Answers to Your Questions Related to the 2021 AMC Huts Season

10 minute read
AMC's Galehead Hut will be closed the month of May due to COVID-19 restrictions.
PAULA CHAMPAGNEAMC’s Galehead Hut will be closed the month of May due to COVID-19 restrictions.

 

AMC is carefully monitoring federal guidelines and recommendations related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and determining our best courses of action to provide a safe environment for our guests staying at our backcountry huts  We are making decisions month by month for the full service season 60 days in advance to provide any guests we are forced to cancel some time to adjust their travel plans while also allowing ourselves room to make informed decisions based upon the rapidly changing realities of vaccines, variants, and state and federal guidelines. While we will make decisions using the best information available, plans may change based on regulations and conditions that affect our ability to operate safely, and AMC guests will be notified once a decision has been made.

The staff and volunteers here at the AMC would like to thank you for your understanding, patience, and compliance as we have navigated and continue to navigate the challenges of COVID-19. The past year has been difficult for all of humanity and as the specter of COVID begins to lift we recognize that a return to the camaraderie of better years found in the huts and the mountains is sorely needed. We are working as hard as we can to find a path to responsibly return to dining rooms crammed with people huddled over steaming cups of hot chocolate as the sun sets out the window, but we need to be sure that in our haste to return we do not put our visitors or staff in danger of contracting and spreading the deadly virus that has immobilized us over the past year. Assuredly, no one finds this process to be easy. The AMC staff and leadership involved in these difficult decisions all understand the importance of the huts to you, our members and guests. They mean a great deal to us personally as well, and all are working as hard and quickly as we can to determine a viable path towards a safe reopening of these special places. You can check back here for the latest updates and for answers to some of the most frequent questions related to the 2021 hut season.

 

Latest Update (April 22, 2021): AMC will open its New Hampshire high huts for overnight guests starting on June 3rd and intends to continue to offer overnight lodging throughout its normal operating season.

For the entire month of June the huts will operate at less than full capacity in a cohort bunk space model. A decision will be announced on May 7th for the operations of the first two weeks of July, in accordance with the New Hampshire state guidelines.

A cohort bunk space model means bunk spaces will be assigned to a single reservation rather than our traditional model of shared bunk spaces. Because the layout of each hut is unique, some huts will have cohorts in their own rooms with a door, while in others the cohort will be in a space divided up by temporary barriers and guests may walk through or past the area. Guest cooperation is necessary and appreciated to facilitate this set up.

As this will limit capacity, some reservations will need to be cancelled. The AMC’s Contact Service Center will follow up with any reservations that need to be cancelled and will offer a transfer or refund. Cancelations are determined on a last reserved, first cancelled policy in order to accommodate those who have been waiting longest to return to the huts. Reservations cancelled in 2020 have priority, although with the limited capacity of June, even some of those may require yet another reschedule, for which we apologize.

Food will be served to guests in the dining rooms according to current NH Restaurant Guidelines. This includes tables being spaced six feet apart with table dividers in areas that cannot distance sufficiently. Meals will be served either plated or family style within a cohort.

Blankets and pillows will not be provided in the huts this summer, as we have neither storage nor laundry capacity to ensure proper cleaning or replacement of shared bedding between guests. Guests should bring their own appropriately rated sleeping bag and pillow. Mattresses will be disinfected between users.

Vaccination is recommended but not required for guests. The Huts operate on public land, managed either by the White Mountain National Forest or the State Parks of New Hampshire. At present, requiring proof of vaccination at our facilities would jeopardize the Special Use permits that allow for our operation as a non-profit entity on public lands.

As we have all learned over the past year, every individual has their own risk tolerance.  While AMC has taken steps to mitigate some risk, there are still inherent risks involved in overnight lodging and indoor dining. Individuals choosing to stay at an AMC hut in 2021 are assuming personal responsibility and accepting increased risks regarding COVID-19. If you feel uncomfortable with these risks, AMC suggests you delay your stay to later in the year or to one of our front country lodges.

The robust participation of hut and lodge guests in all COVID health and safety precautions will go a long way towards defining the viability of this season. Even if you are vaccinated, your efforts of social distancing and mask-wearing will enable all to feel comfortable in the unique communal atmosphere of these special places. We thank you in advance for rolling with the inconveniences and wrinkles in the traditional hut experience. This will enable us all to return to something more familiar as quickly as possible.

 

Q: I have a reservation to stay at a hut in May. Is that reservation cancelled?

A: Yes. AMC has contacted all reservations in May to notify them of their cancellation, and options to reschedule or cancel. AMC will provide access to restrooms and water at the huts starting on June 3. Prior to June 3rd, restrooms and water will be available at Lonesome Lake, Greenleaf, Zealand, and Mizpah Spring huts from May 21st through May 31st.

 

Q: My June reservation was cancelled. How did AMC make this decision?

A: AMC wanted to make a decision early enough to provide guests time to change their plans if they were cancelled but late enough to have as much information as possible. We settled on a two month lead time to announce decisions. This left us in a position to decide June when the vaccination rollout was still gaining steam and case counts were rising in our region due to the spread of the UK variant. Upon this backdrop we looked at the state guidelines in place at the time and worked to make determinations of how we could best operate responsibly within the parameters of those guidelines. This led us to the decision to limit our capacity due to food service limits, concerns regarding shared bunkrooms and a lack of clarity on our ability to have staff vaccinated by the start of the season. We regret having to cancel some reservations for parties in June.

 

Q: Which huts will have bunkrooms rather than bunk spaces?

A: Lonesome Lake, Galehead, Mizpah Spring, and Carter Notch huts will have bunkrooms that will contain only the group in the reservation. Greenleaf and Lakes of the Clouds huts will have a mix of bunkrooms and bunk spaces. Zealand and Madison Spring huts consist solely of bunk spaces that do not have doors between cohorts spaces.

Efforts have been made through physical changes to buildings and decreased occupancy to provide a buffer between bunk spaces so that guests will feel as though they have their own space even if it is not truly a private room. When you are staying in the huts, please do your best to ensure everyone’s comfort and safety by wearing your masks and respecting the buffer spaces and privacy barriers.

 

Q: Can I reserve a specific bunkroom?

A: Due to a variety of logistical challenges we are not allowing reservations for specific bunkrooms. Hut Croo will assign bunkrooms to ensure space needs are met each morning and these bunk assignments are final for the night.

 

Q: What about reservations in July through October?

A: AMC will make announcements every other week 60 days out any changes to operations that will impact overnight or day guests.  So, for example, if you have a reservation in the first two weeks of August, we will provide an update by June 1.

 

Q: When should I expect to hear from AMC about the status of my reservation?

A: Once a decision is announced, an AMC Contact Service Center representative will contact you on the status of your reservation and provide options to reschedule or cancel.

 

Q: Why is AMC requiring masks if New Hampshire has lifted the mandate?

A: The lifting of the mask mandate in New Hampshire will not change our current policies. AMC will continue to require our guests, staff, and volunteers wear masks in public spaces, on programs, and anytime physical distancing is difficult.  We will evaluate the COVID-19 situation within our communities and use CDC guidelines to determine our mask standards for operations moving forward. As COVID-19 continues to be a concern in our state, we believe it is important that we continue to follow the precautions that have been in place throughout the year to keep us all safe and healthy.

 

Q: I don’t feel comfortable staying at the huts in June but would like to move my reservation to later in the summer. Can I do this now?

A:  A Contact Service Center representative can assist you in moving your reservation to a later date, free of charge.

 

Q: How can I contact the Contact Service Center?

A: You can reach a representative at the Contact Service Center by calling 603-466-2727 Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or email us at amclodging@outdoors.org.

 

Q: When will AMC go back to normal capacity?

A: AMC will return the huts to normal capacity when we feel it is safe to do so. This decision will depend on state and federal regulations and other key data points such as regional vaccination rates and COVID case numbers.

 

Q: What is the plan for meal service in the huts? Will it be staggered?

A: ​ The size and capacity of each hut’s dining room is an overall mitigating factor. All meals will continue to be served in the dining room, with meals served directly to cohorts. Food and utensils will not be passed outside of cohorts. Due to the dimensions of the Carter Notch Hut and Lonesome Lake Hut dining rooms and the need to maintain distance between cohorts, there may be multiple seatings of meals, depending on how many guests are at each hut each night. Educational programing will similarly adapt to the space considerations at each hut.

 

Q: Will walk-ins/thru hikers be allowed in the huts?

A: The traditional “work-for-stay” option for AT thru-hikers adds several unknowns to the safety of limited lodging capacity we are prioritizing for overnight guests at the huts. We regret to announce that we will not be offering work for stay this year in the huts.  The popular Thru-Hiker Pass will still be available at all staffed AMC shelters and tent-sites along the AT.

AMC also discourages walk-in guests due to the low likelihood of space being available. If space is available at the time of the request, walk-ins will be accepted. Walk-ins should still be advised of and prepared to follow all current protocols. In weather or medical emergencies, the best judgement of hut croos, AMC leadership, and emergency response teams will be used on a case-by-case basis for changes in the capacity limits of each hut.

 

Q: If someone arrives late in the day at a hut and has symptoms, how will that be handled?

A: If the sick hiker is able to hike out on their own and isolate, that is ideal. If medical or weather conditions make that impossible or unsafe, AMC has contingency plans to address those emergency situations. As always in the COVID-era, if you feel less than 100%, please take care of yourself, rather than risk infecting others. The mountains will be here when you are healthy.

 

Q: Will there be food available at the huts for day trippers?

A: Food, including snacks and soup, will continue to be available for day trippers after June 3. Self-serve food stations are allowed in the state of New Hampshire so day food will look similar to past years. We are assessing the space and configurations of each dining room to determine a safe and clean space for day-hikers to eat inside each hut.

 

Q: Will day hikers be able to seeks shelter or eat lunch inside the huts?

A: We are assessing the space and configurations of each dining room to determine a safe and clean space for day-hikers to eat inside each hut. Until those decisions and cleaning protocols are determined, hikers will not be able to eat or remain in the hut outside of gaining trail information, food/water, and the use of bathrooms.

 

Q: Will water be available at the huts in May?

A: All Huts will have water available starting on June 3rd.  Prior to June 3rd, water will be available at Lonesome Lake, Greenleaf, Zealand, and Mizpah Spring huts from May 21st through May 31st.

 

Q: Will the hut restrooms be open for day trippers in May?

A: All Huts will have restrooms available starting on June 3rd.  Prior to June 3rd restrooms will be available at Lonesome Lake, Greenleaf, Zealand, and Mizpah Spring huts from May 21st through May 31st.

 

Q: Will proof of a vaccination or testing be required?

A: The Huts operate on public land, managed either by the White Mountain National Forest or the State Parks of New Hampshire. At present, requiring proof of vaccination at our facilities would jeopardize the Special Use permits that allow for our operation as a non-profit entity on public lands.

 

Q: Will your hut croo be vaccinated? 

A: Hut croo members are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated when they are eligible.

 

Q: How will social distancing be handled?

A: ​Guests will be asked to remain physically distant from those not in their party, if there seems to be a specific issue it will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. If you are not able or willing to abide by social distancing measures, please consider delaying your reservation—we will already be asking a great deal more of the hut croos this season and hope to minimize their challenges at mitigating conflict between guests with conflicting understandings of safety.

 

Q: What are your cleaning protocols?

A: Pillows and blankets have been removed and mattresses will be wiped down between uses. High touch areas will be cleaned every two hours. Bathrooms and other high use areas will be sprayed down with a sanitizing solution at least once a day.

 

Q: Will the hiker shuttle be open this year?

A: Yes. The shuttle will operate starting on June 3rd.

 

Q: Will shuttle capacity be reduced? 

A: Shuttle capacity will not be reduced. AMC will focus on mitigating risk by requiring masks, increasing ventilation, and using vehicles with higher capacities when possible.

 

Q: Will there be partitions between seats on the shuttle? 

A: No. We will try to space people when possible, but this may not be the case on busy days.

 

Q: Will you take rider information for contact tracing?

A: We already have contact information for those with reservations, and we will collect information for walk-on riders.

 

Q: Will walk-ons be allowed on the shuttle? 

A: Walk-ons will be allowed if there is space for them.

 

Q: Will N95s or Face Coverings will be required on the shuttle?   

A: AMC will provide disposable masks to be worn under an existing personal cloth mask, following guidelines based on the emerging science associated with the efficacy of “double masking.”


 

About the Author…

Kelleigh Welch

Kelleigh is the Director of Content at AMC.

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