Ontario the only place in North America to lock down ski hills
Meanwhile, a petition lobbying the Ontario government to relax restrictions to allow ski hills to open has garnered nearly 85,000 signatures
Jan. 11, 2021
Ontario is the only place in North America where you can’t go skiing at a resort.
As Instagram influencers post their skiing and snowboarding snaps at Whistler, and Albertans contemplate mid-week trips to the mountains to avoid the lengthy weekend lines, and Quebecers -- even as they face a curfew -- are able to go to the ski hill, Ontarians are left in the lurch, with the provincial lockdown provisions keeping the lifts still and the lodges locked.
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Throughout the summer, a multitude of socially distant outdoor activities were available: Golf courses were open, bike shops were struggling to keep stock, and plenty of Canadians were able to spend time in parks, or on walks or runs with friends and family.
But come winter, as every Canadian knows, nobody -- well, practically nobody -- is having a picnic in the park and riding fatbikes through the snow has yet to catch on with most people.
For many, winter means skiing. And that means ski resorts. As it stands in Ontario, they’re all going to remain closed until the province-wide lockdown lifts on Jan. 23, even though many ski operations worked diligently to upgrade facilities and COVID safety standards in anticipation of this winter, said an industry association.
“Thousands of resort employees are now furloughed and all Ontarians who enjoy downhill skiing won’t be able to participate and will lose out on an activity that helps their physical and mental health,” said Kevin Nichol, president of the Ontario Snow Resorts Association in a December statement.
This is crunch time right now and honestly, the last thing that’s on my mind right now are the ski hills
The association represents 50 ski areas in Ontario, Nichol said in an interview with the National Post. Some had been open for a few weeks before the closures came into place shortly before Christmas.
“It’s been a difficult time for our industry for sure, but please recognize that we’re just a small part of the hospitality and tourism sector across Canada,” Nichol said. “As difficult as it is for us … we support the efforts and the guidance form the ministry of health and we all have to do our part to get this under control.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford was asked about ski hills at a Friday press conference, and said he had fears about people from hot zones travelling to ski areas, given “scary” COVID-19 modelling.
“This is crunch time right now and honestly, the last thing that’s on my mind right now are the ski hills,” said Ford.
Tom Hutchinson, the general manager of Boogie Mountain in Espanola, a town of about 4,000 people some 70 kilometres west of Sudbury, said they had anticipated opening the small hill this weekend, but it was pushed back by the changes in the pandemic restrictions. They had planned to restrict attendance to those who lived in the area, because they worried about being “flooded with people.”
There are several new measures in place, Hutchinson said, in order to keep people safe. Those who aren’t in the same family aren’t allowed to ride the T-Bars together, the lodge is closed except for washrooms, and they’re selling tickets to people while they’re in their cars so they don’t have to come inside.
Hutchinson said they’re disappointed they aren’t able to open, but “if this is what has to be done, it has to be done.”
“Everybody’s suffering the same thing and hopefully it’s for the greater good,” he said.
Meanwhile, a petition lobbying the Ontario government to relax restrictions to allow ski hills to open has garnered nearly 85,000 signatures.
Dwayne Cardoso, a snowboarder in Bradford, Ont., who started the petition, said the lockdowns of ski hills make little sense, since everyone is spaced out.
“It’s a safe sport, you’re masked, you’re goggled … you’re in a HAZMAT suit, as far as I’m concerned,” Cardoso said. “Going down the hill, if you’re within two metres, then you’ve got another problem.”