local public health authorities.

Vail Resorts also has required all of its staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

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