As the leaves change color and the temperatures steadily drop, there’s one thing on the horizon that both NH residents and out-of-staters alike look forward to: ski and snowboard season. A key part of New Hampshire’s winter tourism and an activity enjoyed by many, uncertainty has surrounded the future of skiing and snowboarding during the pandemic.
Skiing seems like the perfect socially distanced activity: masks, gloves, and even full-body snowsuits are the norm, and there’s typically far more than six feet of distance between you and your fellow skiers. But while the slopes might seem perfectly fine, lodges, lifts, and rental shops will be faced with the need to create new rules. Covid has pushed many resorts and ski slopes to adopt new protocols, change their ticket and pass systems, and create new regulations to keep capacity and human contact low in enclosed spaces.
For a recreational skier, these changes could be difficult to keep track of in an already busy world of online school, remote work, and basic day-to-day life during a pandemic. For the convenience of anyone who skis or snowboards, we’ve compiled a list of what we know so far about the 2020-2021 ski season, and exactly what NH’s alpine resorts and slopes have done to adjust and operate this year.
Abenaki Ski Area
Abenaki, a small, seven-trail ski area in Wolfeboro, is expected to open on December 26th, 2020 for the beginning of the season. While little information is currently available about what this reopening will look like, due to Abenaki’s small size, the ski area may not require the high amount of regulation necessary for more populated resorts. More information will likely become available soon.
Black Mountain is also opening for the 2020-2021 season. Season passes are available on their website for a heavy pre-season discount; those looking to buy a pass now could receive a discount of over $100. Black Mountain is a resort covered by Indy Pass, a pass that covers over 50 resorts and aims to include ski areas with an authentic, local vibe. Indy Pass also hopes to help reduce traffic on Black Mountain this year and promote social distancing. Black Mountain will open in December.
Bretton Woods (Mount Washington Resort)
While Bretton Woods has yet to release a detailed plan for the 2020-2021 ski season, it seems that they plan on opening as usual in mid-November. Season passes are available for purchase on the Bretton Woods website, and the only change to their usual assortment of passes is the temporary discontinuation of their Junior Pass Program and Teen Upgrade Pass in anticipation of capacity limitations for this year’s season. Instead, they’re offering a discount on similar passes, and will reimburse the difference in cost for any guest who purchased the now discontinued passes.
Omni Hotels, the company that owns and operates Bretton Woods among other resorts and hotels, has also implemented a flexible cancellation policy. Their resort cancellation period now extends up until 72 hours before arrival. As November grows nearer, Bretton Woods will likely release a more specific set of guidelines.
Cannon Mountain aims for an opening date of November 27th, 2020. So far, the mountain has already implemented the use of masks within certain areas, limited building capacities and social distancing requirements, and strict cleaning protocols. In the future, Covid could affect ticket and pass sales, and Cannon anticipates that they could end up implementing measures such as selling tickets, rentals, lessons online and in advance, limiting day ticket sales, and encouraging guests to keep bags and gear out of Cannon’s buildings. At the moment, Cannon has no plans to require reservations or limit visits for those who hold an Indy Pass or other season pass.
Cranmore Mountain Resort
The Cranmore Mountain Resort released a letter to season passholders and other guests in late September outlining procedures and conduct for the upcoming season. The mountain currently expects to open in mid to late November to begin the season, and season passes are available right now. Season pass numbers will be capped closer to the seasonal start day to ensure that distancing is possible in the resort. Day passes must be bought online in advance, and day lift ticket sales will be limited.
Face coverings will be required at all times at Cranmore except for while skiing or riding and when seated in a dining area. New sanitization protocol has been established, including Plexiglass shields for the protection of guests and staff and hand sanitizer stations at many places within the resort. Chairlifts will seat guests who arrived together or single guests at opposite sides of the lift. Reservations will be required at resort restaurants, more food items will be introduced that can be quickly grabbed and then enjoyed in an outdoor space, and outdoor dining and seating areas will be added. Guests will be advised to leave belongings in their cars or to use a seasonal locker, as bag check and storage of bags within the lodge will no longer be allowed. Parking protocol will continue as usual.
Located a short drive away from Dartmouth College, Dartmouth Skiway will be open to the public this year and season passes are currently available at a steep pre-season discount on their website. The skiway has informed patrons that the Freedom Pass will not be available this year, passholder amenities and perks may be limited, and refunds will be easily available for anyone who purchases a pass and has their season interrupted by Covid. Other than these pass details, Dartmouth has not yet released information on how the season will proceed.
Gunstock Mountain Resort
Gilford’s Gunstock Mountain Resort has not released detailed Covid protocols yet, but guests are encouraged to wear masks and socially distance while on the slopes. The resort has settled upon a tentative season start date of December 4th. Gunstock staff will be required to wear face coverings and complete a daily health screening. Season passes are currently available on their website at a pre-season discount that lasts until November 11th; take advantage of it now.
King Pine’s season passes are also on sale at the moment as the mountain works towards an opening date of December 18th. The ski area plans to implement capacity limits, distancing protocols, health screenings, employee Covid training, and new cleaning protocols. They will also work towards touchless transactions and the possibility of switching to an online-only system for purchasing tickets and reservations. Ski hours have also been adjusted, and the ski area will be open until 6 PM at the latest throughout this season, a change from the 9 PM closing time on certain days during former years.
Loon Mountain Resort
A New Hampshire favorite, Loon plans to open in mid-November and do so with a set of new guidelines that will ensure skiing and riding are as safe as possible. All lifts will be running, and masks will be required at all times, even during lift trips. Daily lift tickets will be bought online and quantities limited to keep under mountain capacity. No equipment or gear will be kept in lodges; instead, gear must be kept in cars, guests are expected to suit up in the parking lot, and riders are encouraged to bring a small backpack to carry needed items. Various lodges will be operating as restaurants – specific details can be found on the Loon website under ‘Winter Activities Safety Guidelines’. Season passes are currently on sale and two new passes, the MiD and Student MiD passes, are now available. These passes covering skiing from Monday to Friday with a few blackout days in order to keep capacity down while ensuring everyone has time to ski and ride.
McIntyre Ski Area
Little has been released so far about McIntyre’s ski season, but early bird season passes are currently available and a variety of deals are available on the website. The 2020-2021 events schedule has also not been posted.
Pat’s Peak has already released a comprehensive public plan for their reopening, and while a specific reopening date has not yet been announced, sometime in the middle of November would be customary. For the 2020-2021 season, guests will be required to wear face masks at all times and follow distancing protocol whenever possible. Additional bathrooms will be added at lifts so guests no longer need to visit the lodge. Pat’s Peak will also be rolling out a new app with features so that guests can buy tickets, order food, and read the latest news about the mountain from their phones.
Lift tickets and rentals will need to be purchased online, and season passes are currently also available online, as well as the Indy Pass. New outdoor seating will be added so guests can enjoy meals outside of the lodge and restaurant areas. Much like other resorts, Pat’s Peak will be encouraging guests to keep their personal belongings in their cars, as space will be unavailable within resort buildings.
Located in Danbury, Ragged Mountain plans to open for the winter on November 27th and has released a comprehensive letter of guidelines and information for the season. Above all else, Ragged seeks to prioritize its season pass holders, and will not be implementing a reservation system. Mountain capacity will be controlled by a cap on the amount of lift tickets available on any given day. An online reservation system will only be implemented as a last resort. Guests are encouraged to download the Ragged app to keep up to date on the mountain’s safety and pass guidelines.
Face coverings will be required at all times, physical distance will be prioritized when seating guests on the lift, and lodges and restaurants will operate at 50% capacity. Food will be available as takeout and outdoor dining. Lessons will continue as usual, but limited to small groups or individual lessons, and reservations in advance will be required. Equipment rentals will also be handled online. Season passes are available now.
VAIL Resorts (Crotched, Attitash, Sunapee, Wildcat:
VAIL owns four ski resorts in New Hampshire: Mount Sunapee, Attitash, Wildcat, and local favorite Crotched Mountain. In a letter posted onto the VAIL website on August 27th, a new set of regulations and requirements was rolled out for the 20-21 season. Face coverings will be required at all times within the resort, including on the mountain, on lifts, during lessons, and inside all resort buildings. Rental equipment will be sanitized between each use, and VAIL staff will also be required to wear face masks at all times. The company hopes to implement some sort of outdoor rental system at some point during the season, but details aren’t yet available.
A pass/reservation system will be implemented on every mountain, where holders of an epic pass (season pass) will be required to reserve a date and time to ski. They’ll be able to make as many reservations as availability and pass type allow, and tickets will not be sold to the general public until December 8th. Passes and reservations can be accessed on epicpass.com. They will also be able to access a limited number of ‘priority reservation days’ that can also be scheduled on the EpicPass website. Full details are available on the site.
Chairlifts and gondolas will have new distancing regulations. Guests who are skiing or snowboarding together will be seated on the same lift/gondola, while single skiers and riders will be placed on opposite sides of a larger lift. Restaurants will also be opening with distance regulations, and will use reduced seating, increased spacing between tables, and a limited menu to reduce the number of guests in the building at all times. Guests will be encouraged to bring their own food and drinks. All restaurant transactions will be cashless.
Finally, ski and snowboard lessons will be limited to a maximum of six people and must be purchased in advance, along with lift tickets (if required). Participants will be required to fill out an online health questionnaire before arriving to their lesson. Additional details will be available as the season gets closer.
Waterville Valley Resort
Waterville Valley’s operations update was released on October 1st and contains plenty of information about what the upcoming season will look like. At the moment, season passholders will not be expected to make reservations, but this may change later on in the season. Dining areas, restaurants, and restrooms will all be open. Mogul Mites, Jets, and Seasonal Childcare programs will not be offered this year, but other seasonal programs will be running in smaller groups. Advanced registration will be required for lessons. Seasonal lockers will be open, and parking lot expansions, trolley services, and preferred parking (in replacement of valet services) will be open. Opening day has not been announced yet, but season passes are currently on sale on their website.
Whaleback posted a brief update containing some information about measures that will likely be implemented during the upcoming season, and told guests to prepare for a mask requirement, suiting up in their cars, and a change to their credit policy for season pass holders if the season is cut short due to Covid. Season passes are currently available on the mountain’s website. Opening day is currently set for December 20th.