Last weekend at Sugarbush was one for hand warmers. Just two gloveless minutes booting up in the parking lot left my fingers colder than the devil’s heart. At 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 23, the upper parking lot closest to the mountain was already full. As seen by the license plates, people had come from far and wide to enjoy Vermont’s most recent snow dump, despite the 9-degree weather.
The parking lot jitney was rolling and picking up eager skiers, who packed into the open-air trailer like sardines. Everyone wore masks, some official N-95s, other in regular neck warmers that they had hiked up over their noses.
At the resort entrance by the ski school Sugarbush employees stood by a stand-alone gate people could walk through to check to see if their passes were activated. At Sugarbush, passes don’t work until the resort’s online affidavit has been signed. It asks skiers and riders to attest that they understand and will comply to Vermont’s quarantine guidelines.
At first glance, the lines seemed long; however, my stint in the Super Bravo line passed in less than 20 minutes. Skiers looked especially spread out due to Sugarbush’s ghost aisles, which separate lift lines and allow skiers to stay horizontally distant while waiting to get on the quad.
Where the lines merged, Sugarbush employees walked back and forth directing traffic, taking turns pointing at groups to grant them access to the lift. However, when it came my turn to access the lift, the Sugarbush employee in charge of line management didn’t just point to me, she spoke.
“Do you want to ride alone?” she asked.
“Oh, it doesn’t matter to me,” I said.
Soon I was on the quad with a stranger, who sat at the opposite end of the chair. He was a snowboarder, a product design engineer from the Philadelphia suburbs, up for the weekend.
He told me how lucky I was to live in Vermont, to see nothing but trees on my drive to work, to live so close to the mountain.
I hit the slopes, starting with Domino Chute down to Domino, and across to the Heaven’s Gate traverse over to the Heaven’s Gate triple. The snow was divine, though the moguls were unforgiving, built up high and steep by previous skiers.
During the next few laps on Heaven’s Gate and Castle Rock, I was pleasantly surprised to notice that trails were not packed with skiers. Perhaps social distancing pays off in terms of limiting skier density on narrow trails, I thought.
Lunch time was more complicated as the online ordering process takes some getting used to. Even if all you want is a drink, you must scan into Sugarbush’s online ordering system with your phone, choose a food and beverage outlet to order from, select your items and enter your credit card information into the system.
I opted for a bowl of beef chili from the Lunch Box, a food truck posted just outside the Gate House lodge. Initially, I was dismayed to see a notification on my phone telling me my chili would take half an hour to prepare, but when I walked up and asked about my order, the gentlemen at the Lunch Box poured my chili and handed it to me right away.
I devoured my food in the outdoor Gate House Plaza. While the Gate House lodge doors were open, most people were eating and drinking outside by the flaming fires. Normally crowded indoor places like the Gate House bathroom and ski shop were almost empty, even on a cold day like this one.
Back in line, Sugarbush lift operators were catching people with low masks and exposed noses, miming at them to pull their masks up. A few more rounds of leg burners and I was ready to go home, defrost my toes and reminisce on a good day of ripping bumps and catching some sideline freshies along the way.