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OUTSIDE EDGE | Your guide to Maine skiing during the COVID-19 pandemic

Sunday River, Sugarloaf, Mount Abram, Lost Valley, and all the other Maine ski areas are prepped and ready to deal with COVID-19 coronavirus safety guidelines

MAINE, USA — The great outdoors have certainly become our great escape since the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic changed our way of life this spring. We’ve spent much of the summer and fall rediscovering our love of the outdoors, and this winter is no different.

While we’re waiting on the natural snow to arrive, ski areas have been making snow and making plans on how to operate this coming season. What you can’t leave home without? Your mask. 

In Maine, masks must be worn at all times except when skiing downhill and eating. In addition, plans are constantly evolving and changing. Always check with the resort for answers to specific questions. 

Here’s the breakdown of what to expect at some of your favorite Maine resorts. As the National Ski Areas Association says, “don’t be the reason we lose the season” – Ski well, and be well!

Sunday River & Sugarloaf

"To be able to open top to bottom with multiple lifts on opening day is a new experience for all of us and skiers/riders are really excited," said Karolyn Castaldo, Director of Communications at Sunday River. Opening up top to bottom at the beginning of the season isn’t the norm, but in order to avoid more lift usage they waited until they could open top to bottom.

Sunday River & Sugarloaf opened on November 23 for pass holders only – that’s season passholders, Ikon passholders, and the Mountain Collective.

With the new RFID installations at the lift, passholders can head straight there for contactless ski access.

Non-passholders can begin skiing on Dec. 14 and are encouraged to buy tickets online. While reservations are not required, buying online holds your ticket for the day. It is possible that on busy Saturdays or holidays, Sunday River and Sugarloaf may not be able to accommodate walk-up lift tickets. Once a person receives a RFID card from the first day of skiing, they can reload online and get direct to lift as well.

For larger resorts, parking comes into question. Ethan Austin of Sugarloaf says the shuttle buses are still an option. 

“Shuttle buses are running, they’re all at 50% capacity right now in accordance with state guidelines," he said. "Every bus is quickly sanitized between every drop off so if you’re getting on a bus, it’s been sanitized before you’re on it.” 

Masks, of course, are required. Austin says many have opted to make the walk up from the parking lots in the first two weeks of opening.

Lodging remains open in accordance with Maine CDC guidelines.

Food and beverage will look a bit different this year. There are plenty of food options available and both resorts have added more to-go options, in addition to the ability to order food online from wherever you are at the resort – even on the lift. You’ll receive a specific location to pick it up.

Ski school has changed as well, with smaller groups expected and some limitations of group lessons for younger learners. Private lessons are encouraged for those 7 years and younger.

If you need rentals, you’ll want to reserve those online.

For the complete rundown of protocol and the latest plans & information, visit https://www.sundayriver.com/covid and https://www.sugarloaf.com/covid-19-faqs

Mount Abram

To visit Mount Abram, you can either buy tickets online or at the lodge. Online purchasing is encouraged to eliminate points of contact. They’ve adding additional parking directly next to the lift to enable easier “ski in, ski out” directly from the parking lot.

Food and beverages are still available inside and inside seating is only available for those purchasing and ordering food. If you’ve brought food from home, you’ll have to eat outside or back at your vehicle (which with the increased parking won’t be far away). 

“We’ve been some unique structures that we’ve put up around the area. We’re looking to get some tents, ice fishing tents that are durable and insulated and spread those things out around the resort too to give people a spot to get inside and take the chill off,” says General Manager Greg Leutje. 

Plenty of to-go options are available as well and you can order right from your phone.

There will be no shuttle service between the main lodge and west side this year. There is a plan if you accidentally end up on the wrong side, but there is no designated shuttle between the two sides.

Ski school remains open with a limit on class size. The younger the class size, the less students you’ll have in the class. Parents are encouraged to join the lesson with younger learners so they can ride the chairlift with them.

You’ll want to reserve rentals online – they’ll be waiting for you when you arrive. Rental personnel will check boot fitting and bindings before sending you off to the slopes. They plan to open Dec 18.

More information can be found here: https://www.mtabram.com/the-mountain/what-to-expect-this-winter-pandemic-powder-days/

Lost Valley

To visit Lost Valley, you can either buy tickets online or at the new ticket center outside the lodge. Online purchasing is encouraged to eliminate points of contact. There have bee no changes to parking as it’s conveniently located slopeside.

Food and beverage are still available inside, and they’ve added several fire pits outside the lodge for some extra warmth. You can order food online from your phone for pickup when you’re off the hill.

Ski school remains open with a limit on class size. Lost Valley General Manager Scott Shanaman mentions, “If possible, we’re asking the parent participates and rides with the child. We won’t be able to have instructors riding with small children or directly handling them.”

You’ll want to reserve rentals online – they’ll be waiting for you when you arrive. Rental personnel will check boot fitting and bindings before sending you off to the slopes. They plan to open Dec 18.

For more information, check here: https://www.lostvalleyski.com/news/

Shawnee Peak

To visit Shawnee Peak, you can either purchase your RFID card onsite or reload it online. Online purchasing is encouraged to eliminate point of contact.

Food and beverage is still available inside, and they’ve expanded their outdoor capacity, says General Manager Ralph Lewis. 

“We’ve tried to create as much outdoor seating as we can. We’ve bought propane heaters to make it more comfortable," Lewis said. "We have installed another food venue outdoors where you get pizza and beer and sit out on the deck.” 

They’ve also added an awning over the deck at Blizzards and added an additional bathroom upstairs in the pub as well. Online ordering is available from your phone.

The ski school building was expanded over the summer to allow for more space. Class sizes will be smaller.

Outdoor bathrooms (some heated) have also been added to the slopes to reduce the amount of people going in and out of the main lodge.

They’ve built a new ski shop to free up more space in the lodge and the rental shop has doubled in size. You’ll want to reserve rentals online – they’ll be waiting for you when you arrive. Rental personnel will check boot fitting and bindings before sending you on your way.

Their events calendar remains unchanged, with Monday night madness still being offered Monday evenings and racing with the moon Wednesday and Thursday nights.

For more information, check here: https://www.shawneepeak.com/

Hermon Mountain

From the Hermon Mountain website:

Hi Everyone!

"We have been working hard to figure out what this season will look like. We have decided to do half day sessions this season. The "half" days will be 4 hour sessions Tuesday - Friday (4pm - 8pm), 3 hour sessions Saturday (9am-12pm, 1pm-4pm and 5pm-8pm) and Sunday (9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm). The hour between sessions will be to clean and allow the people in the out going session time to leave and the incoming session time to get ready, due to the 100 person limit in the lodge.

We will continue to monitor COVID-19 regulations and make changes when appropriate. We hope to answer many more questions in a few weeks. We really appreciate your patience and are working hard to get everything figured out and ready for early December!

- The Whitcomb and Brown Family

Camden Snow Bowl

Here are the 2020-2021 guidelines at CSB

Maine COVID-19 Skiing Guidelines

Procedures and protocols for Maine ski areas were made in conjunction with Maine CDC Guidelines, the Ski Maine Association and the National Ski Areas Association.

Credit: NCM

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