By Nathan Ham
The winter sports season is upon us in the High Country, and being able to safely navigate the COVID-19 atmosphere that we are living in right now has become a key point to keep skiers, snowboarders, and snow tubers as healthy as possible.
The North Carolina Ski Areas Association has announced its “Ski Well, Be Well” initiative for the 2020-21 winter sports season to prioritize the health and safety of visitors, staff members, and folks in the community.
“Our commitment to providing a healthy and fun environment is stronger than ever,” said Gunther Jochl, President of Sugar Mountain Resort.
The importance of the ski industry in North Carolina cannot be understated, especially for the six ski areas and five counties in the state that are directly impacted. According to data from the NCSAA, the winter sports industry generates approximately $228 million each year and supports 1,500 jobs in these ski areas that are oftentimes the primary support of the winter economy for these small, rural counties.
For visitors on the ski slopes, winter sports already has some extra safety measures built in to prevent the spread of viruses such as COVID-19. Being outside with fresh air and having hundreds of acres to be skiing on almost the perfect example of social distancing. Skiers and snowboarders are already going to be wearing masks, goggles, gloves, and plenty of layers of clothes to stay warm. This will also help prevent the spread of the virus while outdoors.
As part of the Ski Well, Be Well initiative, face coverings will be required outside on the slopes and all ski lifts, and inside except when eating or drinking. Extra social distancing will take place in ticket lines, lift lines, and indoors where people can stop for a drink or something to eat.
“Enhanced health and safety measures are in place in every part of our operation,” said Brad Moretz, President of Appalachian Ski Mtn.
Part of preparing for how to deal with the coronavirus during the winter season started for a lot of these resorts in the summer months with both Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain offering numerous summer activities.
“We have every reason to believe that the success of the summer season will carry over to our winter season,” said Ryan Costin, President of Beech Mountain Resort.
“Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, the North Carolina ski industry leaders have listened and learned and responded by implementing the guidelines outlined by Governor (Roy) Cooper and the CDC to their summer and fall operations. The results are exciting and encouraging. Positive COVID-19 cases within the communities of all six ski areas continue to be significantly lower than the state average. Employment remains stable. Local businesses are operating within state guidelines and we look forward to continuing safe operation during the winter season,” said Kim Jochl, President of the North Carolina Ski Areas Association. “A refreshing level of respect and compassion is felt throughout North Carolina’s outdoor community. Most importantly, we are committed to the health and well-being of those living in and visiting our mountain communities.”
The Ski Well, Be Well initiative has been endorsed by over 20 organizations and groups in North Carolina. Local endorsements include the Alpine Ski Center, Avery County Chamber of Commerce, Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce, Banner Elk TDA, Beech Mountain Chamber of Commerce, Beech Mountain TDA, Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, Blowing Rock TDA, Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, Ski Country Sports, Village of Sugar Mountain TDA and the Watauga County TDA.
“The safety of our customers, our staff and our community has always been the forefront of our business model but even more so now with the pandemic. We’re prepared with a thorough operational plan that not only puts safety first but also stays consistent with local regulations and follows the Ski Well, Be Well practice. We want to encourage people to be outside in a safe manner and we’re going to do all we can to make sure we can provide that for our guests. I feel confident that we can do that,” said Talia Freeman, the Director of Marketing at Beech Mountain.
For more information on Ski Well, Be Well, visit https://nsaa.org/skiwellbewell.