The lodging industry has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, and hoteliers and resort owners formed a lobbying group in April to work with the state on pandemic messaging and guidelines, and on needed relief funds for the industry. The state recently made $75 million available to the hospitality sector, and another $2.5 million for ski resorts.
"A lot of businesses are going into winter with no money in their bank account," said Walter Frame, chief operating officer of the famed Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, "and many won't make it."
"We're hanging on for dear life," said Hans VanWees, the general manager of the Hotel Vermont, a luxury lakefront hotel in Burlington, referring to the statewide lodging industry.
The sector laid off about 65 percent of its staff statewide in the spring, said Mr. Van Wees, who has acted as a spokesman for the industry and a liaison with state government. Some properties have rehired some employees, but most hotels and inns continue to operate on bare-bones staffing, he said. The Hotel Vermont belongs to a group of three Burlington-area hotels where revenues for 2020 are down 75 percent year over year, Mr. Van Wees said.
Ski resorts, meanwhile, have been preparing for a challenging season, running with reduced staffing amid uncertain prospects. Ski area operators across the state said they expected revenues and skier-day numbers to be down significantly this season. Perhaps none more than Jay Peak Resort, where half of its business usually comes from Quebec. With the border closed "that's all smoked," said Steve Wright, Jay Peak's chief executive.
There have been some bright spots. Season pass sales -- both of multi-destination passes like the Epic and Ikon passes and those for independent areas like Bromley Mountain and Mad River Glen -- have been strong, driven in part by assurances that passholders will get guaranteed lift-access and other privileges. Ski equipment has been flying off the shelves at many Vermont ski shops, owners reported. Cross-country and backcountry gear has been particularly strong, as customers seek to avoid alpine-resort crowds and Covid-era rules such as reserving ski or parking privileges ahead of time.
As of this week, ski areas across the state still had their opening days penciled in, with early season forerunners, Killington, Stowe and Stratton, cautiously aiming for Thanksgiving week, if the cold snap holds. Alpine and Nordic resorts have spent months laying the groundwork for a pandemic season. Distancing measures, including limits on unrelated parties sharing lifts, carefully designed distanced lift lines, limited lodge access, outdoor eating and warming spaces, and advanced online ticket purchases and parking reservations, are among the many measures resorts have adapted.