by Eric Hanson
CRAFTSBURY – Like most activities, COVID has changed how things work. Skiing is no different.
The Craftsbury Outdoor Center (COC) officially opened its ski trails on December 12. Most skiing is focused on a three-km loop of man-made snow, at least until the natural snow arrives.
To meet the state requirement that ski areas track all visitors with an electronic record, the COC has implemented a reservation system for all skiers, including local residents and season pass holders. There are three steps to skiing while skiing is limited to the man-made loop: Buy an annual membership or day pass, purchase a numbered bib for $50 and make a reservation online.
Albany and Craftsbury residents can obtain free memberships, but still need to submit the forms. Greensboro residents can ski free on the Greensboro trail network but need a paid membership to ski in Craftsbury-Albany.
The bib purchase is to help the COC track skier use and to defray the cost of snowmaking. Once more trails open with natural snow, the bib purchase will not be required. Skiers may show up without a reservation and check in at the activity center but there is no guarantee there will be skiing available, especially on a busy weekend.
Details are available at the Center’s website (craftsbury.com/ski), under the “nordic center” page and the “day use reservation” tab in the menu.
All buildings are closed to the public this winter, so skiers should plan to ski from their cars. The activity center will have limited staff to help navigate the reservation system.
The center is planning to offer ski rentals, lessons, and even a grab-and-go food service through take-out windows. A heated outdoor toilet facility is available.
The center is renting out cabins for guests, but the large Cedar Lodge will not be open for lodging because it uses many shared spaces in normal operation.
LIke most businesses, masks must be worn at all times, except when out skiing away from other people. Even then, skiers must carry a mask in case it is needed. All people traveling to ski must comply with the state’s travel and quarantine policy. Social distance must be maintained at all times. Skiers who are breathing hard must allow even more distance.
Last March, when the pandemic was closing in, the center stayed open so that people could get fresh air and exercise. Unfortunately, the COC was forced to close early because people were ignoring safety guidelines, disregarding travel restrictions, congregating, and chatting closely with friends. The center staff asks that people be very considerate of the need for distancing and not socializing closely while out on the trails. Communications director Sheldon Miller noted that the center will operate under the Vermont state recommendation of “arrive, play, leave”.
For skiers parking at the Greensboro town offices, Highland Lodge, and Hosmer Point, people will still need to make an online reservation for the center to comply with state requirements. Parking at these dispersed locations will help spread people out and keep skiing even safer. The center’s website will provide updates on the safety rules.