Capital Region

Capital Region ski shops and slopes prepare for socially distant season

ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Maple Ski Ridge Operations Manager Alex Kaczor on Friday shows the ski lift chairs that are ready for annual inspection before skiing operations begin in Rotterdam.

Maple Ski Ridge Operations Manager Alex Kaczor on Friday shows the ski lift chairs that are ready for annual inspection before skiing operations begin in Rotterdam.

CAPITAL REGION — Ski season is almost underway, as resort operators and ski shop owners are working around the clock to make sure the 2020-2021 season doesn’t “go downhill.”

Statewide COVID policies for the season, including a mask requirement, 50 percent indoor capacity, 25 percent capacity on “peak” days and lessons limited to no more than 10 people, were announced earlier this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Now, Alpine Sport Shop in Saratoga, Alpin Haus in Amsterdam and Clifton Park, Maple Ski Ridge in Rotterdam and the Olympic Regional Development Authority are all implementing new guidelines to protect customers and skiers during the pandemic. Interestingly, this might just be the busiest season yet.

“We’ve been trying to do all the right things and we’ve been really pleased by the response by customers,” said Cathy Hay of Alpine. “We’re a seasonal shop, so we reopened Aug. 20 for our new season and we weren’t quite sure how it would go. It’s been really effective.”

The shop has implemented several new measures to make sure that customers are safe while trying on clothes, Hay said.

“We’ve bought a couple of UV light tools, so after boots are tried on, we can use those,” Hay said. “We put on specific glasses for eye protection and then we put the tool in the boot to sanitize it. For clothing, we encourage people to try on clothing, because why would you purchase something if you don’t know what it looks like? We then steam our clothing if someone doesn’t purchase something, before we put it back.”

Like other shops, Alpine is also scheduling appointment shopping for seasonal leases and “hard good” purchases, like boots, skis and snowboards.

Ski gear sales are the highest between October and January at Alpin Haus, where curbside delivery and online appointment scheduling is the new protocol, according to Ski Shop Divisional Manager Jamie Georgelous. The scheduling has led to an “awesome start” to the season, Georgelous said.

“We’re very fortunate, with all the different businesses we’re in, all of our products seem to be sought after during the pandemic,” Georgelous said of the year-round shop. “It seems people have been pushed to really discover and participate in all of the products we carry.”

Alpin Haus has opted for the online scheduling approach to regulate the amount of customers in stores at the same time.

Similar to Alpine, Alpin Haus is using disinfectant spray on tried-on equipment and UV devices for goggles and products they can’t spray.

On the slopes, Maple Ski Ridge has rented more snowboards this year than any other and Snow Sports School Director Dana Walton’s six-week lesson program has already started filling up.

“I figured that because skiing and snowboarding is an outside activity, that we would probably also be very busy,” Walton said. “I’m a parent and I know that lots of sports and other things have been cancelled. I had a feeling that, because we’re outside, that we’d get a lot of traction this season.”

Working with Cuomo’s guidelines, Maple Ridge is allowed to be at 100% capacity outside on non-peak days. On peak days — or days like holidays when skiers are most likely to hit the slopes — Maple Ridge will be at 75% capacity.

Walton said lessons run Thursdays and Fridays from 2-8 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Olympic Regional Development Authority, which operates Whiteface, Gore and Belleayre Mountains, is working to align the three resorts with the governor’s new guidelines, according to spokesperson Elise Ruocco. All three resorts will be following the 25% peak capacity guideline.

“We are going to incorporate larger drop-off areas at all of our resorts so we have less clusters,” Ruocco said. “We are adhering to the 50% capacity rate indoors, which we’ve been operating at all summer as well.”

ORDA also has an assurance policy, Ruocco said, that allows customers to request credit in place of their 2020-2021 season passes, through Dec. 1.

“Our main priority is to keep our guests and our staff safe,” Ruocco said. “We want people to come, visit and destress in the most safe manner. It’s going to look different this season, but skiing is supposed to be fun. It’s a stress reliever. All of our venues, we are here to be that outlet for people but making sure we are keeping everyone safe.”

Hay, who loves the season herself, said, more than anything, she can’t wait to hit the slopes this season.

“I think the ski areas are really doing a good job and the governor is keeping us safe,” Hay said. “People will adjust and make it work because it’s such a fantastic sport. You just want to embrace the season, skiing is such a freedom, your own personal experience. It’s a freedom.”

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