Lake Louise Ski Resort announced their earliest opening date ever for October 29th due to snowy conditions in the mountains which sees Canadians able to hit the slopes before we trick or treat. Seems appropriate for 2020.
Regardless of opening dates, and before a flake of snow falls, all ski resorts in Canada are facing a challenging season due to the continued presence of COVID-19. The most common theme this year is a reduced capacity, whether it be fewer dining options, decreased indoor lodge space or a limited number of lift tickets sold per day.
Resorts are all handling the challenges in their unique way, but some of the changes that are similar across the board include:
• reducing seating in lodges and indoor spaces to allow more space for physical distancing.
• More fire pits, temporary structures, and other heating areas to create more space to warm up or eat.
• Additional Washroom trailers
• Mandatory face coverings or masks while inside lodges, tents, warming areas, in lift lines and on the lifts.
Some resorts are only allowing pre-purchase tickets to eliminate lines at the hill and control the number of people on the hill. We booked a week-long ski holiday in October for the upcoming February, and I had to buy the lift tickets at the same time, preselecting the dates we wished to ski. Yes, that’s 4 months in advance. Unlike the resort I booked, Sunshine Village is not planning on limiting their lift ticket sales since, according to the hill, their parking lots are less than the capacity of the terrain and lifts. Other physical distancing measures at Sunshine include three new temporary lodge facilities and two temporary washroom buildings.
How to avoid disappointment:
Check the resort website for the latest updates before you go. Don’t drive out to the mountain hoping to get a ticket as they may be sold out for the day. And since the government guidelines and health advisories are in constant flux, don’t assume it is going to be open when you go.
Know the refund polity. Resorts acknowledge that there may be future closures due to the pandemic and most are being flexible about extending the season for unused tickets. I have some unused Costco tickets for Lake Louise from 2019/2020 season, and all we have to do is exchange it on the hill before closing date 2021. Lake Louise is also honouring unused ski checks until December 17.
Go mid-week. I know, we have jobs, kids have school, but if you can take a Wednesday ski day, why not? Call it a mental health break!
Try a smaller resort. Sun Peaks near Kamloops BC is a gem hidden in plain sight. Not as busy as some other resorts, you may find it provides some natural physical distancing. Is there a quieter hill you want to try this year?
Know the pandemic rules of the resort and abide by them. The hills are trying to operate in a manner that fulfils their obligation to provincial health authorities while providing a good time to their guests. Wear the mask, wash your hands and don’t argue with the guy running the chair lift who is trying to do his job, not infringe on your free will as part of some massive government conspiracy.
Be prepared: take snacks, extra gear, and a positive attitude. But know that you may need to rent a locker or leave it in your vehicle. Some resorts are limiting bags and gear in the day lodges.
Expect to wait in long lines. Waits are going to be a bigger part of the experience this year, especially at mountains which require a gondola ride to go up. Grouse Mountain, for example, plans to reduce their capacity on the Skyride to less than 50%. I’ve waited at Grouse in long lines when they loaded it fully, and I can only imagine what it will be like at less than half the maximum.