GILFORD — You may not have to eat your lunch in the car on alpine ski outings this winter, but you’ll probably have to put your boots on in the parking lot.
There will be no apres-ski entertainment and revelry, and no hanging around the lodge all day. Food will be grab and go.
Face masks will be required where social distancing isn’t possible.
Like many things, skiing in the time of COVID-19 will be different in the upcoming season, as spelled out under a draft policy submitted to the Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force by Ski New Hampshire, representing 30 resorts across the state.
The task force endorsed the plan and sent it to Gov. Chris Sununu and the state Division of Public Health Services for further consideration.
“We’re basically saying to people that behavioral patterns will have to change because the world has changed as we know it,” said Tom Day, president and general manager of Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford.
He is taking an optimistic approach.
“We know how to safely run a business. We’re used to fluctuating needs because Mother Nature is our boss and she fluctuates a lot on us.”
The proposal states that resorts will discourage guests from bringing personal possessions such as boot bags or lunch coolers into the lodge or other buildings. The idea is to encourage people to stay outdoors as much as possible. The virus is more likely to spread indoors.
“The lodge will be for people eating and using the facilities, and we know what our capacities are,” Day said. “There will be employees with counters on the way in and out, just like at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Hannaford.”
Instead of changing into ski boots indoors, people can change in the car and then troop to the slopes.
People can buy their lift tickets online to cut down on the need for social interaction. Skiers can get on the lift with their family members or companions. Singles could ride two to a four-person chair.
Universal rules for restaurants and retail will apply, including social distancing and use of facial covering.
Gunstock has room for warming tents outside. Food trucks could come to the parking lot. An FM transmitter will be set up so people can be advised of the rules as they approach the lot.
Even with all the changes, Day expects a good season. Airline passenger counts have decreased because of the pandemic, and Gunstock is a resort that attracts a lot of people who travel by car.
Jessyca Keeler, executive director of Ski NH, said the thing to keep in mind is that the skiing itself will be just as fun as always.
“Skiing is a wonderful outdoor activity,” she said. “This summer, clearly people wanted to get outdoors into the fresh air. We expect that trend will continue this winter.”
People often find ways to adapt to change. When lunchtime comes, a family might return to their car and “tailgate” like some fans do before a football game.
Some businesses may even benefit from the restrictions, such as the Waffle Cabin, a franchise that sells the tasty breakfast treats outdoors at several New Hampshire ski areas.
“But I’m not going to sugar coat it too much,” Keeler said. “It is going to be a challenge for some people. It may change the way they approach things.”
Fewer nonskiers will come if they can’t hang around the lodge, she said.
“There may be more half-day experiences, come in the morning, ski for two or three hours, go home and do something else.”
On the Web:
Ski area draft guidance: https://tinyurl.com/y2mdllwp