Maine ski areas are making big changes to open safely during pandemic

Maine ski areas are making big changes to open safely during pandemic

  • October 14, 2020
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As ski areas throughout Maine prepare to open for the busy winter season, they’re making some major changes to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last ski season ended abruptly in March as the pandemic swept across Maine and the country.

The ski mountains are ready to reopen now. In an effort to reduce close contact among people, many ski areas are encouraging skiers to purchase online lift tickets and reserve their rentals online as well. They will be strictly limiting the number of people inside buildings such as base lodges. Skiers will be required to wear face coverings indoors and in all areas where practicing social distancing is difficult, including lift lines and while riding on lifts.

“We think it’s going to be a good season, we just think it’s going to be different,” Dirk Gouwens, executive director of Ski Maine Association. “Some people will probably arrive, ski and maybe go back [home] without even going indoors.”

Ski Maine Association is continually working with ski areas throughout the state, helping them navigate changing state laws in relation to COVID-19 and public safety. The association is also assisting ski areas as they adapt the “Ski Well, Be Well” best practices, which were recently developed by the National Ski Areas Association for operating during the pandemic.

“The biggest changes will really be in the base lodges and hotels,” said Karolyn Castaldo, director of communications for Sunday River in Newry, one of Maine’s largest downhill ski areas. “We’ve already started constructing walled off areas to break up space to accommodate groups of people.”

Stage four of the Restarting Maine’s Economy plan, which began Oct. 13, increased the limit on indoor seating to either 50 percent capacity of permitted occupancy or 100 people, whichever is less. The limit for non-seated indoor activities, such as physical activity in gyms, remains at 50. It’s unclear how the limits will impact ski lodges, some of which have multiple rooms or stories. But the Ski Association of Maine is working with the state to get answers for the ski areas.

While details are still being ironed out, many ski areas have already posted COVID-related safety rules on their websites, as well as updates on what changes skiers can expect at their facilities. For example, skiers will not be allowed to change gear or store bags at the Sugarloaf ski lodge, and the number of people in the lodge will be strictly monitored.

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