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December 4, 2020

CMCC partners with Ski Maine to create COVID-19 readiness course

Courtesy / BigRock Mountain The community-oriented BigRock Mountain in Mars Hill has prepared COVID-19 safety protocols, and aims to provide a safe place for families to enjoy this winter in The County.

The ski industry in Maine is gearing up with safety protocols to keep customers and employees safe during the pandemic.

Among the steps being taken, Central Maine Community College’s Center for Workforce and Professional Development has partnered with the Ski Maine Association to create a specialty COVID-19 readiness training for Maine’s ski industry. 

Dick Gouwens, executive director of Ski Maine, said in a news release that the training will ensure ski-area employees are educated on how to work as safely as possible in a COVID-19 environment.

“The employee’s knowledge will enhance health and safety by reducing risk for individual employees, team members, and customers while at area ski resorts,” Gouwens said. 

The training is built from guidelines of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Ski Areas Association’s “Ski Well, Be Well” recommendations and the Ski Maine COVID-19 operating protocols. Training will be available to 2,500 employees from different ski areas across the state.

Employees who complete the training will earn a digital badge in COVID-19 Readiness Ski Industry Foundations. The badge serves as a digital representation of learning that the worker can use to promote their skills on LinkedIn or Facebook. 

“The COVID-19 Readiness badge will show that the badge earner is fully prepared to operate in our ‘new normal’ successfully and safely,” Gouwens said.

“We feel confident that, with the information ski area employees will learn from the course they [CMCC] developed for us, the ski experience in Maine will be enjoyable for guests and will reduce risk of transmission for employees and communities across Maine.”

Prevention checklist

In November, the state Department of Economic and Community Development published a COVID-19 Prevention Checklist for certain operations at Maine’s ski areas. 

The checklist was written in collaboration with Ski Maine and public health experts. It outlines health and safety protocols that ski areas must comply with in order to safely allow indoor activities this winter. 

“Ski areas and associations around the country have been working for many months developing plans on how we can operate ski areas in a manner which is as safe as possible for our employees, guests and their surrounding communities,” said Gouwens. “We know this season will look much different than any we have ever seen, but the same great ski and snowboard experience that Maine is famous for will remain the same.”

Sunday River

Individual ski areas are gearing up safety protocols for the season.

In Newry, Sunday River Resort opened in November to season passholders for skiing and snowboarding. Among its measures, the resort instituted a new radio frequency identification (RFID) system, which enables contactless, direct-to-lift access.

Other adaptations include limited base lodge capacity, required social distancing and face coverings for all guests and team members in all public and outdoor areas, reduced capacity on resort shuttles to allow spacing between parties, and more. Open to season pass, Ikon pass and ticket-pack purchasers initially, Sunday River is trying to reduce the number of visitors with access to the slopes until more terrain can be opened.


BigRock Mountain in Mars Hill also finalized its safety plans. It will be open Dec. 19 until April 4, weather permitting. Discussions are underway with local school systems and recreation departments to provide access to the mountain for ski programs this winter, with the goal of providing a safe place for county youth and families to get out and enjoy the winter season. 

“We have been hard at work preparing the ski area for a safe opening: it is part of our continued goal to provide families this healthy outdoor activity,” Aaron Damon, assistant general manager at BigRock Mountain, said in a release.

BigRock’s primary concern will be safely controlling the number of patrons in and out of the lodge. The United Way of Aroostook provided the mountain with funding for sanitation dispensers at key points around the facilities. 

In addition to sanitation and Plexiglas barriers, skiers and employees will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing within the facilities and at the base of the mountain. The mountain is closely following the direction of the Maine CDC to safely open this season.

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