Ski areas suspending operations around N.H., U.S.

  • Ski areas across the state and country will begin to look as empty as Pats Peak in Henniker did in this photo from Nov. 12, 2019. Many, but not all, mountains have been suspending operations to help slow the spreading COVID-19 virus. GEOFF FORESTER file / Monitor staff

  • FILE - In this Feb. 21, 2008, file photo, skiers ride up Al's Run lift at the Taos Ski Valley, in Taos County, N.M. Some resorts are closing enclosed gondolas or aerial trams while others are encouraging skiers to ride lifts with only people they know as they adhere to social distancing guidelines. Nearly every resort is promising extra cleanings of public spaces, more hand sanitizer stations and vowing to follow guidelines from the Centers for Diesel Control and Prevention. Taos Ski Valley, has decided to close for the season early on March 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Albuquerque Journal, File)

  • FILE - In this Nov. 23, 2018, file photo, skiers wave off of the Big Burn lift at Aspen Snowmass Mountain in Colorado. Ski resorts are grappling with how to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus while most planned to stay open as they try to salvage the final month-plus of the ski season. Some resorts are closing enclosed gondolas or aerial trams while others are encouraging skiers to ride lifts with only people they know as they adhere to social distancing guidelines. (Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times via AP, File) Anna Stonehouse

Monitor staff
Published: 3/15/2020 5:32:57 PM

Ski areas across the state are taking precautions to help prevent further spread of the COVID-19 virus. Many of them are suspending operations, including Pats Peak in Henniker and Mount Sunapee in Newbury. A few planned to remain open, but there are no guarantees they will stay that way.

Vail Resorts, which owns ski mountains across the world, decided late on Saturday to suspend operations at all of its North American properties until March 22, “and we will use that time to reassess our approach to the rest of the season,” Vail CEO Rob Katz said in a press release.

Vail’s New Hampshire ski areas include Mount Sunapee, Wildcat Mountain in Jackson, Crotched Mountain in Bennington and Attitash Mountain in Bartlett.

The closures marked a sudden change of course after the majority of the country’s resorts vowed earlier in the weekend to stay open during the crisis while taking measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

“This decision provides a pause for the entire ecosystem of our mountain resort communities,” Katz said. “It gives everyone the time to assess the situation, respond to ever-changing developments, and evaluate the approach for the rest of season, if we believe it is advisable or feasible to re-open.”

As of Sunday, some New Hampshire ski areas were still open, including Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford and Waterville Valley Resort.

Gunstock is encouraging any potential customers to check its website, gunstock.com, before traveling to Gilford. The site’s blog is currently dedicated to COVID-19 updates and reads, in part: “We’re still here at the mountain enjoying Spring conditions; but we wanted to take a moment to address the COVID-19 situation as it develops here in New Hampshire, and to share with our community some immediate actions that Gunstock has taken to help keep both guests and employees healthy and safe.

“New information is being released daily and the Gunstock management team is closely monitoring all available updates and news on the COVID-19 virus. Gunstock values the health and safety of all guests and employees and has taken precautions recommended by medical experts and local officials, including the World Health Organization, NH Dept. of Health and Human Services, and other trusted sources. These efforts include increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting the facilities and high traffic areas around the mountain. We are keeping a watchful eye on the health and well-being of our staff and are ensuring that they are educated on safe practices, as well as enforcing that they’re actively taking measures to prevent illness, including frequent, thorough handwashing, and staying home at the first sign of illness.

“Gunstock Mountain Resort’s scheduled closing date is Sunday, April 5th. At this point, the resort will remain open and operating normally until further notice.”

The Waterville Valley website, waterville.com, has a similar message that also includes the following warning: “Officials advise that people at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from larger groups of people as much as possible. Those at higher risk include people over 60 years of age, with underlying health conditions, with weakened immune systems, or those who are pregnant.”

Pats Peak stayed open through 4 p.m. on Sunday, but will suspend operations through Friday and then reassess the situation.

Boyne Resorts operates Loon Mountain in Lincoln, as well as the large Maine resorts Sunday River and Sugarloaf. All three have suspended operations.

“In light of the most recent recommendations and guidance from local authorities and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in regard to the COVID-19 situation, Loon Mountain Resort has made the incredibly difficult decision to suspend all operations at the end of the day today until further notice,” a press release posted on Sunday at loonmtn.com stated. “This was not a decision we came to lightly, and we know that many of you will be disappointed. But our first responsibility is for the health and well-being of our staff, guests, and community, and it is clear that this is the only appropriate and responsible course of action for us to take.”

Alterra Mountain Company, another industry giant like Vail, decided to shutter all 15 of its resorts on Saturday. Alterra’s properties include Stratton and Sugarbush in Vermont; Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado; Squaw Valley, Mammoth and Big and Bear Mountain in California.

The Telluride Ski Resort said it decided to close immediately after learning that Colorado Gov. Jared Polis planned to issue an executive order closing the state’s ski resorts. Late Saturday, the Aspen Skiing Company announced it was closing ski operations at Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass because of Polis’s order.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)



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