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No skiing in the dark, lots of parking: How Vermont’s ski resorts are handling the eclipse

A mountain with ski trails covered in snow
Associated Press File
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AP/file
Jay Peak, pictured in this undated photo, has been planning for the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse for two years.

Ski resorts in northern Vermont are finishing preparations for the once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse.

For Scott Pellegrini at Bolton Valley, the appeal is obvious – especially because the event overlaps with mud season and trail organizations are urging people not to go hiking in the backcountry

“For folks who do really want to be in the mountains and take in the view, it’s hard to imagine a better place than a ski resort, frankly,” said Pellegrini, Bolton’s director of marketing, sales and revenue.

Staffing, parking and safety are all top concerns. And because the number of visitors may vary wildly based on weather, businesses across the state have to be flexible.

None of the ski resorts in the path of totality plan to allow people to ski during the total eclipse. Bolton Valley, which offers night skiing, will close the lifts and sweep the trails around 2 p.m. — and keep the lights off.

“For the eclipse, mother nature is the show, so we’re not going to pollute the air with light,” Pellegrini said.

The lifts will reopen when daylight returns, Pellegrini said.

Steve Wright, president and CEO of Jay Peak, said the resort has been planning for the eclipse for two years. One potential concern is traffic: Jay Peak is only accessible from Route 242, and if parking on-site fills up, people may be tempted to park on the highway. As such, they have a contingency plan to have staff set up cones and clear the roads, if it comes to that.

“We’re used to dealing with 7,000 to 8,000 people a day on a busy Saturday during ski season and we think it’s going to be less than that for this day, so we’re pretty well-prepared to manage the crowds that we’re expecting to be there,” Wright said.

John Bleh, public relations and communications manager at Sugarbush Resort, echoed that sentiment. In addition to bolstering parking staff to weekend levels, the resort is also working on a contingency plan to use the parking lot at Mount Ellen (which closes at the end of March) as overflow parking, then shuttle people to Lincoln Peak.

See Vermont Public's list of eclipse events.

The biggest variable in eclipse planning is the weather. Bleh said that while lodging is booked out, a majority of guests will likely be day trippers or people who own second homes in Mad River Valley. That makes it difficult to predict in advance how many people will visit.

Even if there are overcast clouds, the sky will still turn dark during the total eclipse. And the resorts have their own programming to keep guests entertained: think music, dancing, games and eclipse-themed cocktails. Coincidentally, Sugarbush and Jay Peak will both have bands playing the entirety of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon.

“We’re all really excited for the influx of people for us to hopefully be able to share a really cool experience with – and fingers crossed that the weather cooperates,” Bleh said. “I think it’s going to be a cool experience either way, and we anticipate maybe a little less if the weather’s not looking favorable, but regardless, we think people are going to be out for it no matter what.”

Find all of Vermont Public's eclipse coverage here.

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See all of Vermont Public's 2024 eclipse coverage.

Corey Dockser is Vermont Public’s first data journalist, a role combining programming and journalism to produce stories that would otherwise go unheard. His work ranges from complex interactive visualizations to simple web scraping and data cleaning. Corey graduated from Northeastern University in 2022 with a BS in data science and journalism. He previously worked at The Buffalo News in Buffalo, New York as a Dow Jones News Fund Data Journalism intern, and at The Boston Globe.