For the third consecutive week, Telski officials continued to discuss and fine-tune their operating plans for the upcoming 2020-21 ski season with local stakeholders during Wednesday’s Board of County Commissioners regular meeting.
Since last week, Telski added some sections that the state will be requiring, according to Jeff Proteau, the resort’s vice president of mountain operations and planning. Matt Thomas, Telski’s director of risk management, joined him during the meeting.
While the state hasn’t officially announced the COVID-19 guidelines for ski areas, Telski officials have been participating in discussions with industry groups and professionals across the state, Proteau said.
“Everybody’s providing feedback to the state, and we’re just trying to bring in all that information as it’s available and update our plan accordingly so we are current with our information that we’ve been able to attain from the state and these great collaborations that have been going on,” he explained.
Ongoing communication between the resort, local officials and the county public health department, as well as guests, is going to be critical, he added. The meetings over the last three weeks are an example of that.
“There are a lot of different ski areas dealing with this differently. I think that we’re being probably as transparent by going through this process with you all as any of the ski areas that I’ve heard,” Proteau said. “I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s great to have both towns and the county involved in this because we’re all in it together. As far as community engagement I think we’ve been hitting that one on the spot.”
Board chair Hilary Cooper asked if Telski would provide periodic coronavirus updates so guests know what to expect, especially if capacity needs to be limited suddenly. A new website that’s set to debut within the week will provide such information, Proteau explained
“We’re launching a whole new website,” he added. “I think this new website is going to have a lot of what you’re asking for. If we need to do something more publicly on a regular schedule or meeting or something like that we can talk about that and we’re open to that moving forward. … We can make that happen.”
The resort has looked at peak days over the past five years and have a good idea of when those may occur this year, though overall visitation may be down 20-30 percent this year due to a number of factors, including people’s willingness to travel. Pass sales will also help manage capacity, especially around peak dates.
“We only opened up our sales to locals and loyal passholders up until now,” Proteau said. “We’re going to be launching now outside of that realm. We are communicating with our guests as we start going through sales on to what to expect in terms of virus restrictions here.
“We are in a unique situation. I appreciate our commissioners, as well as our town council members, that are participating in statewide communication because we are a destination resort. We are different from some of the bigger resorts on I-70. Our peak days aren’t nearly as big as some of these other resorts, as well as the amount of those peak days.”
The initial surge of sales went well, he added, as there was a “pent up demand with locals and loyal passholders.”
“Going into this next phase of sales we’re going to be watching that closely to get a feel of whether or not we’re going to have a problem in terms of capacity issues,” Proteau said. “ … We saw a good response to our initial round of sales. Now we’re in the wait-and-see stage dealing with people outside of the community. We will be communicating on our website as people go through this there may be days where we have to restrict sales and we’ll make this part of this next round of sales. We have that ability. We are watching it close.”
But this is 2020, remember, and seemingly the only constant is to expect the unexpected. The operating plan will change, especially as more information and guidance from the state comes down. As Thomas has said, nothing is set in stone during the ongoing pandemic.
Telski will continue to follow state and county public health guidelines, as officials have always stressed the county’s Five Commitments of Containment throughout the planning process. Telski will also work with the local business and lodging communities in terms of gauging capacity and visitor numbers throughout the season.