The North Carolina Ski Areas Association has joined the national Ski Well, Be Well initiative to promote COVID-safe skiing during the winter of 2020-21.
Foundational protocols of the Ski Well, Be Well initiative in North Carolina are as follows:
- Face Coverings Required: All NC ski areas require face coverings whenever physical distancing cannot be achieved. This includes indoors and outdoors, except when eating and drinking.
- Physical Distancing: Protocols are in place indoors and outdoors to allow for appropriate spacing between parties. This includes, but is not limited to: lift queues, ticket queues, lessons, employee spaces, food & beverage operations.
- Cleaning and Disinfecting: NC ski areas have adopted cleaning and disinfecting strategies for all areas of operations, including high-touch areas such as restrooms, dining facilities, ticket offices and equipment rental shops.
- Operating Plans: Ski resorts will maintain operational plans to comply with local, state and federal protocols, particularly indoor spaces. Ski areas will pay close attention to management of outdoor spaces, including base areas, lifts and ski terrain.
- Communication with Public: The ski areas will communicate plans and requirements to guests prior to their arrival, stressing the shared responsibility to keep the slopes safe. Resorts will have on-site signage notifying guests and employees of required best practices to maintain COVID safety.
- Employee Wellness Checks: Daily wellness checks are performed on all employees. Employees will be sent home, or asked to stay at home, if they exhibit relevant symptoms or have come in contact with a COVID-19 case.
Sugar Mountain vice president Kim Jochl and Beech Mountain general manager Ryan Costin are members of the board of directors of the NC Ski Areas Association and are leading the effort to keep North Carolina’s ski slopes and snowboarding areas as safe as possible for the winter of 2020-21. Both resorts increased contactless online options for buying lift tickets and renting ski and snowboard equipment. Both resorts have also enlarged and modified their equipment rental facilities to allow for more distancing.
“We are committed to the health and well-being of those living in and visiting our mountain communities,” Jochl said.
“We have every reason to believe that the success of our summer season will carry over to our winter season,” said Costin.
In general, the North Carolina Ski Areas Association and the National Ski Areas Association believe skiing and snowboarding are uniquely positioned for safety during a pandemic. This is because the resorts encompass dozens of acres of outdoor space, the majority of time is spent outdoors and cruising solo down the slopes, face coverings and helmets are standard gear for skiers and snowboarders, and general etiquette calls for allowing ample space between yourself and fellow skiers and boarders.
Chairlift Safety also Bodes Well for Ski Areas for these Reasons
- Lift Queue Spacing: Occurs organically due to the length of skis and snowboards.
- Self-Grouping Chairs: Guests will self-group at chairlifts and only ride with people in their traveling party.
- Riding the Lifts: Chairs are spaced approximately 50 feet apart, are open air and provide constant directional air flow.
Do Your Part: Tips for a Successful Ski Experience
- Know before you go. Make sure to do research so you know what to expect when you arrive. Ski areas will keep their websites and other communications channels updated with info about parking, reservations, lessons, available amenities and mask requirements.
- Stay home if you are or could be sick — even if it is a powder day. It stinks to miss a day of skiing, but it’s worse to miss an entire season. Assess your health before going to the mountain. Ski area employees undergo daily wellness checks and have to stay home if exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. We all need to be healthy to keep skiing and riding.
- Ski or ride mid-week. Weekends and holidays are generally the busiest times. Try skiing mid-week for a more distanced experience with fewer people.
- Be flexible. Local and state public health regulations can change rapidly, and ski areas will comply with those regulations.
- Wear a mask and adhere to physical distancing requirements. We all have a responsibility to protect ourselves and each other this season and every season. Plus, ski areas must follow certain rules to stay open. So, bring a mask, keep it up over your nose, and work together to be the reason there is a season.
For more information on skiing in North Carolina’s ski town of Banner Elk, click here.