Published: 12/7/2021 1:57:32 PM
Modified: 12/7/2021 1:57:04 PM
It’s time to find your boots!
The local ski season is officially underway, as skiable snow conditions are making their way from New England’s northernmost mountains down to southern New Hampshire, where Bennington’s Crotched Mountain Ski and Ride plans to open Friday, Dec. 10. The Old Farmer’s Almanac of Dublin predicts an extremely cold winter with above-average snowfall in 2021-22, and with overnight lows already dipping into the teens, Crotched Mountain’s snow guns are firing long into the night to prepare the mountain’s 23 trails and three parks for opening day.
As the world enters a second straight winter with COVID looming, the outdoor escape of skiing and snowboarding is as appealing as ever.
“[Skiing] is something that really fulfills that need that people obviously have after being pent up for so long,” said Crotched communications manager Bonnie MacPherson.
Last year’s COVID restrictions didn’t put much of a damper on the ski season, but at Crotched and other resorts, outdoor masking, social distancing on chairlifts and in lift lines, along with a pre-registration system for tickets, added some hassle to a skier’s day. MacPherson said Vail Resorts has lifted those restrictions for the coming year.
“That was something that the company announced pretty early on,” MacPherson said. “We’re going out of the gates with no reservation system.”
MacPherson said last year’s COVID compliance allowed them to reassess the chairlift loading process, another silver lining coming out of pandemic adaptation.
“We learned a lot last year having to load lifts in a more-restricted way,” MacPherson said. “It gave us an opportunity to examine how we organize our lift mazes…there were some great takeaways there.”
The resort will still have a full complement of COVID protocols in action indoors, where masks are required, transactions are cashless and proof of vaccination is mandatory for dining.
MacPherson said this winter’s season pass sales have increased from the 2020-21 season; Crotched will limit ticket sales on holiday weekends and vacation weeks to ensure pass-holders have access during the busiest periods.
“There’s a huge pent-up demand,” MacPherson said. “With the vaccine, with more people being vaccinated, having more freedom, people are ready to get out there and travel.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Crotched Mountain this year is staffing; MacPherson said the mountain, unable to participate in its typical in-person job fairs, is still looking for workers this winter. Ski resort staffing is a perfect job for any skier or snowboarder, said MacPherson, who got her own start years ago with an entry-level position.
“What a great opportunity for a skier or snowboarder,” MacPherson said. “There’s nothing like it. I still remember my first day – my boss called me the night before and said ‘bring your gear, you’re going to be on the snow tomorrow.’ …The positivity and the stoke that’s at Crotched is amazing. From the guests to the staff, everybody’s really aligned.”
Other nearby ski areas include Pats Peak in Henniker, which opened last weekend. Roxbury’s Granite Gorge has been closed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, and is unlikely to reopen for skiing.