The COVID-19 pandemic has rattled the Ski Touring Section this year much as it has affected so many other groups, individuals, and businesses.  However the Section is working to offer a range of ski trips for the coming winter.  The total number of trips will depend on many factors, with public health concerns being the first.  Some customary trip leaders may opt to take a pass this year.  We fully understand that.  Others are expected to offer a few ski trips, but under altered conditions.  Having skiers stay in rented holiday homes or the like is out this year due to the virus risk.  Use of motel rooms is OK, since it reduces the chances of virus transmission.

The STS leadership met in early September to outline the do’s and don’ts for the coming ski season.  Our ideas were passed along to the officers of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), and they were approved with minor adjustments.

Wintertime Nordic skiing is one of the healthiest forms of recreation, particularly so in the current pandemic environment.  Cross country skiers regularly put significant distance between one another when out on the trail.  The risk of infection is very low.  The problem lies in the daily hours of not skiing when people tend to gather closer together.  For this reason this winter’s trip leaders will ease off on the organizing of things like car pools and group dinners.  At this point in the coronavirus schedule, everyone is quite aware of the public health safety precautions that should be taken.  Thus each skier should make his/her own decision regarding such issues as whether to drive and lodge alone or share a car or room with another person you know well and are comfortable with.  These are decisions that should not be made by the trip leader.  The same goes for socializing and eating meals.  The skiers on each trip should determine what their own comfort levels are as regards meals and contact with others.  These are not matters the trip leader should dictate.  We expect that trip participants will be and act as adults.  Thus this winter we may find more skiers driving up solo in their own vehicles rather than with one or more other people.  Some may avoid flying.  That’s the participant’s call.  The same is true as regards sharing a motel room with another.  That’s the skier’s own decision, not the trip leader’s.

Skiers who sign up for one or more Ski Touring Section trips this winter are obliged to sign a waiver of liability provision to protect the club and the trip leaders from risk.  This year the waiver form includes a provision specifically acknowledging the pandemic situation and the participant’s responsibility to follow public health guidance.  A skier who decides to take part in a Section excursion trip outside the Mid-Atlantic region must also be a PATC member  (not just a Ski Touring Section member).  Those intending to ski outside the region on an STS ski trip must also sign a separate PATC waiver of liability form.  These completed forms must be in the trip leader’s hands before the applicant can be considered as a participant on the trip.

Some trip leaders may opt to propose a different type of ski trip this year that reflects both the COVID-19 situation and climate change.  In past years many skiers have used this listserv to help cobble up a ski group when snowy weather is predicted in Canaan Valley, WV or elsewhere in the region.  Those have always been, in essence, private trips not organized by the club or Section.  But this year some trip leaders may propose one or more STS ski trips where the dates for the trip will be within a range of days.  Thus, for example,  a recognized trip leader may propose a 3-day ski trip to Vermont sometime within February 1 to February 15.  Interested skiers could contact the trip leader and indicate their general interest in participating in the trip within that window of opportunity.  The trip leader and the others interested can then then track the 10-day weather forecast of the ZIP Code for the skiing locale.  If a significant snowstorm on an upcoming day becomes likely, the trip leader can declare the dates for the trip.  Those initially signed up can then make their hard decision about whether to participate in the ski trip or pass.  They would then be responsible for arranging their transportation, lodging and other details.  The trip leader should only identify which motel is recommended to participants after the trip leader has received the signed waiver of liability form(s) from the interested party.

This kind of outside the box thinking may be a logical approach given the current changes in our environment that we are having to deal with.

Recommend you check the STS trip schedule page ( periodically as the fall season progresses.  The Section will post trip opportunities there as they are announced.  Trip leaders may well then post on this listserv to alert subscribers about a new trip that’s available.

Finally, as you may have already figured out, the 2020 Ski Fair originally scheduled for November 7th will not take place.  The PATC leaders determined that this well-attended event traditionally held on the ground floor of the Club headquarters in Vienna would not be appropriate this fall.  However, once new ski trips are posted on the webpage listed above, you should have all the information you need to get in touch with the needed trip leaders.  Consider using some of these ground-breaking ideas for winter skiing as a fresh approach to find and enjoy great skiable snow!

Rob Swennes, Chair

PATC Ski Touring Section

October 31, 2020