Cornell students and Ithacans are flocking to Greek Peak Mountain Resort to cope with pandemic isolation. Ithaca’s inclement winter weather has provided the space for people to gather and enjoy the outdoors while following COVID-19 mandates.
Feb. 15 marks the 63rd day since Greek Peak Mountain Resort opened its slopes to eager skiers and recently-returned Cornellians. Last winter, Greek Peak was forced to close on March 15 due to the spread of the coronavirus. With an excess of snow, this season is expected to be longer than the last.
“A lot of people think we had a short season, but we actually had a normal season,” said Drew Broderick, vice president of sales and marketing at Greek Peak. “We typically try to go until the end of March. This year we may go longer. We have a lot of good snow.”
College students get 20 percent off lift tickets and ski rental while Wednesdays are designated “college nights,” just 18 dollars for a 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. window. For Cornell students who can afford to hit the slopes, skiing has become a popular weekend and after-class weekday activity.
Strict virus protocols have allowed Greek Peak to be fully operational without decreases in weekly attendance. “In a typical season you’re looking at hundreds of thousands of [skiers],” Broderick said. “This year it’s gonna be more, and we’re still staying under our capacity level.”
Building capacities are determined by scanning systems that count the number of people in a building and alert Greek Peak managers when it has been reached or exceeded. At this point, the resort closes to the public until enough skiers have left the grounds, Broderick said.
The mountain has carried out a slew of precautions to keep skiers on the slopes. New lesson packages allow families to take lessons without mingling with other guests. Face masks are required at the base of the mountain, and a safety message reiterating COVID-19 protocols sounds every 15 minutes.
Greek Peak has also increased its staff to ensure skiers and snowboarders are following these precautions. Outdoor eating and bathroom accommodations are provided, while indoor dining follows the state mandate for 50 percent dining capacity.
“It’s a multi-path safety system,” Broderick said. “Wearing a face mask is normal for skiers because it’s cold, so nothing’s new.”
And, with all of these safety measures in place, Cornell students are comfortable finding respite on the mountain.
“[Greek Peak] is definitely a way to get outside and get some exercise and enjoy nature,” Clara Griffin ’23 said. “The powder was great for skiing right after the most recent snow falls.”
“It’s a nice break from the tension and impracticality that comes from COVID,” Griffin continued.
A skier since the fifth grade, Griffin owns her own ski equipment. She avoided a room full of people experimenting with different combinations of boots, skiis, poles and helmets.
Jenna Waibel ’23 also enjoyed the escape that the snowy slopes provide. “There were definitely a lot of people, but I didn’t feel like it was crowded,” Waibel said. “Everyone was really respectful and kept their distance to keep everyone safe.”
On her visit, Waibel also dined indoors, but found that tables were amply spread apart.
“Skiing has been a wonderful escape in the era of COVID, and I encourage people to experience nature and get some peace of mind,” Griffin said.