Holiday Valley glad to get COVID-19 rules for opening slopes

A snowboarder races down a ski slope at Holiday Valley during the 2019 season.

ELLICOTTVILLE — Holiday Valley officials were glad to hear the governor give the go-ahead on Sunday for ski resorts to open this winter at reduced capacity.

“We’ve been preparing for this for a while,” Holiday Valley marketing director Jane Eshbaugh said Monday. “The governor’s announcement means we can open. We’re pretty excited.”

Holiday Valley closed in early March as the coronavirus pandemic began to be felt in Western New York. Even before it closed, the resort had reduced indoor capacity at its three lodges due to the coronavirus, Eshbaugh said.

“It’s pretty much what we expected based on our summer operations,” Eshbaugh said. “All the base lodges will be at 50% capacity.”

Skiing or snowboarding down the slopes is about the only place at the resort where a mask isn’t required. Eshbaugh said Holiday Valley is committed to keeping the facilities safe for visitors and staff.

Family members and those who come to the resort together may ride on the same chairlift. People skiing alone will ride on chairlifts by themselves.

Yes, skiers must still wear masks riding up on chairlifts — and they must maintain proper social distances in lift lines.

With the lodges at half-capacity, Eshbaugh said the resort is encouraging people to use their vehicles as their mini base lodges.

The resort doesn’t want to discourage people from using the base lodges to get bathroom breaks and quick cups of coffee or bites to eat before going back out on the slopes, Eshbaugh said.

On busy holiday weekends, however, lift tickets might need to be limited. Eshbaugh said the resort is encouraging people to go online and book their lift tickets and ski or snowboard rentals ahead of time. Eshbaugh said there are also plans for heated tents on the decks at the ski lodges to help meet demand.

“Masks will be required everywhere except when skiing down the slope,” Eshbaugh emphasized.

There will be added sanitizing of common surfaces at the resort and rental equipment when it comes back into the shop.

“Each season is different and this is no exception,” Eshbaugh said of the impact of COVID-19 on the industry. “We are very pleased they are allowing us to open. It will be safe.”

The summer season at the resort went great, she said.

“So many people wanted to get outdoors and do something with their family,” Eshbaugh said. The golf course, Sky High Adventure Park and swimming did very well.

Instead of around 100 weddings, receptions and conferences, Holiday Valley only hosted a few small wedding ceremonies due to the restrictions on crowd size, Eshbaugh said.

“We gave people a great alternative to get outside and have some fun,” she said.

As one season winds down at Holiday Valley, the main attraction will crank up soon.

Eshbaugh said the target for opening is Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving, weather permitting.

“We’re going to do some snowmaking testing in the next week or so to test the system,” Eshbaugh said. “By mid-November, we hope to be making snow, depending on the weather.”

That will be good news for skiers, snowboarders and more than 1,000 Holiday Valley seasonal employees.

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