Okemo outlines Covid-19 changes for ski season

Okemo Mountain will operate with social distancing regulations this winter.
Okemo Mountain will operate with social distancing regulations this winter. Photo provided

LUDLOW, Vt. – “Safety is our prime concern.” This was a phrase emphasized frequently by Bruce Schmidt, vice president and general manager of Okemo Mountain Resort, during an interview Spotlight, aired on Okemo Valley TV.

The discussion centered on changes that Okemo has introduced to deal with the impact of Covid-19. Schmidt indicated that the mountain planned to open for the ski season just prior to Thanksgiving.

Among the many changes instituted by the resort to comply with state restrictions and guidelines, he described the following:

All skiers and boarders will need to reserve dates they wish to ski. Season passholders will be given preference over day skiers if the number of requests for a specific day exceeds the guidelines for people on the mountain. Masks will also be required by all skiers and boarders while on the mountain or in its various facilities.

Use of the lift, depending on the width of the lift seat, will be reduced to comply with social distancing. However, family or friend groups will be permitted to use a single lift chair where feasible.

Okemo will still offer instruction and training classes. Group size of such classes will be reduced to comply with state requirements and social distancing. Additionally, certain types of classes may not be offered.

Mountain facilities, such as restaurants, lodges, the Ice House, will be restricted to the number permitted by state regulations. The same will apply to the swimming pools and exercise facilities at the resort. The latter will also require advanced reservations.

The courtesy buses that Okemo uses to pickup skiers and boarders will continue to operate in the Ludlow area. They will, however, be restricted as to the number of people they carry by state regulations.

With respect to housing rentals for people using the mountain, Schmidt indicated that would continue but that certain out-of-state areas may be excluded due to high Covid-19 rates.

In response to questions by Ralph Pace, Spotlight moderator, Schmidt commented on the various programs that the mountain had run in the past. He indicated that there had been no discussions with area public schools as to the use of the mountain by students. The ski patrol would continue to function as usual. The firework displays would be canceled to avoid large gatherings. He also noted that the early morning skiing prior to the mountain’s scheduled opening time would not be supported.

One of the problem areas the mountain is dealing with is the loss of seasonal staff from outside the country. Due to the various visas being canceled, all staff will be from this country. Currently, all Okemo employees are being tested daily before starting work following the resort’s Covid-19 protocol.

When questioned about future surges or similar developments of Covid-19, Schmidt noted that the mountain would evaluate such situations to determine the appropriate action to be taken.

More information on Okemo’s response to Covid-19 is available at www.okemo.com. The entire Spotlight interview is available at the Okemo Valley TV at www.okemovalley.tv/videos, or its YouTube site at www.youtube.com/okemovalleytv.

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