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A 'Ski's Length' Apart, Skiers And Riders Skin Up And Ski Down

Lifts and base lodges across Vermont are quiet, despite the snow on the slopes. Yet some die-hards are not letting coronavirus keep them from their favorite activity.

With no lift service, anyone who wants to ski or snowboard down a hill has to climb up it first: typically with snowshoes, or with skins affixed to the bottom of their skis or split board.

The sun was out and temperatures hit 40 degrees on Wednesday, and several dozen people stood in the parking lot near Killington’s base lodge retrieving gear from their trunks.

Two men get gear out of their cars in a parking lot.
Credit Nina Keck / VPR
Thomas Bartlett of West Rutland owns a Mexican restaurant in Killington that's now closed. Instead of working, he's hitting the slopes - what he calls a rare upside of the spread of COVID-19.

Thomas Bartlett of West Rutland owns Baja Burrito, a Mexican restaurant in Killington. It’s closed, and with so few people in town, he said, take out isn’t an option.

“So it’s good and bad,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.  “It’s going to be a great spring, the mountain is fully loaded with snow so it’s joyful!" he said, grinning. “I’m out with the sun and its snowboarding time. What are you going to do, you know?” 

Bartlett was meeting a friend, and the Killington parking lot was alive with music from a car stereo.

Not far away, Kate Herbert of Mendon stood with a half-dozen friends, several of whom had open coolers and beach chairs perched in the snow. “We are not going to go quietly into this good night!" she proclaimed with a laugh.

She and John Tidd of West Bridgewater are part of a group of friends who’ve been skiing together on Wednesdays for 30 years. 

“It’s still spring -- it’s still winter, and we still have our group of friends that we all cherish making turns with,” she said smiling.

“And it’s Wednesday,” said Tidd, “and we’re here and we’re skiing and the snow is beautiful and what more could you ask?  Our friends, our chosen family, 30 years of experience -- you can’t go wrong."

“Okay, we love you John,” someone called out as the entire group erupted in raucous laughter.

Killington-base-empty-vpr-keck-20200318.jpg
Credit Nina Keck / VPR

Several car-lengths away, Kayla Sarajian and Garrick Fredericks put their gear away after skinning up.

Bryan Raiche, a friend of theirs from Rutland, stood with them at a distance, practicing "social distancing." 

“This is what everyone needs to be doing,” nodded Fredericks.

Sarajian, who works for Killington, said the resort gave employees a reference to think of when interacting with people. “Stand the length of a ski away,” she said.

They’ve also been trying to greet friends with elbow bumps instead of hugs or handshakes. It’s been a crazy week, the trio said. It feels good to get outside and forget things for an hour or two. 

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