When thousands of winter sports enthusiasts hit the slopes this winter, they can expect to spend less time

inside lodges because of COVID-19.

Seven Springs Mountain Resort and Blue Knob All Seasons Resort will follow the state’s COVID-19 mandates

as the traditional mid-December start of ski season approaches.

That means restaurant occupancy will be limited to 50%.

Resorts are also encouraging online ticket and rental purchases to reduce person-to-person contact.

“We are telling people to expect to be outside more because of reduced capacity in the lodge,” Blue Knob marketing and communications director Donna Dunkel Himes said.

Despite the pandemic, resorts predict a busy winter season.

In Bedford County, Blue Knob All Seasons Resort is seeing season pass sales stay consistent with last year, Himes said.

For Seven Springs in Somerset County, season passes are ahead of last year’s pace, director of marketing and communications Alex Moser said.

Seven Springs also owns Hidden Valley and Laurel Mountain resorts in Somerset County.

“There’s no better place to be outside and social distance than out on a mountain,” Moser said.

Season passes popular

While he couldn’t be completely sure about why season passes at this point are higher than last year, he said Highlands passes (all three resorts) are well ahead of last year at this time.

Moser said more people may be opting to ski locally rather than travel west on a plane packed with people potentially carrying COVID-19.

To make the resort safer for visitors, Moser said reservations are required to dine in at Seven Springs.

“We are adding to-go outlets and the ability to order online, so people can pick up their food and go back to their condo, hotel or car,” he said. “To be inside a restaurant, customers must make online reservations.”

Himes said there is no need for restaurant reservations at Blue Knob, but customers should be ready to purchase takeout if the clubhouse is already 50% occupied.

And barring any change in the state mandates, a skier or snowboarder won’t be able to come in from the slopes and sit down at the bar. Skiers will have to order food and sit down to have a drink.

Taking precautions

To facilitate a “no-contact” plan this year, Moser said e-commerce technology upgrades have been key.

 “We are asking people to buy ski lift tickets and ski and snow board rentals ahead of time, so that time inside the rental area will be minimal,” he said. “We are hoping to whisk everyone through the rental center in 10-15 minutes. And it’s all one-way traffic.

“We took the next step and really tried to do no-touch purchases on everything.”

Snow sports group lessons have also changed.

“A group lesson of 20 adults or children is not in the cards this winter,” Moser said.

“Everything is a private lesson, some with four or five people who are family or friends.”

Despite the changes, Himes and Moser said the traditional ski season is on schedule – depending on the weather. 

“I’m hopeful everyone is appreciative of the precautions that are in place,” Moser said.

“If we don’t do this, then we won’t be able to operate.”

Himes echoed Moser.

She said the experience at Blue Knob will be different this year – “but everything has been different this year.”

“We are operating the way we are allowed to operate, and we hope everyone is understanding of that,” she said.

“If things improve and we are allowed to increase lodge and restaurant capacity, then we will change our approach as circumstances change.” 

Russ O'Reilly is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @RussellOReilly.

 

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