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Plenty of social distancing at Jack Frost in the Poconos/Jack Frost Big Boulder

Ski well and be well, it’s a great healthy motto these days. Coined by the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), an organization founded in 1962 as a trade association for 320 alpine resorts and 90% of skier and snowboarder visits nationwide, the slogan keeps a healthy sport healthy during COVID 19. NSAA developed a comprehensive list of best practices for the health and safety of ski area employees and guests in response to the pandemic based on scientific guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. The Pennsylvania Ski Areas Association has adopted the plan.

Their mission statement explains it all, “Ski areas provide acres upon acres of wide-open natural space for recreation, allowing guests to enjoy the mental and physical health benefits of outdoor recreation while maintaining physical distance. As operators committed to the health and safety of our stakeholders, we will implement the following best practices, and take additional guidance from local public health and municipal authorities.” Here is their plan to keep us safe.

Shared Responsibility for Safety

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Skiers can create their own forms of social distancing./Todd Nordstrom/Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau

It is up to every individual, both ski area employee and guest, to do their part to help protect the health and safety of the skiing and snowboarding community. Ski area operators are experts at monitoring and managing the flow and volume of traffic in their outdoor spaces. Everyone will be following requirements to mitigate the risk of infection. Ski area employees will be trained in COVID-19 safety and disinfection protocols, consistent with recommendations from the CDC. Long-standing skiing and snowboarding etiquette requires guests to respect one another and give space between themselves and other skiers and riders.

Touchless Transactions

Many ski areas have adopted technologies to reduce personal contact between employees and guests. These include touchless payment and access technologies, such as advanced online purchase and RF (radio frequency) scanning of tickets and passes.

Face Coverings

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Family fun outdoors at Shawnee Mountain in the Poconos/Shawnee Mountain

Ski areas will require face coverings that align with CDC recommendations whenever physical distancing cannot be achieved. This includes both indoor and outdoor spaces, except when eating or drinking. Ski areas within Pennsylvania will additionally follow the mask mandate as currently required within the State. Face coverings, including neck gaiters, goggles, gloves or mittens, and helmets are standard pieces of skiing or snowboarding gear that provide additional help to keep us safe.

Physical Distancing

Ski areas will create operational plans that allow for appropriate spacing between parties. This includes but is not limited to the following parts of the operation: lift queues, ticket queues, ski and snowboard lessons, employee spaces, and food and beverage outlets.

Cleaning and Disinfection

Ski areas have adopted cleaning and disinfection strategies for all areas of their operation, including high-touch areas such as restrooms, restaurants, dining facilities, ticket offices and rental shops. All cleaning products used will follow CDC and EPA guidance on which agents are effective against COVID-19.

Open Air Chairlifts

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Breathing fresh, clean air at Blue Mountain in the Poconos/Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau

The lifts are open-air chairs where the rider experiences a constant flow of fresh, clean air. Face coverings are required. Skiers and snowboarders will ride the lift with their traveling party. Lift rides are generally 5-10 minutes, and travel between 5 and 17mph, creating constant one-way directional airflow, and chairs are typically spaced 50 or more feet apart.

Health Benefits

Snowsports provide numerous proven health and wellness benefits to participants. According to the World Health Organization, “regular physical activity benefits both the body and mind.” The organization says that physical activity increases strength and fitness, reduces the risk of cardiovascular and other physical ailments and improves mental health, specifically reducing the risk of depression.

While some see the cold weather as a bigger threat to health and COVID, we see an opportunity for some healthy and safe fun. We applaud the ski areas of Pennsylvania for their efforts. Enjoy!

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