To the Stowe community:
There is nothing I am looking forward to more than being back on the mountain, back on my skis, back on my snowboard, and I know I am not alone. We’ve all waited patiently for the return of winter sports, and this year more than ever, we need it.
Our mission as the Northeast’s premium mountain resort, is to provide everyone at the mountain with an Experience of a Lifetime. And we have always known that safety needs to be the foundation of how we provide that experience. This year, our commitment to safety takes on more importance than ever. We are fortunate that skiing and riding takes place here in our community, in the fresh air and wide-open spaces. However, to help protect our guests, our employees and this community amid a pandemic, changes will be required this season. Striving for consistency with our new safety protocols will provide as much predictability as possible this season, which we believe is worth the extra effort. Some will not agree with our approach, feeling we are being too conservative. And I recognize the changes we are implementing will be an inconvenience. But I ask for your understanding. In return, you can count on us to try and do everything we can to help keep you safe and make skiing and riding a reality in Stowe this entire winter. While it will be different than we are used to, we are optimistic it will be a great season and the respite we all need right now. We hope you will join us on this journey.
Many of you have already seen the details of our 2020-21 winter operating plan, which was released in late August, and it is also now available in great detail on stowe.com. For your safety, we will be requiring face coverings, promoting physical distancing, and enforcing health screenings when physical distancing may not be possible, such as in ski and ride school.
As we have all summer and fall, we will be requiring guests to wear face coverings in every part of our operations, which includes loading and riding in chairlifts and gondolas; when inside all buildings; and during all ski and snowboard lessons. No one will be permitted on the mountain without a face covering. We will also strongly recommend that guests wear face coverings in all indoor and outdoor public spaces throughout our resort towns and will continue to encourage our communities to make this a requirement. Being safe and successful this season will require everyone’s cooperation and we believe face coverings are foundational to make that possible.
Physical Distancing at the Mountain
As outlined below, we will be promoting physical distancing throughout our operations, including on our chairlifts and gondolas, to help ensure a safe experience. In order to make this a reality and also make it an enjoyable experience, we must manage the number of people on our mountain. The good news is, for the vast majority of days during the season, we believe everyone who wants to get on our mountain will be able to. However, we are not planning for the majority of days, we are planning for every day of the season. We want to provide assurance to our guests that we will do our very best to minimize crowds at all times – be it a holiday weekend or the unpredictable powder day.
As such, this season we will be implementing a reservation system. It is possible that at some point in the season, as we evaluate the dynamics of our operations, we may decide that we no longer need the reservation system. However, with so many uncertainties, we believe it is only prudent to have this system in place now. Full details and FAQs can be found on stowe.com. Here are some key high-level specifics.
• Epic Pass holders including Epic Day Pass, Epic Local Pass, etc., will be given priory access to the reservation from Nov. 6 through Dec. 7.
• Early season skiing & riding will be reserved for pass holders only, through Dec. 7.
• The reservation system will be accessible to everyone on Dec. 8.
• Pass holders have the opportunity to book up to Seven Priority Days for the season, or as many days of access as they have on their pass if less than seven. As pass holders use their Priority Reservation Days, they can book new ones, maintaining up to seven (or however many days of access are remaining on their pass) at any time
• Throughout the season, pass holders will also be able to make as many week-of reservations as their pass type and availability allow.
• Families will be able to book reservations together if they are in the same pass holder account.
To provide additional peace of mind, we have also updated our Epic Coverage program. Epic Coverage is new and free for all pass holders. It will provide refunds:
• If pass holders are unable to book their preferred Priority Reservation Days during the initial booking window (Nov. 6-Dec. 7) and if they have not used their pass yet.
• If there is a resort closure due to certain events such as COVID-19 during a pass holders’ initial Priority Reservation Days selected by Dec. 7. (There will still be an option for pass holders to choose to cover the core season instead.)
• If pass holders experience an eligible personal event that prevents them from using their pass, such as job loss, injury or illness.
Again, we recognize that most days of the season it will not be necessary to manage the number of people on our mountains, and that our pass holders may view the reservation system as a hassle. However, with this program, we are planning for as many contingencies as possible to strive to give you peace of mind knowing you will have the space you need to physically distance and enjoy your time on the slopes.
Physical Distancing on Chairlifts and Gondolas
To maintain physical distancing on our chairlifts and gondolas, we will only be seating related parties (guests skiing or riding together) and following state guidelines for seating unrelated guests.
Riding a chairlift is an outdoor experience, while moving quickly and taking a relatively short amount of time, and many of you have inquired why we need distancing at all, given the requirement for guests to wear face coverings. While all of this is true, in the current environment, we do not believe it is appropriate to seat guests from different parties directly next to each other, given the dynamics during loading and unloading, during chair stoppages and due the proximity between guests as they ride the lift, speak to each other, speak on the phone, eat and adjust their clothing. We believe a conservative approach is the best way to protect our guests.
Physical Distancing in On-Mountain Restaurants
We are committed to opening all of our on-mountain restaurants this season. To allow for physical distancing, we will be managing the number of people in our restaurants in accordance with public health requirements and will monitor guests coming in and out of restaurants at the entrances. Our approach to each restaurant will be a little different, depending on the layout and flow of each facility.
Food options in quick-service restaurants will be more limited this season, with just a handful of ready-to-go hot and cold options and no ability for any custom or special orders. Given these limitations, we will recommend that guests adjust their schedules and try to dine earlier or later to avoid the peak lunch rush. Since stopping by one of our restaurants will not be as easy as in years’ past, we will also encourage guests to bring water, snacks and other food with them to the mountain to ensure they stay hydrated and have the energy needed for their ski day.
We will still sell packaged beer and wine at most of our locations, but we will not operate any full-service bars, as we do not believe convening in a traditional bar setting, anywhere in resort is safe amid COVID-19. Finally, all transactions in our restaurants, and elsewhere at the resort, will be cashless (unless required by local regulations). As the season approaches, we will be sharing specific details on the operations of each restaurants at the mountain.
Physical Distancing in Ski & Snowboard Rental Locations
We are striving to provide a safe experience throughout each part of Stowe Mountain Resort, and that includes at our ski and snowboard rental locations – which we plan to have open this winter. We will be managing the number of people inside each location, in accordance with local regulations, and setting them up to allow for physical distancing and appropriate guest flow. Guests and employees will be required to wear face coverings, and for the portions of the process that require close interactions with our technicians, our employees will take additional precautions, including wearing eye protection and gloves. Equipment will be fully sanitized between each guest use and we intend to expand our rental delivery service to provide enhanced options for guests to rent equipment outside of the store locations.
Health Screenings within Ski and Ride School
All of our employees will be required to undergo health screenings before they arrive at work, given their interaction with guests and other employees at our resorts. We are taking this same precaution with our ski and ride school participants, given that physical distancing may not always be possible during a lesson such as when the group rides lifts and gondolas or eats lunch together. With this in mind, all participants will be required to undergo and confirm an online self-health screening prior to arriving at the mountain for their lesson.
We will also be limiting the class size of all of group and private lessons to a maximum six people. Specific details and procedures for certain class types for children are still being determined and will be announced as they are finalized, taking into account safety considerations.
Lessons will need to be purchased in advance – no walk-up, day-of lessons will be available. A mountain access reservation will be included with the purchase of a ski school lesson. A lift ticket or eligible pass product will be required if the student will be riding a lift.
Stowe Mountain Resort will continue to work closely with all of our state and local stakeholders to review the details of our winter plans and to ensure we remain aligned in our collective approach to the season. Success for this season can only happen with close collaboration and partnership in our community. While we have designed our winter operating plan to comply with and at times exceed all known applicable laws, our operations will remain subject to the local regulations. Please understand that these may change at any time, either ahead of or during the ski season. We will communicate any changes and how they might impact our operations, as soon as we are made aware of them.
I hope this letter gives you a better sense of what you can expect when you visit our mountain this winter. There is no doubt this season will be different, but we are committed to what matters most: working to protect your safety and wellbeing and providing you with great skiing and riding this winter.
Soon we’ll begin making snow and Stowe Mountain Resort is scheduled to open on Friday, November 20. I’m looking forward to seeing you on the mountain.
Vice president and general manager at Stowe Mountain Resort