British Columbia’s 37 downhill ski hills are preparing for orders expected to be released on Thursday that will ban travel within the province.
On Wednesday, Premier John Horgan warned that he wanted non-essential inter- and intra-provincial travel banned for at least two weeks as B.C.’s COVID-19 crisis deepened.
This came 10 days after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry made a strong recommendation that people not travel outside the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions. Henry has the power to outlaw travel within the province, but not travel into B.C.
Christopher Nicolson, spokesperson for the Canada West Ski Areas Association, said the industry had been preparing since March for no international visitors in the 2020/2021 ski season and was ready to adjust if domestic ski visits were also cut due to travel restrictions.
“We are ready. The ski industry is in full knowledge that it needs to adapt and needs to be flexible and we have built that into our plans,” Nicolson said.
Learning from the experiences of Australian and New Zealand ski resorts that recently ended their winter season, Nicolson said the Canadian industry had come up with a set of guidelines for skiers and snowboarders called Ski Well Be Well .
The document states that all skiers and snowboarders will be expected to wear a mask at all times outdoors, and indoors as well unless eating or drinking.
Nicolson said the ski industry had a lot going in its favour in terms of COVID-19 risk because it was essentially an outdoor experience with natural distancing, and gloves and face coverings regularly worn already.
He said there were 13 destination ski resorts in B.C. that received the bulk of international skiers, and that the industry in B.C. was worth $2 billion a year to the domestic economy and created 22,000 jobs every year.
Nicolson said that skiers should go online before any resort visit to book tickets and see if there were restrictions around parking.
On Wednesday, the Canadian and U.S. government extended the non-essential travel border closure until Dec. 18, while Yukon announced that anyone coming into that territory had to isolate for two weeks.
It is unclear whether the travel bans coming on Thursday will be managed according to health authorities — meaning you must stay within your health authority. This would have an impact on Whistler Blackcomb for example that is within the Vancouver Coastal Health region — where 1.25 million people live.
While Cypress Mountain opened last week, the two other resorts in Metro Vancouver (Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour) have not opened yet. Whistler Blackcomb is set to open on Nov. 26.
In the Okanagan, Sun Peaks near Kamloops will open Nov. 21, Big White near Kelowna will open on Nov. 23 and Silver Star near Vernon will open November 28.
In the B.C. Rockies, Kicking Horse near Golden is set to open Dec. 11 and Revelstoke Mountain Resort will open Nov. 22.
In the West Kootenays, Whitewater Resort is set to open Dec. 11, while Red Mountain will open Dec. 12. In the East Kootenays, Fernie Alpine Resort is set to open Dec. 11 and the Kimberley Alpine Resort on Dec. 12.
In a three-hour period on Wednesday night, 34 flights arrived at Vancouver International Airport with travellers from within B.C., Canada and around the world.
Travellers arriving from outside of Canada are expected to quarantine for 14 days. Those who were on a flight tagged for a possible COVID-19 exposure are expected to self-monitor.