The first major winter storm of the season dumped upwards of 21 inches of snow on The Valley with an additional 4-6 inches falling this week. The snow couldn’t have come at a better time as both Sugarbush and Mad River Glen were filled with skiers celebrating Martin Luther King weekend.
At Mad River Glen, general manager Matt Lillard said that the resort sold out of its single day lift tickets on two of the three weekend days. Mad River Glen is keeping its daily skier visits at 50% of its normal capacity, he said. Mad River Glen is fully open and Sugarbush will open the Castlerock and Slide Brook lifts this weekend.
In terms of how the resort functioned with its COVID-19 protocols, Lillard said it was working well and that the new Snack Shack was well-received and well-used.
“The lodge continues to be empty. People are spending their time on the mountain and only coming inside when they need to,” he said. Sunday was Mad River Glen’s busiest day and even with social distancing, the longest wait time for lifts was 25 minutes for the Single Chair.
At Sugarbush, communications manager John Bleh said that the COVID-19 protocols had worked well. He said that the MLK weekend was the resort’s biggest weekend to date and said that while crowds didn’t quite meet the resort’s projections, that the turnout was still great.
Bleh and Lillard were asked about reports about COVID cases at their resorts and both were forthcoming about cases. Lillard said there’d been no cases linked to employment at Mad River Glen. He said there’s been an employee case this fall who’d traveled and quarantined and tested positive. That employee never came to work, Lillard said. He said another employee who also works at the Hyde Away where there was recently a case, had to stay home and quarantine and test out before returning to work.
“The hardest thing here is that there have been cases in The Valley, and we’re a small community and lots of people are linked. The case at the Hyde Away demonstrates that,” he said.
Bleh said that since March, Sugarbush has seen six cases of COVID among its employees, including one food and beverage worker this week.
“The case that we identified yesterday resulted in 11 close contacts, so those folks have to quarantine. Obviously, that impacts our staffing levels and may result in fewer food and beverage options,” he said.
The five other cases among Sugarbush employees have occurred while Sugarbush had its golf course and health club open and then, starting last month, the ski resort.
“Our cases have been random, a lift op, a mechanic, now a food and beverage employee. We haven’t seen any cases due to guest interaction. The protocols are working. I try to tell people that we have these protocols in place under the assumption that anyone could and does have COVID. That’s why the masks and online ordering,” Bleh said.
At both resorts, COVID is requiring flexibility around staffing as well as open, honest communication.
“We stress to our employees the importance of being honest. If they feel like they shouldn’t be at work, let us know and we’ll fill their hours and pay them as we need to on a case-by-case basis,” Lillard said.