After many months of planning, Whistler Blackcomb (WB) opened for the season today with responsible pandemic protocols in place, great snow conditions and 1,430 acres of skiable terrain.
Local reports say that it was Whistler Blackcomb’s best opening in recent memory. Great snow, lots of open runs and skiing to the valley bottom. Comments also stated that the opening was exceptionally well-managed with lots of space in lineups and lifts, helpful staff, and almost all guests following protocols. Whistler locals enjoying their hometown mountain on opening day is wonderful.
While many people were be excited to hit the slopes, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has advised against any non-essential travel as British Columbia tries to get a grip on rising COVID-19 cases.
Last week, Henry urged people to postpone any vacations or plans they have for Whistler and to visit their local mountains instead — and no, Whistler does not count as local if you live in Vancouver or Surrey. Her recommendations came along with a string of provincewide orders that are in effect until Dec. 7.
Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton commented, “The goal is to defeat COVID-19 and it’s our No. 1 priority.” The empty day lots were a clear sign that Vancouver skiers and riders stayed home. Perhaps the first time in its history, the Whistler resort municipality is hoping that tourists and day-trippers will stay away.
The Pique reported that the opening went smoothly today with snow lightly falling in the alpine. “It is going great,” said WB COO Geoff Buchheister. “We are firmly focused on opening responsibly and staying open the for the season.”
“We have worked really hard to put a lot of safety protocols in place, we have put a lot of thought into it and none of it works if people aren’t compliant. “Be responsible. Let’s go out there and do this together and the better we do it the faster we will be back to normal.”
With its new ski reservation system in place, WB is not saying what on-mountain capacity is as they open for the season, but its website shows the weekend as sold out.
But for single industry resort towns, going without tourists for too long is going to be financially damaging.
Sun Peaks, northeast of Kamloops, greeted visitors on Nov. 21 with similar COVID-19 protocols in place. Sun Peaks Mayor Al Raine described it as one of the resort’s best openings, with perfect blue skies and fresh powder.
But the financial hit to the resort municipality could be as much as $30 million, he said. Crompton did not provide a financial figure, but described Whistler as a “one-industry town” that usually sees three million visitors each year.
“The Epic Pass holders are largely from the US and not being around this year will be hard financially,” Crompton said.
Raine urged people to do their part to contain transmission of the coronavirus, so that travel for skiing is once again safe. “We can make a difference. If we all pay attention, we’ll have a ski season. If we get a lot of people who relax way too much and don’t pay attention, then ski season could be in jeopardy,” Raine said.
Eastern BC Resorts towns, including Fernie, Kimberley, Golden, and Invermere, have large influxes of Albertian visitors and second home owners. These towns are hopeing that people will be respectful and follow BC’s pandemic travel protocols.. Non-essential travel is travel for tourism, entertainment, or recreation. Stay local for these activities.
Covid spread in Alberta is currently out of control with no end in sight. With the highest rates of infection in Canada, Albertans might be wanting to escape to the potential detriment of BC.
Alberta reported another 1,549 cases on Monday, after four days in a row of record high new case numbers. With 13,166 active cases, Alberta now has the highest active case count, not adjusted for population, of all the provinces and territories.
The bright light on the horizon is that with vaccinations and hopefully this time next year, all be history.
Sources: CBC, Pique Magazine