Sooner Than Expected
Friday, March 20, 2020
Written by Win Smith
How everything has changed since we abruptly shut down operation this past Sunday. This all began with the mandate by the governor of Colorado late Saturday afternoon (Mountain Time) that all Colorado ski areas had to shut down immediately. Both Vail and Alterra responded by extending this mandate to all their mountains. Since we found out well after closing, it created a lot of confusion and inconvenience to both our guests and our employees. However, in my opinion, it was the correct decision, and what has occurred globally these past few days reinforces that.
For our guests, the season ending sooner than expected, and with nearly 100% of our terrain open, was certainly a disappointment. I know that most wrap up the season at the end of March, but some of us really do enjoy skiing and riding through the end of April and into May.
For our employees, it is a disappointment, but more importantly, a financial hardship. Some, like our Blazer coaches, were finishing up their last weekend. Many of our J-1 international students had already begun heading home. But for many others, their winter employment ended a few weeks early. Those seasonal employees who had been scheduled to work after last weekend were paid for an extra week. We gave all our perishable food to our employees and volunteers, and there were quite a lot of vegetables, breads, eggs and dairy products to distribute.
Shutting down a mountain is not like walking out of one’s house, shutting off the lights and locking the door. Kitchens need to be cleaned, snowmaking equipment needs to be taken off the mountain, tower pads are removed from the towers, the terrain park needs to be taken down, rooms need to be cleaned, and garbage needs to be collected. These are some of the many tasks that our team has been focused on this week before we truly shut down most operations until it is deemed safe to congregate again.
After this week we will have a few people working on-site to look after security and to maintain our water and wastewater operations. Many people can work at home and will be, but all who are in non-essential jobs on-site have been asked to stay at home. All full-time employees will be paid through April 3rd when we will re-assess the situation.
These are all very challenging times, but we will get through this. We have a strong and loyal community, and we have a terrific team here at Sugarbush which we want to protect as best as we can. Thirty-three years ago, in October 1987, I witnessed the meltdown of the stock market; nineteen years ago, I witnessed the fallout from 9/11; and eleven years ago, I saw the near-collapse of the financial system. While this current crisis is obviously different in many ways, it is also similar to those crises. Our first priority is to survive, so we must take responsible actions for that to occur. Our second priority is to remain optimistic about the future and to prepare for normalcy when it returns--it will! The saying that “the darkest hour is just before dawn” has always been true in my experience. So that’s what we are focusing on here.
Let me end by saying that we will emerge from this wounded, but not mortally. Things we might have planned for in the immediate future will be put on-hold, but our long-term plan will remain. However, many smaller businesses here in the Valley will have a much more challenging time as their cash flow dries up. They will need our patronage more than ever. Additionally, the Mad River Valley Community Fund will be called upon more in the days and months ahead, and will require additional contributions to help those with financial needs.
I will continue to keep everyone posted as events develop. In the meantime, stay healthy, help others, practice social distancing, and get outside for some fresh air.