Canada Ski Resorts Closing Early Due to Covid-19 Surge
31st March 2021
Last modified on April 7th, 2021
Whistler and now Revelstoke have closed with immediate effect. Big White follows suit on Monday blaming increased interest in lift tickets, plus an apres ski party that breached Covid-19 rules.
Big White says it made the ‘difficult decision’ to close for the season on Monday, 5th April, six days earlier than scheduled, to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and the recent surge in P.1 (the Brazilian) variant cases in British Columbia.
In a statement, it said that in the previous 24 hours its reservations company and resort website had noticed increased traffic and enquiries from people in Lower Mainland wanting accommodation and lift tickets for the last week of operation.
With the big resort of Whistler announcing it was closing early and most others in BC planning to shut up shop on Monday, it looked as if skiers and snowboarders were planning to head to Big White as one of the few ski areas still open.
Big White said the ‘disregard for Covid-19 protocols’ at Charley Victoria’s All-Day Après earlier this week was also a factor in the decision to close in order to keep guests, residents and team members safe.
“We made the decision to stay open until April 11 back in June of last year,” said Peter Plimmer, President and CEO of Big White Ski Resort Ltd.
“Since then, a lot has changed. In the past week, even more has changed. We are grateful to have been able to keep the resort open and safe as long as we have, but with other resorts shutting down, we have become a magnet for non-local skiers and snowboarders.
“It has been a pleasure for everyone who works and lives at the resort to provide a safe and active outdoor experience for our locals and season passholders over the past few months.”
A video of the party at Charley Victoria’s, which circulated on social media, shows a large crowd of people dancing and not wearing masks.
At least two Big White staff members identified in the video are to be fired.
“The entire management team are absolutely disgusted, appalled, embarrassed,” Michael Ballingall, senior vice-president at Big White told CBC News.
“This is the exact opposite of what we should all be doing.”
The party happened hours after the BC health authorities banned indoor dining at restaurants and pubs, resulting in 60 to 70 people being laid off.
The owner of Charley Victoria’s has apologised for his ‘ignorant decision’ which was made out of ‘pure selfish frustration’ at the new Covid restrictions.
“My decision to let his happen was wrong,” Justin Reid said in a statement published on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
“As a community, we have all been working so hard and making sacrifices to curb COVID-19 and keep each other safe, and what happened at Charley’s Monday night was unacceptable and did not demonstrate leadership or compassion for my community, in which I care deeply about.
“Charley’s was created to be a safe space for all-mountain goers and I let you all down, and for that, I’m deeply sorry.”
Revelstoke had initially said it was unable to open on Wednesday 31st March due to Covid-19-related staff shortages and was continuing to assess the situation.
It now says it has made the ‘difficult decision’ to cease operations for the 2020/21 winter season.
“Our top priority at Revelstoke Mountain Resort has always been the health and safety of our guests and employees. Please note, access to the mountain is prohibited when the Resort is not in operation,” Peter Nielsen, vice president of operations, said.
“At the Resort, we began this season on November 27 and operated for a total of 124 days. We faced several challenges but rallied together as a team to keep our doors open. Your commitment to follow our safety protocols allowed us to deliver a world-class ski and snowboard experience, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The ability to experience the outdoors allowed us to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, and I am personally thankful for the experiences I had on the mountain.”
Revelstoke plans to re-open for the summer season on 21st May.
Whistler was ordered to close by the Provincial Health Officer on Monday 29th March.
It has now said it will stay closed for the rest of the season.
It has seen a spike in the Brazilian variant of the virus and it has been described as a ‘worrisome cluster’ by health officials.
The mayor of Whistler, Jack Crompton described the situation as ‘devastating’.
Dr Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer in British Columbia, said “We know people have taken advantage of the weather and the March break to go places with their families, and what that has meant is we’ve seen a rapid rise in cases as people have returned to their home communities.”
“Out of respect for yesterday’s announcement from the Provincial Health Officer to close Whistler Blackcomb, the resort will shut its winter operation for the remainder of the season,” Whistler said in a statement.
“Our focus will now shift to preparing for summer 2021.
“We would like to sincerely thank our guests for their dedication in adapting to our COVID-safe environment these last four months, and for the many kindnesses shared with our employees as they worked to provide a safe and healthy environment to ski and ride.
“We truly appreciate the support this community has shown our team and are so thankful to the many guests who came to share in our collective passion for these mountains.
“We look forward to welcoming you back to round some berms and hike among the wildflowers.”
“It’s a shame Whistler has had to close early, but we’ve had an amazing season, so really can’t complain,” Nickie Mabey, the owner of Mabey Ski, said to PlanetSKI.
The company offers bespoke holidays to Whistler along with other top destinations across the world, including Japan.
We looked at the offerings in Japan ahead of the pandemic striking last year:
“Whistler has kept one designated uphill route open from the Main Village, via Singing Pass. We’ll be sure to head up there in the coming days and can report back.
“Here at Mabey Ski, we’re able to still run one final trip out to McGillivray Lodge (backcountry lodge just north of Pemberton), though the lodge has had to change their dining setup to outdoor patio dining, and private dining in the yurts for any ‘bubbles’,” added Nickie.
The Brazilian variant is is more easily transmissible and there is some evidence that it is more resistant to Covid-19 vaccines.
In Alberta it is business as usual in Sunshine Village, Banff, with measures in place and some fresh snow.
The Easter break is looking rather good at Marmot Basin in Alberta too.
“We’re off to a wonderful April and Easter weekend! 8cm in 24 hours and 18cm in 48 hours! With a high of -4 degrees and some flurries in the forecast today, we can’t wait to see what the rest of the long weekend has in store!” said the resort on Saturday.
See here for an earlier article on the resorts as it expanded its terrain this winter:
Here at PlanetSKI we will be updating this article with an in-depth look at how the season has gone in Canada and what things may look like for next season.
Do check back….
MAIN PHOTO of Big White by Geoff Holman Photography