Crotched opens Saturday – here’s what riders need to know before they go

  • Skiing at Crotched Mountain in 2019. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Skiing at Crotched Mountain in 2016. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Granite State News Collaborative
Published: 12/11/2020 12:22:13 PM
Modified: 12/11/2020 12:22:01 PM

This scene has played out for practically every skier or snowboarder.

You roll out of bed and see fresh powder falling outside of your window. You check the weather, grab your gear, and find a bite to eat for the ride to the mountain.

Unfortunately, at least for the 2020-21 season, those days are a thing of the past.

Planning ahead is the name of the game during COVID-19 when it comes to skiing and snowboarding at New Hampshire alpine ski areas, including Bennington’s Crotched Mountain Ski and Ride, which plans to open Saturday.

“Know Before You Go” is the campaign Ski New Hampshire, which has 30 resorts as members, is touting this year.

And every resort in the Granite State is pounding that message home by telling a prospective guest to check area websites, social media and to make sure they are following the correct procedures.

Visitors should expect their experience to be ticketless – bought before arriving and sometimes needing reservations – be it lift tickets, ski schools, rentals, and sometimes even inside eating. Also, lodge restrictions, food purchases, parking and lift lines will look different from years past.

“We know we’ve got to change the behavioral patterns of what our guests usually do,” said Tom Day, general manager of Gunstock Mountain in Gilford, who headed a committee of general managers and SkiNH that worked on resort procedures. “We established guidelines with the state of New Hampshire to follow procedures to make it safe for our guests and staff. We want both to feel comfortable in our environment.

“Basically I equated (the changes) to people if they are planning a trip out of state, you plan ahead – book hotel rooms, flights and rental cars. This will be the same even though you may be only two hours away. Plan in advance and everything will be ready for you when you get here.”

Shannon Dunfey-Ball, Marketing & Communications manager at SkiNH, explained that her office and the mountains have had the nine months of the pandemic to decide what is the best course of action.

“People are used to wearing masks and used to the fact that they need to go online and make reservations,” Dunfey-Ball explained. “The fact (our season) falls in the winter months people are more trained in ‘COVID etiquette’.”

SkiNH came up with six major points – found in its COVID-19 Consumer Resource Center on its website and most resorts’ websites – to follow for a smooth transition to the new normal and have an enjoyable experience:

■Plan in Advance.

Buy tickets, passes, classes and rentals online in advance.

Wear a face covering when inside any lodge or ski area building, in lift lines, on the lifts, while getting on and off the lifts, and anytime that 6 feet of physical distancing isn’t possible.

■Practice social distancing.

Boot up at the car and bring only absolute essentials with you on the trails.

■Stay home if you’re feeling sick.

A change that is not listed as a major point that will be enforced at most, if not all, areas is non-skiers hanging out in the lodge all day. Parents who normally wait with a book or their iPad while their kids tear it up or a friend or significant other along for the ride and not strapping on a board or skis will have to find somewhere else to hang out.

“We’re working hard to have policies and procedures in place to make everyone’s experience low-risk,” Dunfey-Ball added. “Our goal is to get open and stay open. But we need the public to work with us to make sure that happens.”

Regardless of whether you are going to a small family resort like Crotched Mountain or Pat’s Peak, or one of the larger, busier spots like Cannon Mountain, Waterville Valley or Bretton Woods, you can expect unique changes and differences at each individual location.

Sunapee and Gunstock will both have a reservation system for tables in the lodge for those who want to eat lunch or take a break to rest and refresh. Gunstock will have food trucks in the parking lot so those who want to grab a bite to eat can do so, while Waterville Valley will have Courtyard to Go - grab and go offerings for breakfast and lunch - available in its courtyard.

“The whole process of skiing and snowboarding, once you get here won’t be much different,” Day said. “Personally, I think it will be easier because you don’t have to wait in line for tickets, rentals or food.

“Everything is different but everything is a little more organized. And once you get on the hill it is the same as before.”

■Some changes will benefit the guests.

At Waterville Valley, which opened Dec. 4, will have monitors at entryways to its lodges that will show skiers and snowboarders how busy it is inside as there are limits to the amount of people allowed. Using its Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) wireless system – skiers’ Direct to Lift (DTL) card, or lift ticket, uses this technology – it can keep track of how many people enter and exit a building. The monitors will either be green (not busy), yellow (nearing capacity), and red (full, no more people allowed in).

If a guest isn’t close to a monitor they can also check Waterville Valley’s website for up-to-date capacity numbers.

“It was just the easiest option we could come up with,” said Stacie Sullivan, Waterville Communications manager. “Our own RFID provider (Affinity Group) came up with a system that allows us to track how many people are in our building instead of having someone act like a bouncer at the door.”

Sunapee is offering a free app that has some fun features. A skier or snowboarder can track how much they’ve skied, see where they are on the mountain, and learn what lifts and trails are open.

Vail Resorts as a whole is offering discounts to season pass holders who were not able to take advantage of the pass due to the early shut down of its resorts in March due to the pandemic. And this year they will have the first shot at reserving a lift ticket during priority days, like holidays and vacation weeks.

“It’s a matter of re-imagining things and making it work,” said Bonnie Macpherson, Communications manager for Vail Resorts, which owns Sunapee, Wildcat, Crotched and Attitash in New Hampshire.

It is important to remember that each resort has different limitations, procedures and rules. It is imperative to check out the website of the mountain you plan on visiting for ticket purchasing – most will only have online options, with a few locations offering kiosks or limited ticket windows - rental information, food options and parking.

“We’re projecting strong demand for skiing (this season) seeing that this summer there was a strong demand from people looking to do anything outdoors,” said Dunfey-Ball. “When you’re skiing down a mountain you don’t want to be close to someone. It’s naturally a social distancing sport.

“We are expecting a good season and are hoping people take the time to plan in advance and not show up unprepared and be disappointed because they can’t participate.”


These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit


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