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Michigan ski areas to adapt new protocols amid pandemic

The News-Review

Harbor Springs – Several ski areas in northern Michigan are aiming to adapt their operations as the winter skiing season nears to address public health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The top worry of skiing destinations is usually the question of whether cold temperatures will provide the weather conditions needed to establish a base of snow. But this year their managers also face the uncertainty of how COVID-19 will impact business and how the industry will adapt and develop protocols for safe operation.

“Similar to golf, this sport kind of naturally distances people,” Kevin McKinley, assistant general manager at Treetops Resort near Gaylord, told The News-Review.

While skiing is typically pursued in spacious outdoor expanses with plenty of fresh air, the National Ski Areas Association trade group is still urging ski operators to follow protocols such as loading lifts that avoid close contact between members of different ski parties and following cleaning and disinfection strategies in all areas of their operations. And they’re being encouraged to clearly communicate public health plans and requirements to visitors.

Amid the uncertainties associated with the virus, the trade group has also created a document, “Ski well, be well” that identifies an assortment of best practices for snow sports properties to follow in efforts to reduce transmission of the virus.

Some ski areas aim to limit crowds in high-traffic areas by encouraging advance ticket purchases and service bookings via apps and websites.

The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association is among the state-level trade groups to have endorsed the nationwide organization’s set of best practices. The group’s executive director, Mickey MacWilliams, said he sees potential for the state’s ski areas to draw Midwestern patrons who might otherwise plan ski outings to other parts of the country or world.

“What we’re trying to do is be as safe as we possibly can,” he said.