Berkshire East and Catamount ski areas in Massachusetts became the first two US ski areas to close due to COVID-19. Since then others have followed in the US, Canadian resorts have not closed to date.
Jon Schaefer, the ski areas General manager, posted the following statement on each resort’s website announcing the decision:
Closing for the Winter Season
To our Berkshire East and Catamount Guests and Employees:
Berkshire East will close for the season today, Thursday, March 12 at 4pm and Catamount Ski Area will not reopen this weekend. COVID-19 has been discovered in the surrounding hill towns and multiple people are being quarantined. To be clear, no known Berkshire East or Catamount customers or employees have been affected by this illness, but as the GM of these businesses, I have a responsibility to my employees and my customers to act swiftly to contain any potential virus spread in areas that I can control.
In 2006, I was buried in an avalanche in British Columbia. While being buried in that tumble of snow the only thing I could think of was “this isn’t worth it…” This experience informs me now as the only thought that comes to me is, “no ski turn is worth a life.”
My role in this business was given to me by my father who loves being at the mountain every day. His demographics put him at a higher risk than others. If I can’t recommend that he visit his facility, how can I ask anyone else to do the same? Our staff is our family. Our guests are our tribe.
Thus, with conviction, we believe that our businesses can be leaders (however small) in beating back COVID-19 from its current beachhead by immediately closing for what remains of the winter season.
There simply is no benefit to remaining open.
The best science shows that this type of aggressive mitigation is both inevitable and overwhelmingly in support of the public good.
We urge other business leaders and our elected officials to follow suit in continuing to aggressively close down public spaces so we can proactively begin to get this insidiousness behind us.
We send the full weight of our prayers to the healthcare workers and their families who are on the front lines of this battle. As this illness spreads exponentially, we must all take immediate action to “flatten the curve” in order to allow our nation’s health care workers to make effective headway against the current caseload of COVID-19.
We shout from our mountain tops that you can make a thousand daily impacts by washing your hands, not touching your face, practice social distancing and simply sit back while doing everything in your power to stop the spread.
This is certainly an inconvenience to our customers and will result in major changes for our staff. None of this is going to be easy and we are passing into unknown territories. But like any good skier knows, you beat back challenging situations by pressing forward into them aggressively and decisively.
Lastly, this is personal, I’m related to medical professionals working in hospitals with active outbreaks. We shut down out of love and support for these people and the staffs in these hospitals.
We are confident in the future. We will announce a reopening date for our whitewater rafting, zip lines, aerial adventures, and biking in the coming weeks as guidance comes down from the CDC, the NIH and WHO.
Catamount Ski Area / Berkshire East Ski Area
Unfortunately this was just be the beginning of a broader closure of lift services in North America due to COVID-19. Since Berkshire East’s announcement, several other resorts in the U.S. have declared early closures. Burke Mountain, in Vermont, is closing winter operations on March 14 due to the virus. Taos will be closing on March 22, two weeks ahead of schedule. Jay Peak Resort, in Vermont, announced it would be closing operations early for the winter season as of March 14.
Earlier Alpine Canada, Nordiq Canada and the U.S. Ski & Snowboard cancelled all sanctioned and scheduled events due to COVID-19.
Ski the World is coming to a halt for the season…best wishes and be healthy, there’s always next season!