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Local ski resorts plan for winter with COVID-19 precautions

Changes to operations at Cascade Mountain & Devil’s Head Resort
Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 8:27 AM CDT
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PORTAGE/MERRIMAC, Wisc. (WMTV) - As we await the first snowfall of the year in the Badger State, many people are itching to know if their favorite winter activity is viable this year.

Local ski resorts, like Cascade Mountain in Portage, have had to take a lot into consideration while preparing for this coming ski season.

Officials at Cascade have used guidance from the National Ski Areas Association to prepare to safely fill the slopes with skiers and boarders this winter.

“We highly recommend purchasing online this year. That gives us a good idea of what our crowd is going to look like. Along with that you will also get a pretty good price reduction if you buy online in advance. And we plan to have our lift tickets loaded on our website sometime in mid-to-late November,” says Evan Walz, Director of Marketing at Cascade Mountain.

Inside their buildings at the base and top of the mountain, there will be occupancy limits to help maintain social distancing and face mask mandates. Those rules also apply as you wait in line for your chair and ride up the lift.

“If you travel or are related to someone, you can ride up the lift with them. Otherwise it’s going to be 50% capacity. So on a 4-person chair, you can have 2 single riders who don’t know each other, they can ride on the opposite side of each other,” says Walz. They’ve also had to cancel group ski lessons this year. The only option for both children and adults will be individual lessons.

It’s a similar situation over at Devil’s Head Resort in Merrimac. Their ticketing system is going fully online. There will also be sanitation stations throughout the resort, and plexiglass dividers up between customers and employees.

Only one or two people are allowed on a chair, depending on which lift it is. Food and beverage operations will present another set of challenges.

“But fortunately, we have a lot of restaurants that operate on different shifts. And we have a lot of indoor space that we’re going to be able to utilize and limit the numbers in those spaces. But still be able to get our guests fed,” says Joe Vittengl, the General Manager at Devil’s Head Resort.

Despite all these changes, Vittengl says they’re expecting a high demand in business this season.

“Our business is going to be one of the only businesses where we’re able to operate outdoors at a fairly significant rate. And so we believe that there will be a fairly large amount of demand coming at our resort this winter,” says Vittengl.

Officials at both ski resorts feel confident that skiing is a low-risk activity when it comes to COVID-19 exposure. They say it’s an outside sport, where distance between skiers on the mountain comes naturally. Guests are also already accustomed to wearing gloves and face coverings, simply for the sake of staying warm.

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