Disappointing, but not unexpected.
That was a common reaction to a decision earlier this week that the Albany Ski and Craft Beer Festival, scheduled for the Capital Center in November, will not be held this year.
Mark Bardack, president of long-time ski show organizer Ed Lewi Associates, announced the cancellation of the show that has been an annual event in Albany since 1964 and is seen by many as the kickoff to the ski season in our region.
“We are very sorry to do this,” Bardack said. “But ongoing health concerns related to group gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic makes it the right thing to do. The Capital Center has been very accommodating. But in the end, we felt we couldn’t maintain the safeguards we felt necessary to manage the show.”
“We are working on an alternative plan for this fall, but hosting an in-person event in November is simply not possible. We consider this a one-year decision and look forward to bringing the show back in 2021.”
The announcement about the Albany show came in the same week when it was learned that the World Championships in bobsled and skeleton and the World Cup luge event, scheduled for Lake Placid this winter, have been moved to Europe. With the departure of the World Cup freestyle events from Lake Placid a year ago, this will be the first winter there will be no World competition event in the two-time Olympic host village since the 1990s.
Other notable cancellations already announced in the region include the nation’s largest ski show normally held in Boston in November, and the women’s World Cup alpine races at Killington, which for the past three years, have been a showcase for American ski star Mikaela Shiffrin.
While special events have been called off, plans for the upcoming season at ski areas through the region continue. While it certainly will snow, how skiers will get to slide will certainly undergo some changes this season.
Crowding and social distancing are clearly issues.
For starters, alpine skiers will certainly see restrictions in area lodges and on lifts. Booting up in the parking lot may be necessary. Count on wearing face coverings indoors and where distancing is difficult to maintain. Seating in the lodge will be more spread out, and some areas are considering requiring reservations for access. Grab-and-go food service will be more common.
The practice of buying lift tickets in person on site will likely be restricted, if not eliminated. Lift lines will be carefully managed, and lift occupancy may be limited to single riders or members of one family. Expect weekend and holiday skiing to be most affected
How this will work at individual areas is still uncertain. Large operators Vail (Epic) and Altera (Ikon) have issued guidelines and practices, but the popular New York State-operated areas — Gore, Whiteface, and Belleayre — have yet to announce specific operational plans. Smaller areas like those nearby — Royal, Maple Ridge, Oak, Willard and West — will post their plans soon.
Long distance ski travel is proving less appealing. Entry restrictions make Canada and Europe less likely destinations right now, while travel to the Western U.S., where a plane ride and resort accommodations are normally required, is raising concerns, despite some very attractive incentive pricing through area ski clubs and other group travel planners.
While things are shaping up as different for this winter, not all prospects are necessarily bad for the sport.
Andy Heck, the long-time president and co-owner of ski retailer Alpin Haus in Amsterdam and Clifton Park, has been the major sponsor of the Albany show for more than a dozen years.
“It has been a great kickoff for us every year and has always helped build the momentum for a great season,” Heck said.
Without the exposure the show normally provides, Alpin Haus and others are having to adjust to limited in-store traffic and equipment purchase and lease appointments.
But Alpin Haus also is a major retailer of swimming pools, boats, RVs and hot tubs, and that business has been booming in the months since the coronavirus hit. Heck thinks skiing may benefit, too.
“It is something that people can do outside,” Heck said. “And with more people working remotely and with school and community sports programs canceled or limited, there is more time for skiing and outdoor winter activities that remain available.”
The look of winter activities this year is still evolving, But one for certain is that it will snow and people as always will look for ways to take advantage of what there is in our area. It may be different but it will be available.