Months of conversations between Green Mountain Adaptive Sports, Chris Collin and Pat Brown, and Stowe Mountain Resort to discuss ways to increase accessibility at the resort have produced successful results for people with limited mobility skiing at Mount Mansfield.
This winter, the resort is offering more handicap parking with snow accessibility, an ADA compliant ramp at Mansfield Base Area that allows access to the upper level of the Mansfield Lodge from the parking lot, and access to the Sunrise Lift at Mount Mansfield.
Parties Collaborate to Develop Accessibility Plan
The initial emails were exchanged in February of 2022 when the resort was in the early stages of planning for the installation of the Sunrise Lift, a new six-pack chairlift to replace the Mountain Triple chairlift at Mount Mansfield.
Collin, a wheelchair user, and Brown, a below-the-knee amputee, both from Maine are adaptive athletes who frequently monoski independently, and attend annual adaptive events sponsored by GMAS at Stowe Mountain Resort.
In April, and after weeks of exchange, they tackled the 4.5-hour drive to meet in person with Stowe Mountain Resort’s managers Bobby Murphy, Brandon Ball, Doug Armbruster, Jason Boes, and Matthew Lillis to visit the site of the future lift and consult with the team.
The conversations focused on finding locations suitable for additional accessible parking so that wheelchair users and people with limited mobility could park, and have easy access to snow, to the Mansfield Lodge, and to the new chairlift.
Collin and Brown have traveled extensively and visited many resorts across the country, and shared how some of the resorts managed accessibility. They gave specific examples of what worked well and offered ideas that could be put into place at Mount Mansfield.
Stowe Mountain Resort managers appeared very interested, and eager to listen and follow some of the advice offered by the adaptive skiers.
“I’d like to start by thanking you for coming out to Stowe to meet us in person for this discussion,” wrote Matthew Lillis in an email dated May 6th. “I am familiar with the ADA code, but your willingness to share your experiences and how you interact with our facilities was extremely valuable for me to hear. I’d also like to add that I very much appreciate your positive and forward-looking approach to working with us.”
The meetings continued via phone calls throughout the summer and fall. Although more could always be done to increase accessibility at the resort, the initial positive results from this collaboration are getting noticed in the adaptive community.
Inclusivity Matters at Stowe Mountain Resort
“To be inclusive is an important value of our company,” stated Murphy, Vice-President and General Manager at Stowe Mountain Resort. “We wanted to improve access to the Mansfield Base Lodge so everyone could enjoy the facility and the new Sunrise Lift which is adjacent to the lodge.”
Since the conversation began almost a year ago, four permanent accessible parking spots have been added across from the tickets window at the Mansfield Lodge. All of them have close access to snow and the Sunrise Lift.
Additionally, the resort added a ramp built for wheelchair access to the lodge, which also offers an accessible bathroom on the upper level.
It is simple enough to create accessible parking in an existing ski resort lot and be compliant with ADA guidelines. It is a number game that most ski resorts can easily play by adding handicap signs and spaces at any location in any given lot.
But wheelchair users coming to monoski face many accessibility challenges that few able-bodied skiers realize. Monoskiers need a flat area to park their vehicle, and direct access to snow so they can independently set up their monoski, and transfer on snow directly from their wheelchair to their monoski. From there, the slope needs to be gentle enough for the athlete to access the lift.
“I feel like they did listen, and took some of the advice we gave them. They already had a pretty big project on their hands, and I’m sure it was challenging for them to add onto that project,” commented Brown.
“It’s great to have a ramp to access the lodge and go in to warm up and have a bite with monoskiers who ski at our resort,” added Pascale Savard, VP of the Board of Directors at Green Mountain Adaptive Sports. “We are very proud to have been able to contribute to increasing accessibility at Mount Mansfield, and look forward to seeing additional efforts to continue the trend across the resort.”
This year, three permanent handicap spaces in the Lower Lot B at the Gondola are now available, and all have access to snow. Additional accessible parking was also created at the base of the Over Easy although stairs need to be managed, making them unsuitable for wheelchair users. Those spaces remain convenient for many and are being used by families and individuals participating in adaptive ski lessons at Spruce Peak, and other guests of the resort.
“We continue to make strides for better access here at Stowe. Future planning is focused on the Sunrise Lift side of the Mansfield Base Lodge,” concludes Jason Boes, Manager Base Operations. All are keeping their eyes peeled on upcoming projects to increase ease of accessibility to the chairlift, and to the lodge, probably from the deck.
On the Spruce Peak side, two handicap spaces are available at the base of the Adventure Center. There is no direct access to snow on this side of the mountain, but resort employees will help carry equipment when necessary. There is also an elevator in the Spruce Base Camp. Visit stowe.com to find out more about handicap parking at Stowe Mountain Resort.
Destination Hotels, the company that owns the land at Spruce Peak, has been most helpful and generous over the years, reserving spaces and providing free parking to all participating in adaptive events hosted by GMAS. The groups are meeting and working on finding solutions to increase accessible parking to the general public in the near future.
The lack of adequate accessible parking and general accessibility to ski lodges at ski resorts is an issue common to many ski resorts around the world. With the increased interest and participation in adaptive sports and monoskiing more specifically, many resorts are often ill-suited to provide adequate accessible parking and access to older ski lodges. We are proud to see that Stowe Mountain Resort is making some significant efforts to curb that trend.