Covid cohort lines at Revelstoke Mountain Resort helps keep skiing safe. Lisa Kadane photo
Cruising down the wide, undulating expanse of Far Out, a sweeping beginner run at SilverStar Mountain Resort, my son is doing something amazing: linking turns without any hesitation. It’s a milestone we’ve been working on, and here, on the sunny slope empty of any other skiers or snowboarders, he’s the picture of confidence. Meanwhile, along the edges of the run, my husband and teenage daughter pop in and out of the woods, whooping it up between the trees as they chase each other on the mad hunt for fresh snow.
During the winter of our Covid discontent, it’s fair to say our family has rekindled its love affair with skiing. Between December 2020 and March 2021, we’ve chased powder at Big White, braved knee-knocking steeps at Apex, and skied a vertical mile at Revelstoke, clocking more days on snow than we did the last two normal seasons.
Admittedly, I had my doubts about how skiing would go. With new health and safety protocols in place at resorts in the Okanagan (we live in Kelowna), I wondered if it would render the sport a giant hassle. The rules included, at SilverStar, advance parking reservations and online ticket purchases, reduced capacity on the hill and in restaurants and cafeterias, orange pylons to indicate six feet of distance in the gondola line, and mandatory face coverings everywhere except when actually zipping down the hill or sitting in a restaurant eating a meal. Really, nothing that couldn’t be pole-handled with a little planning.
I also worried about staying overnight at resorts that had been in the news because of Covid clusters, including Big White and Revelstoke. We allayed this concern by renting a condo and Airbnb, respectively, which allowed us to eat most meals in our unit and remain almost exclusively in our bubble group. We were also impressed with the number of hand sanitiser stations set up everywhere, plexiglass barriers erected inside restaurants, and diligent lifties and ski patrollers who enforced mask-wearing in the lift lines.
My biggest concern, though, was my son, who has autism. I wondered how he’d be with a change in routine—putting on ski boots by the car instead of inside the day lodge, for example, or forgoing the usual French fries après-ski reward for eating popcorn in the condo or a granola bar on the drive home, instead.
But let’s be real—how would he manage with his nose and mouth covered all day? Even I find it rather suffocating when you’re gasping for air after a long, leg-burning run. And all resorts had a zero-tolerance policy around face coverings (with the exclusion of children under three): no mask, no ski.
It turns out I needn’t have fretted. If there’s a family sport that lends itself to masking up, it’s skiing. With buffs pulled up to our goggles, neck warmers for an extra layer of warmth, and helmets completing the astronaut look, we were like a bubble-wrapped family protected from all of the elements (including germs).
In fact, once the gondola or chairlift deposited me at the top of the mountain and I started carving turns, I felt—for the first time in months—like everything was A-Okay. (It’s easy to pretend all is right in the world when you’re knee-deep in powder under a flawless blue sky.)
And I could tell by my son’s willingness to board the lift for yet another run at SilverStar—and by the smile on my daughter’s face after she snowboarded her first run at Big White without falling (she learned the sport this winter for fun)—they needed this time exercising in the great outdoors just as much as we did.