The following letter was sent to all families enrolled in a 2020 trip on 5/5. We continue to monitor the situation and will keep you posted of any changes.
First, I would like to thank all of you for your patience, understanding, and support during these uncertain times. Just weeks ago we were planning for a summer jam-packed with adventures. I was still attending summer opportunity fairs at schools in early February. When I spoke with some of the representatives from international travel programs with strong ties to Asia, I can remember thinking how lucky we were to run mostly domestic trips. The thought of the Coronavirus having any major impact on our summer never crossed my mind. In the ensuing weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned all our daily lives upside-down. After constant monitoring, phone calls, and planning we only know two things for certain. We are not ready to cancel our entire summer, and we are not able to say with 100% certainty that we will be able to run our trips as scheduled. In our 9 short years, LFFE has thrived on the support of repeat families. That relationship is based on a trust that we will do what is best for their children. That trust continues to be the basis of every decision we make.
The most difficult challenge surrounding the pandemic is uncertainty. We have had the chance to speak with many families who believe these trips are needed more than ever, and we fully agree. At the same time, we have heard from families who don’t feel comfortable sending their children on a trip at this time. As a father of two children with a pregnant wife at home, I can fully relate to both of these conclusions. At the same time, we have first time participants who are desperately looking forward to their first LFFE trip, returning students who can’t wait to get back into the woods, alumni who have worked hard for their first chance at being a co-leader, and directors, who love these trips so much they have made them a part of their lives.
After discussing every possible outcome we have decided that we will be making decisions on a trip by trip basis. As of right now, we have canceled all international trips, but our goal is still to run our domestic trips as planned. We will be reaching out to families on a per-trip basis with updates. This approach will take time as we try to evaluate each particular trip. We will try to have more information as soon as possible.
In the meantime, If you have any questions or concerns or if you are considering canceling please let us know. We welcome every bit of feedback we can get, and any decisions you have already made will help us to evaluate our way forward.
We are working on a plan for mitigating the risk of exposure during our trips. The measures we take will be a combination of best practices based on guidance from a variety of resources including the CDC, National Park/Forest Service, and a network of peers including fellow Orvis Endorsed Outfitters, summer camps, and teen travel programs. We will share the plan with you as soon as possible.
One measure that will be required by Yellowstone National Park and most likely others is that all commercially permitted companies must require their participants to sign a COVID-19 specific acknowledgment of risk form. I have posted a copy of the form on our blog for you to review before we send them out for signature.
If there is a silver lining in all of this it is the time spent at home with our loved ones. I hope you are all staying well, and please let us know if there is anything we can do to help.