Ski hills gearing up to reopen after months-long closure due to COVID-19
TORONTO -- A number of major ski hills within a short drive of the Greater Toronto Area are preparing to reopen next week once the Ford government lifts stay-at-home orders across most of the province.
Ski hills were prohibited from operating as part of a provincewide lockdown that took effect on Boxing Day. But the Ford government announced on Monday that they will be allowed to reopen with new restrictions, as the stay at home-order is lifted and regions are transitioned back into Ontario’s existing five-tier framework.
That means that both Blue Mountain Resort in Collingwood and Horseshoe Resort in Barrie will be permitted to resume operations on Feb. 16.
Ski hills in Peel, York and Toronto won’t be permitted to reopen until Feb. 22, as the stay-at home order will remain in effect for an additional week in those communities.
It should also be noted that the two city-run ski hills in Centennial Park and Earl Bales Park will not open this season due to a decision made by the City of Toronto.
“We lost about 50 per cent of the season but it is still salvageable,” Jonathan Reid, who is the vice president of Horseshoe Resort, told CP24 on Tuesday afternoon. “It is about 10,000 employees in this industry across Ontario and for us alone there is over 600 employees who were laid off so just getting those people back to work, getting the doors open again and giving the people an opportunity to get outdoors and have something healthy to do I think it is really important.”
Once the stay-at-home order is lifted, ski hills will be able to operate in all areas of the province, including those placed under the grey lockdown tier in the framework.
The Ford government will, however, mandate that anyone using a ski lift must wear a mask or face covering. Lessons will also be prohibited at all ski hills in communities under the grey lockdown tier. In communities in the red control zone, class sizes will be restricted to no more than 25 individuals.
“It will look a lot different. There will be a reduced numbers of skiers and riders and we are going to prioritize pass-holder access as we had done in December. If you are looking for a lift ticket you are also going to have to go online and they will be limited,” Blue Mountain Resort spokesperson Tara Lovell told CP24. “You will also see that queuing and lines have been set up so physical distancing can be accommodated and all our indoor spaces are going to require reservations in advance. So it is a plan ahead season for the rest of the season.”
Reid said that Horseshoe Resort will be bringing back their “full complement” of workers, even with restrictions that will limit the number of skiers and snowboarders allowed on the hills at any one time.
He said that he never understood why the Ford government prohibited ski hills from operating, given that resorts across most of Canada have been permitted to operate throughout the pandemic and have done so safely.
At Blue Mountain, Lovell said that crews have been making snow throughout the shutdown to keep the hills ready for skiers. She said that right now the resort is “ramping up” by rehiring furloughed workers and reviewing new COVID-19 guidelines.
“We have been determined this whole time to make sure skiing is still a part of this winter so hearing that we can open on the 16th is fantastic news,” she said.