Flying down the snow-covered mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania might be just what you need to cure your cabin fever.
Thanks to the mostly individualized nature of skiing, snowboarding and snowtubing, not to mention the masks, gloves and helmets that often go along with them, the sports seem to be a few of the safer options for exercise in the age of COVID-19. Still, local ski centers have added precautions to keep guests as safe as possible while still enjoying the great outdoors.
Masks and social distancing
Montage Mountain Resorts in Scranton will take the temperatures of all guests and employees at its main gate, and anyone with a temperature of 100 F or higher “will be taken discretely for additional testing,” according to the resort’s guidelines.
“If a guest or employee is confirmed to have a temperature of 100 F, they will not be allowed to enter the resort and will be asked to leave along with anyone in their traveling party,” the guidelines added.
Camelback Resort near Tannersville also screens patrons, vendors and workers for “overt symptoms,” using a no-touch thermometer to take temperatures, at its main entrance.
For the most part, guests at area resorts must wear face coverings when in public areas — indoors and outdoors — except when eating or drinking. Snowtubers at Montage must wear masks and gloves for the entire experience, and the resort will sanitize the tubes each night after closing. Guests also are expected to observe social distancing. Check with individual resorts for more specific rules.
Many resorts also are continuously cleaning and disinfecting areas, particularly high-traffic ones; have installed hand-sanitizing stations; and do daily wellness checks on employees.
Guests can ride chair lifts with other people from their party and won’t have to ride with strangers. Ski Big Bear at Masthope Mountain in Lackawaxen noted that guests who are alone can pair up with another guest or ride by themselves.
Shawnee Mountain Ski Area near East Stroudsburg noted in its coronavirus protocols that its “high-capacity chairlifts and closed cabin carriers may be the exception” to its general lift guidelines “and may be loaded in a way that allows for physical distancing.”
Tickets and reservations
Ski resorts across the country have implemented touchless transactions in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a December report by the Los Angeles Times.
“They were already on the rise, thanks to the radio-frequency identification scanning of tickets and passes, and now will become ubiquitous,” the newspaper wrote, explaining that some venues have even installed RFID lift gates.
Locally, fees vary depending on the day, and resorts are selling passes and packages on their websites. Camelback has even shifted to cashless on-site transactions where able. Elk Mountain in Susquehanna County is working on implementing touchless online ticket sales so guests can buy passes online and pick them up at specified boxes at its lodge and the base of its quad. Regular ticket windows will remain open, and reservations are not required.
Shawnee, which has touchless payment and online ticket/pass scanning in place, is limiting capacity and encourages guests to buy tickets in advance on its website to guarantee entry. Visitors also can pay for rentals and beginners’ packages online. Tubing tickets are only available online.
Jack Frost Ski Resort and Big Boulder Mountain, both in Carbon County, also are limiting the amount of guests and requiring reservations; passholders have priority access. Reservations can be made online, and all in-person transactions at eateries, the hotel and elsewhere in the resorts are now cashless.
Big Bear’s lift tickets are RFID cards this year, which guests can buy online, collect at a PickUp Box and then reload online for future visits.
Resorts continue to offer equipment rentals as well; check for restrictions and more information prior to your visit. Lessons for all ages remain available at most resorts, too. Elk Mountain suspended its children’s ski programs because of pandemic concerns, but it still offers a “first-timer” package that includes a lesson, lift ticket and equipment rental.
Eating and drinking
Lodges remain open, although the number of guests and the amount of time they can stay indoors may be limited depending on current restrictions. Guests at Elk Mountain can avoid going inside by using the portable lavatories the resort set up outdoors.
Recent restrictions on indoor dining affected lodges, too. Guests at Elk Mountain still could grab items to-go from the cafeteria, said Bob Deluca, the resort’s director of marketing and group sales, and it added picnic tables around the mountain so people could eat outdoors. Shawnee added outdoor seating as well. Select Camelback eateries have offered outdoor dining and takeout service, and the resort also set up heated dining tents. Montage has set up tents at Midland; rental costs $99 per day from Mondays to Thursdays and $199 per day Fridays to Sundays and holidays.
Montage Mountain guests can use the Noble app to order food and drinks to-go from Slocum Hollow Bar and Restaurant, Midland and the cafeteria. Big Bear encourages its visitors to use its text-to-order system via 570-503-7559 or to call in orders at 570-685-9412. It also is creating an online ordering portal for its restaurants.
Elk Mountain encourages guests to picnic at their cars, although Deluca stressed that they can’t have open flames. The resort recommends that visitors “boot up” while at their cars, too, rather than at the lodge, he said, something other resorts recommend as well. The Los Angeles Times reported that “many skiers and boarders will drive to the slopes and make their vehicles a base of operations to avoid weather, crowds and shuttle buses.”
Tailgating also is allowed at Shawnee, which does not let guests bring food, drinks or coolers into the base area or lodges. Big Bear has a similar restriction.
Resorts typically host special events throughout the season, from races to concerts to fundraisers, but COVID and the uncertainty that goes with it has quashed many plans.
“We have some things in mind, but they’re actually holding off doing a final confirmation because (events) may have to canceled because of COVID,” Deluca said. “Right now, we are in a holding pattern.”
Elk Mountain will still host WVIA’s annual membership day on Tuesday, Jan. 19, however. Ski packages are available for station members, who can enjoy the resort from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visit wvia.org or call 570-344-1244 for more information.
Shawnee’s annual “Learn a Snow Sport Day” set for this weekend has sold out, but the resort will offer the Paint the Mountain Pink breast cancer awareness event on Feb. 6, special Boy Scout and Girl Scout programs, races, military appreciation events and the 37th annual Costume Carnival Day on March 21.
Camelback, which has overnight accommodations as well, has temporarily halted some of its amenities because of coronavirus restrictions; contact the resort before you go for the most current information.
Information about upcoming events at other area resorts was not available.
Elk Mountain, meanwhile, continues to make snow when it’s cold enough and open more trails when possible, Deluca said.
“It’s been busy,” he said. “It’s been very busy.”
If you go
- Address: 301 Resort Drive, Pocono Springs
- Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Details: 855-515-1283 or camelbackresort.com
Elk Mountain Ski Resort
- Address: 344 Elk Mountain Road, Union Dale
- Hours: Sundays through Thursdays, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Details: firstname.lastname@example.org, 570-679-4400 or elkskier.com
Jack Frost Ski Resort/Big Boulder Mountain
- Addresses: Jack Frost, 434 Jack Frost Mountain Road, Kidder Twp.; Big Boulder, 357 Big Boulder Drive, Kidder Twp.
- Hours: Dates and times vary by location
- Details: 570-443-8425, jfbb.com or JFBBinfo@vailresorts.com
Montage Mountain Resorts
- Address: 1000 Montage Mountain Road, Scranton
- Hours: Daily, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Details: 855-754-7946 or montagemountainresorts.com
Shawnee Mountain Ski Area
- Address: 401 Hollow Road, Smithfield Twp.
- Hours: Mondays to Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday through Sundays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; reservations recommended
- Details: 570-421-7231 or shawneemt.com
Ski Big Bear at Masthope Mountain
- Address: 192 Karl Hope Blvd., Lackawaxen
- Hours: Mondays, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sundays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; check with the resort for special holiday hours
- Details: 570-226-8585 or ski-bigbear.com
Caitlin Heaney West is the content editor for Access NEPA and oversees the Early Access blog in addition to working as a copy editor and staff writer for The Times-Tribune. An award-winning journalist, she is a summa cum laude graduate of Shippensburg University and also earned a master’s degree from Marywood University. Caitlin joined the Times-Shamrock family in 2009 and lives in Scranton. Contact: email@example.com; 570-348-9100 x5107; or @cheaneywest