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Area ski resorts ready to take on COVID-19 in winter season
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Area ski resorts ready to take on COVID-19 in winter season

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Area ski hills ended their seasons early last spring as COVID-19 pandemic led to shutdowns, but they are preparing to reopen with new precautions as soon as weather allows.

Cascade Mountain in Portage Marketing Coordinator Evan Walz said the resort is expecting a pretty regular season.

“We know there is definitely a demand that people are really looking to finally do an outside activity. It’s just that we have to do our part to limit the crowds and make sure people are able to be dispersed,” said Walz. “We’ve been working on a policy for months now, basically the entire off season.”

Staff will monitor the number of people entering and exiting the building, and have removed a majority of indoor seating.

The small amount of remaining seating indoors has been spread out at least six feet apart, while additional outdoor seating has been added and distanced.

The resort is asking patrons to pre-order passes and tickets online prior to their visit to cut down on time patrons might need to spend inside, and to allow staff to get an estimated number of patrons expected a day-to-day basis.

“We’re trying to make it so that people really don’t have much need to go inside,” said Walz.

Patrons who choose to visit the resort this winter will be required to wear masks when they are inside any resort buildings, in line for ski lifts and while riding ski lifts.

Walz said visitors can remove masks once they are on the slopes and actively skiing, but should still social distance.

Cascade will offer equipment rentals throughout the season, and will sanitize equipment between uses.

Staff will sanitize all surfaces and spaces where visitors go more frequently this season.

“I feel very confident that we can still have a successful season,” said Walz. “We’ve tried to formulate a good plan to cater to everyone’s concerns. We really want people to know what to expect, and for any reason they aren’t comfortable with following those guidelines, we just ask that they visit us at a later date when they are comfortable.”

Christmas Mountain

Because skiing and tubing are outdoor winter activities where people can remain socially distant, officials with Christmas Mountain Village are optimistic for this season.

“We’re going to handle this like we did the golf season,” said Michael Cameron director of golf and ski operations at the Wisconsin Dells based resort of the anticipated ski season. “We had to tiptoe into that, but in the end we had a great golf season. Saw a lot of new people turnout for the sport and perhaps we can see the same thing happen in the ski season.”

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The lift line for tubing and skiing will be marked in six-foot intervals, face coverings will be required and visitors will not be allowed to remove their gloves and touch the apparatus of the ski lift, Cameron said.

Those from the same household or traveling groups will be allowed to sit together. Ticket counters for tubing, skiing and snowboarding have been separated to limit the amount of people in one area. Those who want to purchase tickets for tubing can go to the “yurts” located at the bottom of the tubing hill to the left of the Pro Shop while the location for skiing and snowboarding will remain unchanged at the Pro Shop.

No public or open group ski lessons will be held, Cameron said. Private or semi-private lessons will continue, but only for families from the same household or traveling group of five people or less and proof must be shown they are from the same household or group.

The rental shop will only allow eight people inside at a time in a rotation for fitting of equipment and boots. If a large amount of people don’t make online reservations, those who don’t fill out their form online can still do so onsite at the ticket booth and will be given a “restaurant puck” that will buzz to notify their equipment is ready for pickup, he said.

Cameron encouraged guests to purchase tickets, including for the ski lift, through its website as well as download and fill out the forms to present at the ticket window and limit the amount of time present at the window. Equipment rental forms should be completed no later than 24 hours in advance so staff can have the equipment ready or call ahead to set time for people to pick up their equipment, he said.

Dependent on weather, a soft opening at Christmas Mountain Village is scheduled for the weekend of Dec. 4 for the ski and tubing area. Another soft opening is scheduled for Dec. 11. The goal to open Dec. 18 for the season, depending on weather and snow making operations, Cameron said. The resort is already monitoring the weather and starting to make snow with machines to prepare for the opening.

“If things look real good here we are very optimistic that we are going to have a good season,” Cameron said.

Marketing Manager Genevieve Smith said the ski resort is in the process of planning events for Christmas, New Years and its Winter Carnival with accommodations to limit the spread of the virus. Details will be released on its social media pages at a later time, she said.

General Manger Bill Hanson said the resort is following CDC recommended guidelines for its employees, including temperature checks, wearing face coverings, using CDC approved chemicals and increasing cleaning frequencies. Hand sanitizer stations are placed at the doorway, touchless temperature monitoring system is at the entrance at the restaurant and checking into the facility.

Devil’s Head

Devil’s Head Resort in Merrimac said on its website that it is requesting that guest reserve equipment rentals and purchase ski lift tickets online in advance of their visit, and will be limiting the number of people allow indoors at one time, according to their COVID-19 procedures webpage.

The resort is also asking visitors to leave personal belongings in their vehicle as the resort will not be allowing items to be stored inside the chalet this season.

Guests will be required to wear masks indoors and outdoors when six feet of social distancing is not available, as well as when waiting and riding ski lifts and during lessons.

Anyone looking for more information on Christmas Mountain Village and its ski resort operations can call its main phone number at 608-253-1000, visit its website www.christmasmountainvillage.com or Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn pages.

For more information on Cascade Mounain’s COVID-19 plans, visit www.cascademountain.com/covid-19-policies.

For additional information on Devil’s Head Resort, visit www.devilsheadresort.com/covid-19-update/.

Follow Nicole on Twitter @Nicole_Aimone

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