Skiers on a lift at Stowe Mountain Resort, pre-COVID
State officials on Tuesday gave Vermont's ski resorts their blessing to reopen. But looming large over the new COVID-19 safety guidelines is an essential question: Who will be able to come?
More than three-quarters of Vermont resort guests travel from out-of-state during a typical season, but a surge of coronavirus cases in the region is rapidly changing how many — if any — visitors will be able to do so this season without a lengthy quarantine before or upon traveling to the mountain.
According to the state's new weekly travel map unveiled on Tuesday, only 330,000 combined residents from four rural counties in Maine, one in New York and one in Pennsylvania can travel to Vermont without quarantining. Everyone else must spend 14 days in quarantine at home or in Vermont; they can shorten the period by testing negative for the virus a week into quarantine.
The state is hoping new efforts to broadcast the ever-evolving restrictions to out-of-state tourists will prompt them to quarantine at home before their ski trips, rather than cancel plans or travel recklessly. Ski resorts typically create $1.6 billion in economic activity in the state each year.
The Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing is planning a "know before you go" marketing campaign, deputy commerce secretary Ted Brady said at a press conference. The state will also require resorts to "reinforce" the rules to their prospective customers, and offer more flexible cancellation policies.
Resorts must also require guests to sign a form attesting that they've obeyed all travel restrictions, much like other lodging operations have been required to do.
Further, the state is asking ski resorts to reduce their out-of-state workforce as much as possible.
Reservations are not mandatory under the 13-page guidance, but day-use lodges and lifts may only operate at 50 percent capacity. Lodge areas may not have more than 75 people inside "any unique indoor space" at any given time, and resorts must get visitors' information in the event that contact tracing is needed. On lifts, members of the same traveling group may ride together.