Vermont’s ski industry faces an unprecedented test this winter as COVID-focused government seems determined to impose burdensome restrictions on resort operators.
According to new “Be Smart, Stay Safe” guidelines, when an out-of-state traveler arrives in Vermont, the first thing he or she must do is stay inside and not leave for two weeks: “All travelers must quarantine for 14 days — or you have the option to end your quarantine after 7 days if you have not had COVID-19 symptoms, take a PCR test and receive a negative test result.”
Face coverings must be worn at ski areas, except when seated with one’s traveling party and eating or drinking, and everyone must stay six feet apart while maneuvering through the lodges, restaurants and other attractions.
Those who have had contact with anyone exhibiting one of COVID-19’s extensive range of common symptoms are advised to not visit resorts, and “tailgating, aprés-ski and other non-physically-distanced gatherings are to be avoided before, during and after skiing this season,” the guidelines state.
Sugarbush Inn’s public relations representative, John Bleh, told TNR that he’s encouraging visitors to follow the guidelines so the ski season can proceed.
“You need to abide by these quarantine guidelines,” he said. “It’s not impossible, especially if you work at home. You can do seven days and a negative test, or you can do 14 days without the test. You can do it in your own home — it’s just 14 days that you have to stay home and quarantine before you can come up and ski.”
Bleh said that all the sections where people hang out are going to be limited in capacity in keeping with state guidelines. For example, restaurants are capped at 50 percent capacity. Also, the only time people can expect to be mask-free is when they are actively going down the slopes or sitting down to have food or drink.
He said the various entrances and exits across the resort had to be reconfigured so that people can move around while maintaining distance. In addition, Sugarbush owners put a large investment toward outdoor heating so that people can choose to sit outside, all along the sides of the lodges, even in the wintery weather.
“We’ve invested in a bunch of outdoor heaters,” Bleh said, adding that dining will rely on “grab-and-go,” even though tables may still be reserved.
Despite the challenges and rules, Bleh said resorts are coping well so far.
“It’s not terrible,” he said. “Yes, there’s some investment to be made in signage and these heaters and things like that. The biggest part is really just being able to get these protocols in place and then educating people — that’s kind of the hardest part.
While hyping the dangers of coronavirus, Vermont’s Department of Tourism and Marketing will spend $6.5 million of its federal CARES Act money on promoting tourism in Vermont.
One of the ads put out by the state shows the beautiful scenery of Vermont and then reads in capital letters across the bottom: “QUARANTINE REQUIRED. KNOW THE RULES BEFORE YOU VISIT.”
Elsewhere in the nation, tourism is taking a big hit during the lockdowns. In lockdown-heavy California, about 4 in 10 jobs lost are from the hospitality industry, and revenue is expected to drop by half for the year. Other impacts include a drop in travel revenue by 54 percent.