Opening day at Yawgoo Valley was nothing less than spectacular! It all went down two days after the region was buried in fresh natural snow. Skiers and snowboarders lined up early to get a taste of the fresh, groomed surfaces on Rhode Island’s only ski area. For the first time in many years, every trail was open from top to bottom. Many of the veteran riders said that this was the best conditions they had seen in decades.
With the Corona Virus putting the brakes on Northern New England ski trips, Yawgoo Valley is now a very popular destination for not only Rhode Islanders, but riders from Connecticut and Massachusetts. No better indication of this was the packed parking lot and the long lines at the lifts, this past Saturday.
“The place was absolutely crazy today,” said Ezmarelda Kenyon, as she checked in patrons in the ski area office. “Some skiers and snowboarders had to be turned away today. They did not realize that they had to get day lift tickets online. We are completely sold out for the next few days.” Ski School Supervisor Patti Davis prepared a fleet of professional ski and snowboard instructors to handle the huge demand for private lessons. “The phones have been ringing all day with customers wanting both single and group lessons,” said Patti. “We are taking private groups of up to five students as long as they are either family or friends.”
Some of the big changes brought on by the Corona Virus include no more lounging in the ski lodge either before or after riding. While customers can use the rest rooms, they must exit right afterwards. Even the ski school instructor’s room is now limited to only a few people allowed in at a time.
While rules and regulations can change daily, based on the whims of state officials, the restaurant and bar areas are closed. Food can be ordered from a take-out window in front of the ski lodge. Everyone, regardless of whether or not they are a student, lift customer, or instructor, must wear a mask on the premises, including the lift. The only time a mask can be taken off is when someone is riding down the hill.
For the first time since the 1960’s, there are no longer daily group lessons that the public can sign up for. In previous years, walk on patrons could sign up for a ski or snowboard lesson with a group that could vary from 2 to 15 people, of all ages. Due to the virus restrictions, these are no longer offered to the general public. The alternative is to schedule a group or single private lesson in advance.
Jake Bloomberg of Narragansett was running instructor training courses all day, preparing the staff with the new virus rules. “We are emphasizing that each private lesson group, including our 5-week program classes, spread out on the trails, leaving everyone with plenty of social distance,” he said. “And always keep those masks on, especially near other riders in the group.”
Patti Davis suggests that the best thing for customers to do, is to go the ski area website for any questions on operating hours and ski slope protocol. This is also the place to buy daily tickets and book private lessons. The retail end of the ski area, the Yawgoo Pro shop, remains unchanged, with a full selection of sunglasses, helmets, clothing, and snow/ski gear. Staff is working on getting the tubing park open. According to management, more snow and colder weather is needed before operations can start.
Right now, Yawgoo Valley has a solid snow base to work with, and ski area officials think this might end up being the best season ever for skiing and snowboarding in Rhode Island. If there was ever a time to think about trying out Rhode Island’s premier ski area, this is it.