There was no sugarcoating of reality at a community Zoom forum hosted this week by the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The over-capacity digital forum was moderated by Eric Friedman from the chamber and featured Matt Lillard, general manager at Mad River Glen; John Hammond, Sugarbush CEO; and Sean Kramer of the 1824 House, representing The Valley’s lodging community.
The trio gave brief synopses of their operational plans this year, touching often on the role that those in the hospitality business play in educating visitors on Vermont’s travel guidelines which now require quarantine of either two weeks or onr week with a negative COVID test before coming to Vermont by private car. That quarantine can take place in or out of state, but travel to the state must take place privately and in one day.
A lot of what was heard was not new. Skiers will be asked to boot up in cars and to reserve everything from private lessons to access to lodges and food. But what was noteworthy was the fact that Lillard, Kramer and Hammond sugarcoated nothing. They acknowledged that this would be a winter like no other and they acknowledged that it would be financially challenging, particularly for the lodging community.
There were many questions from those who participated about how ski areas and lodges would enforce the state travel guidelines and several attempts to paint these industries as a threat to the state.
And here is another area where all three leaders marched in lockstep. They live here with their families and want to protect this community as well as the larger Vermont communities. They understand that their jobs are to safely manage visitors. They also understand that getting outside in the winter is always important as a coping mechanism in normal years, and even more so during a pandemic. We need access to the mountains.
These folks have kids in our local schools and they want their children to continue to have as much in-person learning as possible. There’s no degree of separation between any of us as we try to navigate through what will be a very different holiday season, supporting each other and keeping each other safe.
And that requires the kind of clear-eyed, honest and open communication we heard this week.