Sunshine Village and Lake Louise ski resorts include mandatory masks and heated tents in reopening plans
CALGARY -- Covering your face and carving out your own space are familiar terrain on skill hills but some resorts have now made them mandatory due to COVID-19.
Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Ski Resort are two sites implementing physical distancing and mask protocols. The resorts are also working with Alberta Health Services to develop other safety measures ahead of the upcoming ski season.
"We think it’s important to be able to give people who are struggling with pandemic fatigue a place to recreate," said Kendra Scurfield, brand and communications director for Sunshine Village.
Changes on chair lifts and gondolas include sanitizing and, when possible, only seating cohorts together said Lake Louise Ski Resort’s director of brand and communications.
"We had the benefit of being open this summer which allowed us to establish all of our COVID protocols," said Dan Markham.
In summer, ski resorts offer scenic experiences that normally draw mostly Americans, but closed borders prevented most international travellers.
Sunshine Village remained closed over the summer and focused on preparing for its busier season.
"In winter it’s a complete flip," said Scurfield. "It's 80 per cent Canadians."
Sunshine said its tentative opening date is Nov. 7, while Lake Louise estimates its opening will occur during the second week of November.
Both resorts plan to limit indoor dining in the lodge while adding heated tents and portable washrooms outside.
"Food and beverage is what we expect (will) look most different next year," said Scurfield.
"A priority will be given to those people buying food in the lodges or restaurants," said Markham regarding indoor seating for visitors.
The owners of Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia have announced more stringent rules, including reservation-based lift tickets with priority given to pass holders.
Neither Sunshine nor Lake Louise plan to follow suit or restrict the number of guests.
"With 4,200 acres of skiable terrain we certainly have lots of places for people to spread out and distance," said Markham.
Lake Louise is also opening new terrain in the west bowl and has added a summit chair lift.
Sunshine is offering discounted passes for people from the prairies who visit during the afternoon.
"I think is a great way to target Calgarians, Canmore, Banff because it’s good from noon onto 4 p.m. so you would miss the rush of everyone arriving for first chair," explained Scurfield.
Resorts are hoping for a busy year after the last ski season was cut short due to the pandemic.
Both Sunshine and Lake Louise say the number of season passes sold to date is on par with previous years.
Travel restrictions have also affected the resorts’ access to staff as international workers, especially young people from Australia and New Zealand, have filled many positions in the past. Sunshine and Lake Louise have been actively recruiting Canadian staff and have had a lot of interest from both new graduates and retirees
WinSport and Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which operates a number of resorts including Nakiska and Fernie, have yet to reveal their re-opening plans.