Ontario’s ski and snowboard hills are looking forward to reopening with restrictions when the province’s stay-at-home order gradually starts to lift by region over the next several weeks.
On Monday, the Ontario government announced public health regions will gradually transition from the lockdown introduced in November to the province’s revised colour-coded COVID-19 response framework starting Wednesday.
Under each of the categories in that framework — including grey-lockdown — ski and snowboard hills will be allowed to operate, Ontario’s minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture industries, Lisa MacLeod, confirmed Tuesday.
“After the provincewide stay-at-home order and lockdown, any community that is still in grey would be allowed to have skiing again,” MacLeod said in an interview with Global News.
“That was really important with the regulations that we passed this week. They supported the ability to social distance on the ski hill, wearing masks, making sure that there was appropriate protocols in place for chairlifts, meaning only family members would be able to share a chairlift.”
This Wednesday, Ontario’s stay-at-home order will lift in Hastings Prince Edward, Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington, and Renfrew County and District. These regions will transition to Ontario’s green-prevent category, allowing ski and snowboard hills to reopen.
Most other public health units are scheduled to follow suit on Feb. 16, with the exception of Toronto, Peel and York regions which will be under stay-at-home orders until at least Feb. 22. It’s unclear exactly which colour-coded categories these regions will be in when they transition to Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework next week and the week after.
“We’re just happy to be able to welcome our guests and our staff for the remainder of the ski season,” Kevin Nichol, the Ontario Snow Resorts Association president, told Global News.
“We also want to make sure that everyone realizes that we’re still in a pandemic, and we’ll have to do our part to remain vigilant.”
When it comes to skiing, snowboarding and tubing, Nichol said people should plan ahead by calling or visiting the snow resort’s website.
“We have been looking to reopen for skiing and snowboarding throughout the shutdown time,” Tara Lovell, Blue Mountain Resort’s public relations manager, told Global News Tuesday.
“Our teams here have been making snow throughout January and grooming the hills and spent the shutdown planning for reopening.”
Lovell said many of the adapted operations Blue Mountain introduced in December will still be in place — for example, physical distancing is still required and masks are mandatory throughout the resort.
“Indoor spaces will require reservations … and of course, reduced capacity,” she said, adding guests will need to plan ahead and purchase lift tickets online in advance.
In January, Nichol told Global News that Ontario’s ski and snowboard industry had lost between $88 million and $90 million as of Dec. 30.
“We don’t have any updated information on that at this time,” he said Tuesday.
“We’re polling all of our members to get some numbers together for lost revenue and lost jobs in the month of January.”
When the stay-at-home order lifts across Ontario and ski hills are allowed to reopen, MacLeod said everyone using a chairlift must wear a mask and that recreational amenities must comply with capacity limits. She also said there will be rules in place for ski lessons depending on which colour-coded region a hill is in.
“We are reminding Ontarians that unless you are in a green public health unit, you still must abide by the stay-at-home-order,” MacLeod said.
“You’re therefore encouraged not to travel unless it’s for essential purposes until the stay-at-home order is lifted in your community.”