There is growing backlash from some in the Whistler, B.C., community to the popular mountain ski resort’s COVID-19 policies.
Vail Resorts, which operates Whistler Blackcomb, will require proof of vaccination from guests who want to enter its indoor settings, such as cafeterias and restaurants. The company won’t require the BC Vaccine Card to ride its gondolas, though it will require masks.
That’s sparked a petition aimed at the U.S.-based resort operator calling for a change in policy.
“The unvaccinated will be permitted to upload, cheek by jowl, at full capacity, where physical distancing can be measured in inches rather feet, with the small windows often frozen shut,” the petition states.
The petition goes on to argue that allowing unvaccinated visitors will mean long lineups to access indoor settings, as staff check vaccine cards, and will require extra infrastructure to make washrooms safe.
“All of these problems will negatively impact your day on the mountain and can easily be avoided by making a vaccine certificate a requirement to ski or ride,” the petition states.
“It would be simple to administer at the point of sale and season pass holders would be registered as vaccinated and their vaccine status would be visible to anyone scanning their pass. There will be no on-mountain checks or confrontations.”
As of mid-day Friday, about 2,100 people had signed the three-day-old petition.
According to the company’s website, lifts will be loaded at normal capacity, and masks will be required in all indoor settings, including shops, rental facilities, restaurants and gondolas.
People will need to book ahead to dine in on-mountain restaurants, and show proof of immunization.
All mountain staff will need to be vaccinated and undergo daily health screening.
But supporters of the petition like Grant Lamont say it’s not enough.
“To me, it makes perfect sense to be able to do this,” he said.
“Eighty-five, 90 per cent of our population is now vaccinated and to be concentrating on the larger group of customers seems to make a lot more sense than looking after the 10 per centers as it were who are not wanting to join us in trying to eradicate this virus.”
Asked about the issue Friday, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province’s vaccine passport program does not apply to gondolas, though resorts should look at all safety measures.
“If you want to go to a bar or a pub or a restaurant or the restaurant on the hill then you need to have your vaccine card — I would encourage all the resorts to look at all of those settings where it might be prudent to ensure that only vaccinated people are there,” she said.
“The risk is less when you’re outside, we know that, in smaller groups and when you’re wearing masks and goggles, etc. For a short period of time in a gondola the risk is probably not the same as if you’re sitting down inside without a mask on having a drink with a group of people.”
Earlier this year, Whistler was the site of a significant COVID-19 outbreak driven by the Gamma variant, which prompted health officials to prioritize vaccinations in the community.
As of Friday, more than 88 per cent of eligible British Columbians had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 81 per cent had received two doses.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said visitors to Whistler Blackcomb would be asked to ride with travellers in their party. In fact, the mountain says it will be loading lifts as normal. Global News regrets the error.