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.


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