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As More Ski Areas Open, N.H. Leaders Detail COVID-19 Precautions

New Hampshire ski areas are reopening for winter with new safety precautions amid the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jessyca Keeler of Ski NH says a lot of slopes are instituting reservation systems for lifts and lodges, limiting capacity overall and putting in place socially distanced systems for getting on and off the mountain to prevent the spread of the virus.

She says they know people are eager to get outside for their own mental health. But she says resorts will need visitors' cooperation and careful planning – including following the state’s mask mandate except when physically skiing – to make it work safely.

Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR
One of the signs at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, N.H.

“The more homework you do, the more prepared you are, the better an experience you’re going to have," she said during a roundtable Wednesday with U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas and others in the recreation industry.

They say winter tourist attractions are expecting more crowds than normal on weekdays this year due to remote learning and telework.

"We've had guests say, 'I can work remote and I may spend the winter just up at my second home and make skiing part of my regular routine,'" said Cranmore Mountain general manager Ben Wilcox.

He and others said they're limiting the scale of annual events to prevent any "party atmosphere" that could put people at risk.

They note that increased reservation systems will mean more visitors' info is logged, which will ease any contact tracing that may be necessary.

Back-country, cross-country and snowmobiling business operators say they're still waiting to have enough snow on the ground to really start their seasons. But they say they're also expecting high demand -- the same as many summer recreation outlets saw earlier in the pandemic.

Read the state COVID-19 guidance for N.H. ski areas.

Ski Areas Opening

Several ski areas in New Hampshire are already open. They include, for cross-country skiing, Bretton Woods Nordic Center, Great Glen Trails, and Jackson Ski Touring.

Alpine ski areas open, as of Dec. 9, were Bretton Woods, Loon Mountain, and Waterville Valley. Many mountains will launch this ski season this weekend. Opening dates, according to Ski NH, include:

  • Ragged Mountain on Dec. 10.
  • Gunstock, Pats Peak, and Wildcat on Dec. 11
  • Attitash, Cannon Mountain, Cranmore, Crotched Mountain, and Mount Sunapee on Dec. 12
  • King Pine on Dec. 18 and Dartmouth Skiway on Dec. 19.

Skiers and riders are advised to check with individual ski areas and resorts ahead of their ski visits. 

Dan is a long-time New Hampshire journalist who has written for outlets including Foster's Daily Democrat, The Citizen of Laconia, The Boston Globe, and The Eagle-Tribune. He comes to NHPR from the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he reported on state, local, and national politics.
Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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