Lift ticket window

A couple of winter enthusiasts inquire at the lift ticket window at Mansfield base. The ski area hopes to open Nov. 25.

One of Stowe Mountain Resort’s main goals for the upcoming ski season is making sure there will be a full season, from start to finish. Already, the start part is a moving target.

The resort was scheduled to begin its season this Friday, but it’s been pushed back five days to next Wednesday, Nov. 25, and only if the weather allows for it. As of this week, it had not.

“Stowe will be postponing our opening day due to uncommonly warm temperatures in recent weeks,” resort communications manager Jeff Wise wrote in an email Tuesday, just hours after the resort announced it was pushing back the start date. “While some of the snow is already in place, our expert snowmakers are ready to get the job done right with colder temps approaching. Our goal is to open the Four Runner Quad top-to-bottom, with as much terrain as we can on high-quality snow surfaces. More than ever before, we are dedicated to providing great skiing and riding while ensuring the proper physical distancing to keep you all safe.”

Bobby Murphy, the resort’s vice president and general manager, told the Stowe Selectboard last week the resort has three primary focuses this year — safety of the guests, employees and overall Stowe community; prioritizing season pass holders; and having a “full, successful season from start to finish.”

The resort closed down nearly a month early last season, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Murphy took everyone back to the rapid chain of events — the resort on March 13 re-christened Lullaby Lane as Jake’s Ride, in honor of Burton founder and Stowe resident Jake Burton Carpenter.

“And then we transitioned on March 14 to a much different way of trying to run our business. For one Saturday,” Murphy said, referring to how quickly the resort pulled the plug on the 2020 season.

Despite having a raft of places to eat and drink around the resort, Stowe is, in a way, going back to the days before many of those amenities were available. The “paradigm shift,” Murphy said, is about spending as little time inside as possible.

“We really want to focus on you coming to the resort either dressed and ready to go, or changing at your vehicle, and then going back to your car to either take a break, or head on out,” he said. “It’s so different and weird to say, coming out of my mouth, but it’s important.”

Vermont ski resorts have opened as scheduled during mild autumns before, even if it means relying on snowmaking to cover that single “thin white line” from top to bottom. But one trail and one lift just isn’t going to be enough to keep skiers and riders separated per COVID-19 physical distancing guidelines, not when lift capacity is halved for non-family pass holders, and not when the goal is to get skiers and riders up and get them spread out through the resort’s 485 acres.

So, nature conspires with a pandemic to push the start date back.

Murphy said the town of Stowe has done an admirable job of keeping COVID at bay in one of Vermont’s top tourist sites.

“You, the town, has provided us with phenomenal leadership and guidance. You’ve embraced out commitment to safety and supported us all the way,” Murphy said.

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