There was a definite chill in the air early Saturday morning but that didnâ€™t stop ski enthusiasts from heading up Mt. Southington and hitting the slopes.
â€śItâ€™s just so nice to be outside,â€ť said Doug Smith from Middletown. â€śIâ€™m here with my son, who is on the racing team and my daughter is just learning to ski. Itâ€™s a great little place for kids to just have fun.â€ť
His daughter, Finley, 5, was decked out with a unicorn ski helmet and agreed with her dad. She was excited to learn how to ski and made snow angels as she waited for her brother. â€śMy favorite thing about snow is making snow angels,â€ť she said. â€śI love snow.â€ť
The popular ski mountain, located in Plantsville, has been attracting crowds of skiers and snowboarders since mid-December and ticket sales have been steadily selling out since doors opened on Dec. 18. People are encouraged to check out the website at www.mtsouthington.com or call 860-628-0954 prior to their visit.
Visitors are asked to reserve spaces in advance and all social distancing measures and masks will always be mandatory in the base area, at the summit, on the lifts, and inside facilities.
â€śI knew it was going to be busier this year, I just didnâ€™t think it was going to be this busy,â€ť said Brian McCloskey, guest services and marketing manager for Mt. Southington. â€śOne of the major changes weâ€™ve made because of the pandemic was boosting our online ticket sales and that made a huge difference. People are really taking advantage of that.â€ť
For the seasonal and weather-dependent business, Mt. Southington has been busy welcoming experienced skiers and newcomers, filling up classes and programs, and even night sessions are selling out faster than usual. Having a reduced resort capacity also didnâ€™t affect the business as much as they thought it would.
â€śPeople are eager to be outside. Weâ€™re even seeing our snowboards selling out and running out of equipment, which has never happened before,â€ť said McCloskey, who added that seeing how other businesses have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, the experience only humbled them even more.
â€śThe pandemic has really opened our eyes on a lot of things,â€ť he said. â€śWeâ€™re just so grateful for everyoneâ€™s support and we appreciate their business. Itâ€™s been a long time since weâ€™ve seen a busy season like this.â€ť
Despite a milder winter, because the ski mountain produces artificial snow on their own, they are able to maintain the amount of snow needed to keep up with the heavy use.
â€śWe can resurface the mountain within 12 hours, so we donâ€™t have to rely on a lot of natural snow or cold temperatures,â€ť said Monti Montana, social media manager and ski-pro at Mt. Southington. â€śPeople donâ€™t realize that weâ€™re actually not really affected by the weather too much.â€ť
He created the resortâ€™s introductory program to ski racing for skiers ages 6 to 16 and said over 80 kids entered to learn how to race, a number that is comparable to a regular year.
â€śWe had to stop registration because we were getting too many kids,â€ť he said. â€śIn some way, the pandemic has really helped us because weâ€™ve been sold out and booked out for weeks.â€ť
Montana credits that trend to the fact that less people are traveling out of state to go skiing and rediscovering that they can get what they want in their own backyard.
â€śConnecticut has some of the best snow and slopes for skiing, so itâ€™s nice to see people getting a taste of whatâ€™s already here. Itâ€™s also much cheaper to come here too,â€ť he said.
Encouraging their granddaughter, Avery, 4, to ski, both Ellen and Roger Young from Bethel are grateful and excited that Mt. Southington is open during the pandemic.
â€śItâ€™s a little cold out today but the sun is nice,â€ť said Ellen Young. â€śPeople are also really good with social distancing and wearing masks, so we feel safe coming here.â€ť
Having just skied down the hill, both Madison and Charlotte Young, ages 9 and 7 respectively, said they loved being out in the fresh air.
â€śIâ€™ve been staying inside for school and weâ€™re remote learning, so it feels extra nice to be outside,â€ť said Madison.
Charlotte agreed. â€śI love going down the big hills,â€ť she said. â€śItâ€™s really fun to ski over the bumps and feel the wind. I love skiing.â€ť
Contact Catherine Shen at firstname.lastname@example.org