CATSKILL — Local ski resorts have been given the green light to open in November, while Greene County movie theaters remain shuttered.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced guidance for both industries this weekend.
Ski resorts will have their indoor facilities capped at 50% capacity, with outdoor capacity reduced by 25% on peak days.
Greene was among 12 counties, outside New York City, that do not meet the criteria to have movie theaters reopen Oct. 23, meaning local screens such as The Community Theatre of Catskill and Windham Theatre will remain closed.
To be eligible for reopening, counties outside New York City must have infection rates below 2% over a 14-day average and no cluster zones.
Greene County Public Health reported 87 active cases on Friday, 69 of which were inmates at Greene Correctional Facility.
The county has received contradicting information about how the inmate cases would affect its metrics, Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said.
“We were told last week they wouldn’t count against us, and then [the movie theater announcement] told a whole different story,” Linger said.
The information stemmed from the head of the Capital Regional Control Room, who got his information from the executive office, Linger said.
“He was told they are well aware of where those cases are from and they would not count against us,” Linger said. “Quite obviously those numbers have, in fact, negatively affected the county.”
Linger fears the repercussions of the high numbers will extend beyond movie theaters.
“We don’t have a lot of movie theaters, that’s not a huge industry for us,” he said. “My fear is it carries over to any industry, like a ski slope, event and wedding venues.”
Several areas in New York City identified as clusters saw increased restrictions to houses of worship, mass gatherings, dining, schools and businesses under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Cluster Combat Initiative.
After a number of big events and attractions this summer such as Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, Taste of Country, Greene County Youth Fair and Zoom Flume Water Park were canceled or closed, Greene County will look to winter recreation.
“We don’t get a lot of sales tax revenue from the resorts themselves but as people rent those rooms or go out and have dinner, it’s a big impact for us,” Linger said. “It’s also employment — they’re both big employers.”
Both resorts are important to Greene County’s economy, Tourism Director Heather Bagshaw said, adding plans to offer alternatives equivalent to COVID-19 restrictions are in the works.
“We are looking at off-mountain experiences, so that those that normally come and expect skiing right away but cant because of capacity, have alternate options,” Bagshaw said.
Windham Mountain is scheduled to open Thanksgiving weekend, depending on weather conditions, Windham Mountain Director of Sales and Marketing Dave Kulis said.
“Our plans have been developed with input from the local, state and national levels, and we believe they are aligned with the recent information coming out of New York State regarding ski areas and opening this winter,” Kulis said. “The biggest impact will be capacity restrictions on indoor space. We have shifted to more outdoor-focused offerings, including additional food and beverage options outside and reservations at some of our restaurant facilities.”
The resort is not anticipating capacity restrictions for season pass holders, according to its reopening plan.
In addition to capacity restrictions, other state guidelines for ski slopes include limiting lifts to members of the same party, thorough cleaning and disinfecting of rental equipment, requiring masks when not eating/drinking or skiing, social distancing between parties and limiting ski lessons to no more than 10 people.
“Scientists have told us the virus is going to become more aggressive in the fall, and right now, we are all feeling COVID fatigue, but our microcluster strategy is a smart, data-driven and less disruptive strategy to get us through this season,” Cuomo said. “And so far, the data shows the microcluster strategy is working to bring infection rates down in our red zone areas.
Ski resorts will be allowed to reopen in November with limited indoor capacity, which will allow New Yorkers to have some outdoor activity this winter without having to quarantine when they come back.”
Patrons visiting Windham Mountain are urged to check the mountain’s capacity restriction calendar and purchase tickets in advance. Tickets will not be available on-site during capacity-restricted days, according to the mountain’s reopening plan, and group ticket reservations will not be accepted on capacity-restricted days.
Reservations will be required for lessons and rental equipment.
No lockers will be available this season and guests are asked to suit up at their vehicles. A special parking lot will be designated for guests to get ready. Valet parking will be available on peak days, according to the plan. The Windham Village Shuttle and the Children’s Learning Center will not be in operation this season.
Lift hours will end at 4 p.m. on all days, eliminating sunset skiing.
“A combination of staffing challenges, along with necessary time for sanitation of indoor facilities, has necessitated the elimination of sunset skiing this year. No decision has been made about sunset skiing beyond winter 2020-21 at this time,” according to the plan.
Hunter Mountain will open Nov. 20, according to the mountain’s website.
“COVID-19 will require changes to ensure we prioritize everyone’s health and safety including potentially limiting how many people are on the mountain at one time,” Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said.
Vail will implement a new reservation system which will give pass-holders the best access to the mountain, Katz said.
For example, pass-holders will have exclusive use of the mountain until Dec. 7. From Nov. 6 to Dec. 7, pass-holders can book up to seven priority reservations for the season.
“As you use priority days, you can book more,” Katz said.
Pass-holders can also use as many week-of reservations as they want, Katz said.
“This reservation system is a tool to help us manage [our] capacity and be out-front in our approach to keep you safe all season long,” he said. “We want to be prepared, be safe and provide peace of mind to our guests.”
Vail may discontinue use of the reservation system if appropriate, Katz said.
“It’s a lot easier to remove than put one in mid-season,” he said.
All transactions at the mountain will be cashless, according to the website. Vail employees will complete daily health screenings.