Bear Creek makes changes for COVID-safe ski season

Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Macungie. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


Bear Creek Mountain Resort is gearing up for a busy season, but it’s also gearing up for a safe season as it implements new processes to protect skiers from COVID-19.

Gary Kline, director of marketing and guest experience for the Macungie resort, said if the weather cooperates this year, it should be a busy ski season. “We’ve actually doubled the number of season passes we sold over last year,” he said.

With more people looking for outdoor activities that provide natural social distancing, heading to the mountains for some skiing is an attractive option.

“It’s going to be different this year for sure, but at the end of the day skiing is an outdoor activity that is one of the safest things you can do,” he said.

Kline noted that most skiers are already wearing masks and gloves, and by the nature of the sport they are social distancing, but that doesn’t mean the resort isn’t doing all it can to make sure skiers stay safe on the slopes.

Being a four-season resort, Bear Creek reopened in June, so it has already implemented a number of social distancing, cleaning and response protocol, but with winter skiing being the busiest time of the year, the resort is adding more.

One of the biggest changes is a switch to online ticket ordering and reservations for rentals and classes. Kline said the resort sold a limited number of tickets online in the past, but most day tickets were purchased by skiers when they show up.

He said with the need to control crowd sizes, that wouldn’t work this year.

“We definitely knew we were going to control the amount of guests on the mountain,” Kline said. “Rather than have guests come to the mountain and be turned away, they can schedule in advance.”

That means day passes will be day specific, although season passes can still be used at any time.

The resort will factor in the number of season pass holders that normally come at a particular day and time and make a manageable number of tickets available for daily ticket purchases.

He said it’s best for Bear Creek if skiers to reserve tickets as early as possible so they can plan ahead for crowd management.

There’s also an incentive.

The resort will be using dynamic pricing, providing a discount to skiers who book weekday tickets in advance, when the mountain will be less crowded.

COVID-19 restrictions aside, Kline said the resort is looking forward to a strong season and hopes to start making snow to open by mid-December.

The weather should be cooperating. In a recent release, AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok predicted that most regions of the U.S. with a strong ski industry should do “fairly well” this year in terms of weather.

Citing coronavirus concerns, Camelback Mountain Resort announces closure

Camelback Resort announced it would close its entire resort, starting Tuesday. The Pocono Mountains resort, which includes the Aquatopia indoor water park, will reopen April 2. (PHOTO/SUBMITTED)

Camelback Mountain Resort in Tannersville is among the first of the region’s resorts that announced a closure today because of the coronavirus.

The company said it would temporarily close the entire resort, starting 4 p.m. Tuesday and reopen April 2.

“Your safety and health is our primary focus and we continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation and follow the CDC and U.S. public health recommendations as they evolve,” said Shawn Hauver, president and managing director of Camelback Resort, in a letter. This temporary closure will encompass all operations including the Ski Mountain and Snowtubing Park, Hauver said.

Hauver said there have been no cases of COVID-19 at Camelback Resort, however with recent focus from federal and state government officials on restricting large gatherings the company believes it is in the best interest of its guests and team members to temporarily
close the resort.

“Our thoughts are with those families who have been affected during this trying time, and we will continue to send positive thoughts to you all.”

The resort is taking extensive steps to care for its team members during the temporary closure with working hours where possible, company-sponsored time off for many team members and other measures, Hauver said.

“Their commitment to our company and guests during this uncertain time has been unwavering.”

During this temporary closure, the resort will continue efforts to provide a clean and safe environment for its team members who are working, Hauver said.

“We had some warm temperatures so fortunately, our season was winding down,” said A.J. Stack, director of marketing for Camelback. “For every business, it’s going to make a huge impact. We decided as a company to close everything for two weeks because it was the right thing to do. We all need to do our part and stop the spread of the virus.”

The resort will refund any room reservations and guests can re-book at a later date.

“It’s going to have a huge impact on every business across the world so we are all feeling the effects,” Stack said.

Gary Kline, director of marketing at Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Longswamp Township, said the company does not have official word yet that it would close because of the coronavirus.

The resort closed for skiing for the rest of the season, he said.

Meanwhile, Blue Mountain Resort in Lower Towamensing Township, Carbon County, has closed for the ski season.

“Typically, we only make it to the third week in March,” said Ashley Seier, director of marketing at Blue Mountain. “We close because of the weather.”

The resort’s restaurant, the Slopeside Pub & Grill, will stay open Friday through Sunday and will expand its to-go ordering service, she said.

“We’ve taken extra precautions on seating the restaurant at 50% capacity,” she said. In addition, the staff cleans and sanitizes menus.

During this part of the season, the only venue open at Blue Mountain is the restaurant, so for now, it’s business as usual, she said.

In May, the resort opens for its “green” season, which includes outdoor activities that run from May through October.

Over the winter season, Blue Mountain employs about 1,300 employees and during its green season, about 250, Seier said.

The resort has some weddings and events scheduled later in the season, but those are still on for now.

“We have had some people call, as of right now, we are complying with CDC recommendations,” she said.

However, the resort had to cancel its Pondskim event, an annual “end of ski” season celebration that was scheduled for Sunday because of the virus.

This story will be updated.

A Conversation With: Jim Tust of Shawnee Mountain Ski Area

Jim Tust, managing partner of Shawnee Mountain Ski Area –

Jim Tust, managing partner, has been at Shawnee Mountain Ski Area since 1979 and has been part owner since 1996. Shawnee Mountain is a major Pocono ski area with 23 trails, nine lifts, two terrain parks, snow tubing park, 100 percent snow making and one of the largest rental shops and ski schools in the country. They cater to families, school ski clubs and beginners.

LVB:  How many people does Shawnee employee at any given time and what kind of jobs do you offer?

Tust: Thirty full time year round, 550 seasonal full and part time (Dec – March). We have the obvious jobs: snowmakers, lift operators, ski and snowboard instructor, rental attendants and ticket sellers. But, we also have staff in security, parking, ski shop sales, group sales, marketing, food, bar and restaurant even child care. We are many different and somewhat diverse businesses in one.

LVB: What is the biggest challenge in hiring such a large, diverse staff?

Tust: Finding enough front line seasonal employees, followed by more need for additional highly trained technicians, like lift mechanics and supervisors and trained ski instructors.

LVB: What have you learned over the years that makes hiring for Shawnee easier?

Tust: We ask our current valuable staff for referrals, and make applicants feel comfortable and welcome, like at our annual job fair which we hold in November each year. This year it’s on Nov. 16.

LVB: Unemployment is very low right now. Do you expect challenges heading into the busy ski season?

Tust: Yes, we are very concerned about the tight labor market. We anticipate having to raise rates for many of our hourly positions. Also, we’re continuing to cross train those on staff willing to learn more than one specific job. We ask our managers and supervisors to be creative in streamlining operations to be most efficient with less of a burden on staff.

-By Stacy Wescoe