A skier is pictured near a sign at the Mt. Brighton Ski Resort Jan. 15 that encourages guests to “Be safe together” during COVID. Despite COVID restrictions, demand has been “very high” at Michigan ski resorts, according to MSIA Executive Director Mickey MacWilliams.

A skier is pictured near a sign at the Mt. Brighton Ski Resort Jan. 15 that encourages guests to “Be safe together” during COVID. Despite COVID restrictions, demand has been “very high” at Michigan ski resorts, according to MSIA Executive Director Mickey MacWilliams.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Despite COVID restrictions, skiing has been a popular activity this season

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published January 23, 2021

 With an expectation for high turnouts this year, Mt. Brighton Ski Resort implemented a reservation system.

With an expectation for high turnouts this year, Mt. Brighton Ski Resort implemented a reservation system.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Both children and adults enjoy the Mt. Brighton Ski Resort Jan. 15.

Both children and adults enjoy the Mt. Brighton Ski Resort Jan. 15.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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METRO DETROIT — The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association has been trying to encourage winter outdoor enthusiasts to “know before you go” to a Michigan ski area this season.

With the ski season underway, some metro Detroiters who enjoy spending time on the slopes have already learned that there are different protocols in place than in years past, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indoor restrictions, face-covering rules, take-and-go dining, and social distancing rules are some of the changes that can be expected at ski areas across the state.

Protocols can vary depending on the venue, but one rule that is consistent across all Michigan ski areas is the requirement to wear CDC-recommended face coverings indoors and outdoors when 6 feet of physical distance cannot be maintained.

It is suggested that those who plan to visit a ski resort check the venue’s website to become acquainted with any specific COVID-19 protocols it may have.

According to MSIA Executive Director Mickey MacWilliams, guests can go inside a resort to pick up a food order or use the restroom, and “that’s about it.”

“Prepare to maybe use your car as the place that you sit and eat your food or have a little camp base in the parking lot by your car,” MacWilliams said.

Being prepared can have its advantages.

“If you do, you’re going to have a really enjoyable experience; it’s great out there,” MacWilliams said. “Right now, with everybody needing to do something (besides) stay in their house, I think it’s the best thing you can do, outdoor recreation.”

Compliance with COVID-19 protocols will likely be a key factor in determining how well this ski season goes.

“People for the most part are really happy to be outside, and they’re really happy to have this mask mandate because they feel safer,” MacWilliams said. “We haven’t had a whole lot of pushback on that.”

The early results seem to indicate that COVID-19 restrictions aren’t stopping Michiganders from getting out and enjoying the great outdoors.

“Demand has been very high,” MacWilliams said. “Ski areas have had, in some cases, record numbers of people show up. Others are having to limit people, limit the number of lift tickets they’re selling because they don’t (want to) overcrowd their lift lines. … Now that the ski season has gotten into more full swing and they’ve been able to open more slopes, more terrain, they can accommodate more and more people.”

High demand hasn’t come as a surprise to Heidi Swartzloff, who is the marketing manager at the Mt. Brighton Ski Resort. “We were expecting a really good turnout this year,” she said.

“For that reason, in order for us to manage capacity at our resort, we implemented a reservation system, which is new for us this year,” Swartzloff said. “Once we hit capacity for the day, then we are sold out. In a normal year, anyone who wants to come out can wake up in the morning and come. But because we knew we were going to be an extra-popular activity this season, we did add in some extra steps to make sure that we can manage the number of people at the resort.”

Swartzloff said being at capacity changes, depending on the amount of terrain open and “different factors.”

Mt. Brighton opened around mid-December, and Swartzloff has noticed something different this year.

“We’ve had a ton of interest — a lot of people who maybe don’t normally ski during the winter or snowboard, showing a lot of interest, especially parents wanting to find ways to get their kids outside and doing something fun,” Swartzloff said. “It’s been a popular activity this year.”

Offering a way to not be cooped up inside may be attracting new crowds to ski resorts this year, but skiing has been popular in Michigan long before COVID-19 came along.

“Michigan has the second most ski areas of any state in the country, second only to New York,” Swartzloff said. “In the four years I’ve been working in the ski industry, I’ve seen the sport get more and more popular, and really grow. … From my perspective, it is one of the best things you can do in the winter, and we see that reflected in our guests that come out, have a good time with us.”

This is as good a year as any for the activity to be popular in Michigan.

“We’re all about getting people outdoors during the winter, especially in a state like Michigan, where sometimes our winters are a little dreary,” Swartzloff said. “Sometimes, we don’t see the sun for a few days, and that doesn’t mean you have to hide inside. … I think this year more than others is even more special for that reason, because people have been kind of dreading, ‘What are we (going to) do in the winter when we can’t get outside to see friends or to just get some fresh air?’ We are offering that, so it creates a really unique, fun buzz at the resort because people are finally getting to do something this year.”

Those who may be concerned that the ski season will be shut down early can take encouragement from MacWilliams’ perspective.

“Skiing is considered outdoor recreation, which is something that our government encourages,” she said. “As long as we can keep compliance with the rules, and as long as everybody cooperates, I don’t see a reason why we can’t (remain open).”

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