Ski resorts are still trying to figure out what the next season will look like.

We heard from a few Canadian ski area representatives and whatever finally happens, next year your favorite resort won’t look like what you remember from the past.

 Many resorts opened for a revised summer season that several called “a great dress rehearsal” for next winter.

Downtown Banff. Bike rental on Banff Ave. which was closed to traffic this summer for social distancing. Credit: SkiBig3

It involved limits to daily lift ticket totals, spaced tables in restaurants (and a lot of outdoor eating), social distancing in lift lines and yes, restrictions on lifts themselves.

 But the final details for winter, everyone said, are still being determined.

Not so, though, for Air Canada.

Tony Celio of Air Canada had a very specific list:

  • Touch-free checkins, mandatory masks on board, hand sanitizing stations throughout the airports, health questions and temperature checks (top temp is 99.5).
  • In the boarding area, no lining up to board. Everyone stays seated until their group number is called, then boarding is back to front, window to isle.
  • On board, free packs containing hand sanitizer, wipes, mask, gloves, bottle of water, snack and headset are given to each passenger. Crews wear masks and gloves. Everything is sanitized between flights with hospital grade disinfectant and HEPA filters are being used for the cabin air.

Air Canada has this video on its website:

As for resorts, they are not expecting massive crowds since they assume their international visitor counts will be down.

Tamara Melanson of SilverStar said hotel guests have been naturally spaced out because there is a mandatory 24 hour gap between check out and the next check in so rooms can be deep cleaned.

But specifics for winter, she and others admitted, are all still being worked out, though Melanson could speak to what they’re doing about lift lines and lifts now.

Interestingly, this is the busiest year they’ve ever had for cyclists going up the mountain but still, they are limiting tickets to keep people socially spread and keeping people in a single stretched out line to board.

In summer, they have only the six-pack lift and gondola open. And for now, it’s one person (or group of friends) to a gondola and a max of two strangers to a lift. She figures seating on the resort’s quads and the six pack in winter will be similar.

Andre Quenneville, general manager of Mt. Norquay added that some resorts are experimenting with spraying lifts with disinfectant.

Jen Kyles of SkiCan which represents resorts across Canada said,  “People will need more patience.” For instance, they will need to make prior reservations for rentals which will then have timed entries to keep folks spaced. Many resorts, she said, are thinking of shifting dining into their conference facilities where the rooms are larger. And buffets will be gone.

Top of lift, Norquay, this summer. Credit: Mt. Norquay

Resorts like Mt. Norquay and Panorama Mountain Resort, not exactly known for crushing crowds, don’t expect to have problems with spacing on-slope.

Meanwhile this summer, Banff has closed its main downtown corridor to provide more space for people on foot. Restaurants have 50 percent occupancy indoors but also have spaced dining on the street. And while masks are encouraged, they are not required, though that may change.

Quenneville of Norquay said he feels confident his resort will be open for winter and expects the US-Canada border will be open by then. And Steve Paccagnan, CEO of Panorama, referring to shuttles from the Calgary airport, said they would be offering private travel for those who want it along with buses with “safe practices,” meaning spacing people out.

In the end, everyone agrees, it will be a lot of trial and error.

6 Comments

  1. Those of us who work in the ski industry are currently receiving quite a few surveys from various ski industry conglomerates, resort operators, and airlines as to our concerns, comfort level, and intentions. It seems that the major players are developing approaches based on skiing down-under and summer resort activities in North America. It also seems that most are delaying making major decisions (understanding even those will be tentative) until mid-August at the earliest, with some likelihood that season ticket sales will be extended well into the fall.

  2. Yvette Cardozo Yvette Cardozo says:

    I took part in another Zoom and heard the exact same comments from US reps. One said when the order came down to close almost instantly, it was a nightmare. You don’t close a resort like flicking off a light switch. And after, everyone was in shock for a stretch. Comments about ‘down south’ said resort experiences have ranged from New Zealand, which caught things early and is ‘almost back to business as usual’ to South America where seasons ended early and Portillo announced it is ‘closed indefinitely.’ Australia, they said is somewhere in between. And yes, EVERYone said things are in flux.

  3. Yvette Cardozo Yvette Cardozo says:

    Linda,
    The Canadians I saw on the Zoom and subsequently spoke to ‘expect’ the border to be open by the ski season. The American reps I later heard from said they plan to ask Congress for an exemption so they can get staff from outside the US. Honestly, I don’t think anyone knows what’s going to happen unless the US gets a handle on the virus. One US rep said people should plan ahead….however at this point that is possible. You might want to think about a Canadian trip later in the season rather than earlier in hopes things down the line improve and the border does open.

  4. I’d bet that cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and fatbiking will boom in both Canada and the U.S., benefiting (sadly but understandably) to some degree from alpine skiing’s difficulties. And tourism in general seems likely to be more local/regional. I hope that downhill resorts in both countries will reach out to XC skiers, etc., rather than considering them as kind of accessories rather than hardware.

  5. Hi,
    I’m probably more optimistic than others that we will have a ski season. Those who get there will find fewer lines and maybe lower prices for housing. However, before you book a trip to Canada, check out this web site – https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/latest-travel-health-advice.html. It is the government of Canada’s rules on traveling to Canada.

  6. Yvette Cardozo Yvette Cardozo says:

    Well, at present the border is still closed. But if this is in place once it opens, that pretty much kills ski vacations. I can’t see folks huddling in their condo or hotel room for two weeks before being allowed to go ski. Unless I’m misinterpreting this. Hopefully this will be eased by ski season.

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