On March 28, Mount Ellen closed for the season after celebrating with a fundraiser for Vermont Adaptive on Saturday. It’s safe to say both Sugarbush Resort and Mad River Glen (MRG) had a successful ski season despite the pandemic. Both Sugarbush communications manager John Bleh and Mad River Glen marketing and events manager Ry Young had positive ski season reflections to report.
“Overall, we’ve been very pleased with our operations through the pandemic,” said Bleh. “It wasn’t easy, but we put a lot of work into making this winter happen and couldn’t be more thankful to our employees and guests for helping make this happen, from adjusting to all of our policy changes to wearing masks, to understanding the need to limit some of our offerings.”
Bleh said overall skier visits at Sugarbush were down this year, particularly paid lift ticket visits. “But we still saw plenty of skiers and riders enjoying the outdoors safely,” he said.
Mass education was one of the challenges that Sugarbush faced in adapting the pandemic ski season. “There was certainly a learning curve,” said Bleh. “But once people got the hang of things like ordering food, tickets, rentals ahead of time or not being able to boot up in the lodges, things went smoothly.”
As the weather warms up, the resort is doubling down on mask education. “We quickly learned from our initial days open to dedicate more resources towards that,” said Bleh.
The pandemic has also pushed Sugarbush to adopt some new technological changes that the resort will likely keep far into the future. These include online ticket ordering, RFID validation gates in the base areas, private cabanas and abundant food trucks.
Overall, Bleh commends the Sugarbush community for making a great ski season possible. “It took a ton of work from employees and guests, but it’s not over yet. As a resort we’re still staying in line with state guidelines and while we are excited people are getting vaccinated, we want to make sure everyone is staying vigilant until health experts deem it safe to continue relaxing restrictions,” said Bleh.
MAD RIVER GLEN
MRG has had a successful ski season. Reflecting on the snow conditions, Young said, “We enjoyed a nice stretch from January 15 through the end of February with packed powder and powder skiing. To date we're on day 95 of operations without a shutdown for adverse weather or conditions,” he said.
Reflecting on the virus, Young noted some challenges in operating the mountain. “Some of the biggest challenges we've faced this year include limitations on services. Because of COVID, to name a few, we have had to scale down some offerings like daily ski rentals, day care and restrictions on dining indoors,” he said.
Like Sugarbush, MRG will permanently change some aspects of its operations forever as a result of the pandemic. “I think one thing that has changed forever is ticket/pass scanning. In the past we would rely on lift attendants to check tickets visually, this year, due to contact tracing mandates by the state, we moved to scanning, and that seems like something that will stay in place moving forward,” said Young. “Scanning tickets and passes allows us to plan ahead with more concrete data rather than relying on unsubstantiated numbers.”
Ultimately, the successful ski season at MRG wouldn’t have been possible without the help of employees and guests. “We couldn't be more proud of our employees and guests,” said Young. “Without everyone's involvement, we wouldn't be here today. Over the course of the entire season, we only had a couple of recorded COVID cases amongst our employees. It's truly a testament to everyone's commitment to the community and maintaining a healthy ski season.”