As COVID-19 cases shoot up in Maine, many of the state’s ski resorts are preparing for their first ski season during a pandemic.
Venues will need to comply with Gov. Janet Mills’ executive order adopted amid rising COVID-19 cases requiring face coverings in all public places regardless of distance from others. That order requires skiers to wear masks on and off the slopes — ski areas who don’t comply could face penalties.
It also lowers the cap for indoor gatherings from 100 to 50.
Alpine skiing generates $1 billion for the state’s economy annually, Ski Maine Association Executive Director Dirk Gouwens told the Portland Press Herald. Yet, sales at resort restaurants and bars — which will undoubtedly be reduced due to pandemic restrictions — can make up as much as 40 percent of revenue, Gouwens said.
But Maine’s three biggest ski areas — Sunday River, Sugarloaf and Saddleback — told the Press Herald new restrictions are unlikely to affect their plans for the upcoming season. Ski resorts across Maine have already made changes, including spill-over parking areas, new decks, heated tents and additional rooms, to accommodate guests while limiting potential coronavirus exposure.
As COVID-19 cases skyrocket across Maine in recent weeks — including 175 on Monday — state health officials are warning of increased spread throughout the state. Mills has sought to take new precautions as winter approaches, including the new mask mandate and requiring travelers from Massachusetts to show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test or quarantine for 14 days.
As coronavirus cases rise nationwide, ski areas — including those in Colorado — have begun transitioning to a first-come-first-serve reservation system to limit the number of people in locations at one time.
But no ski areas in Maine will start the season with a reservation system, though management at Sugarloaf and Saddleback told the Press Herald said they could do so later in the season.
Interest in outdoor recreation has grown nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic as other activities, such as going to the movies or sporting events, have virtually halted.
While the pandemic will bring new changes for Maine’s ski areas, some are using the current climate to attract customers. Last month, Sugarloaf marketed itself as a prime destination to stay while working remotely.