From new food trucks and outdoor lounges to requiring tickets be purchased in advance, ski season at Northeast Pennsylvania resorts will look a little different this winter.
Opening day at local resorts won’t come until after Thanksgiving or even later, but ski resort employees are already thinking about how to make sure skiers comply with COVID-19 safety rules.
Camelback is planning to add several outdoor dining options, while Montage Mountain will offer hangouts built from former shipping containers.
“People are anxious to get back to doing the things that make them happy,” Montage spokesman Jeff Slivinski said. “With skiing being an outdoor, naturally distanced activity, we think there’s an appeal to people who want to try something new, dust off old skis or tally up the days on snow and feel some kind of normalcy again.”
‘Keep your distance’
Montage Mountain in Moosic is aiming for Black Friday for its target opening date but that is weather-dependent, Slivinski said.
To make the new normal “normal,” he said, Montage Mountain has capitalized on its vast outdoor area and expanded its food and bar and service area with new open air space.
The resort’s Midland Craft Kitchen will feature private rental tents, more than 30 fire pits, craft brews, cocktails, food and an area for live music. Repurposed shipping containers will frame the space while doubling as the main food and bar point of sale. Guests can relax outside between runs while following the state’s COVID-19 safety guidelines, Slivinski said.
As for daily operations, he said masks will be mandatory but that’s “nothing new to skiing and snowboarding traditional attire.”
Montage Mountain will adhere to capacity requirements and encourage guests to dress for snow tubing or skiing before arriving and stow gear at their vehicles to maximize indoor lodge space for patrons, he said.
In another change this season, the number of reserved tailgate-style parking spots will be limited and will be available for purchase to further distance guests throughout the resort.
Slivinski anticipates a good season as early season pass and lift ticket sales are trending ahead of 2019 and 2018.
Scranton native Ian Lencicki, 34, an avid skier who has had a season pass for Montage Mountain for more than 20 years, said he and his friends are looking forward to hitting the slopes this season.
Typically, he said the only interaction skiers have are on the ski lift and everyone will be required to wear face coverings.
“You are certainly able to keep your distance,” he said. “I think everybody is looking for an outlet and the ability to be outside and recreate. In a world of COVID-19, this will put a little normalcy back into your daily life.
‘Enjoy the fresh air’
Depending on the weather, Camelback Resort in the Poconos is aiming to launch its winter season Thanksgiving weekend with traditional snow activities as well as new ones.
Camelback’s snow tubing park is slated to open Nov. 27. It will feature music and disco lighting and new features include a soup-and-sandwich-themed food truck hitched to a tap bar draft beverage trailer around fire pits.
This season, Camelback added 377 new snow guns to its collection of more than 1,200 snowmaking guns. The opening of ski season will depend on the weather and their ability to make snow, said Shawn Hauver, managing director of the 560-acre resort.
Camelback Resort added a “Sunbowl Lift” this year to zoom skiers and snowboarders across the mountain to Camelback Mountain Village where they can find a new tacos and beer truck.
“The biggest changes we made is the way we’re able to feed people during the season,” Hauver said. “Because our indoor dining capacity is limited to 50%, we have a very large outdoor area and we’re putting safety heaters out there and we will have food trucks.”
Among the other COVID-19 safety protocols at Camelback Resort, patrons must reserve their times by purchasing advanced lift ticket and passes and snow tubing tickets online or via the resort’s app. Ski rentals and signed waivers must be completed online to minimize contact.
Parties will need to ride together and singles will ride alone. Lifts and tubes will be sanitized between each guest and sanitizing stations will be in place at the bottom of lifts.
Facial coverings will be required in all public spaces, including rental shops and while queuing for loading and riding lifts.
Because of the outdoor nature of skiing, the ability to social distance and skiers generally wearing facial coverings anyway, Hauver said.
“People have been stuck indoors and may be a little nervous about going out but this is, in my view, one of the safest things they can do is go out and enjoy the fresh air and ski,” he said.
Ski season is expected to begin in mid-December at Elk Mountain Ski Resort in Susquehanna County but that is weather-dependent, said Bob DeLuca, director of sales and marketing.
This season, Elk Mountain has eliminated the sales of “morning only” tickets, but people can buy day passes or afternoon tickets, DeLuca said.
Elk Mountain also won’t be open seven days a week this season but its hours will be 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and 8;30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, DeLuca said. The resort will also limit the number of people in all indoor spaces as long as occupancy limits are in place. Time spent in buildings also will be limited. No tables may be reserved whether inside or outside.
Face coverings will be required in lift lines as well as in all indoor spaces except while eating.