Public health measures in place at Ontario ski hills as skiers, snowboarders take to the slopes

·3 min read
A sign reminds skiers that physical distancing measures are in effect in all areas, indoors and outdoors, at Horseshoe Resort in Barrie, Ont. (CBC - image credit)
A sign reminds skiers that physical distancing measures are in effect in all areas, indoors and outdoors, at Horseshoe Resort in Barrie, Ont. (CBC - image credit)

Public health measures are in place at ski hills across Ontario as the winter season gets underway — and one resort operator is hopeful the restrictions will keep the business open and its guests and staff safe from COVID-19.

At the Horseshoe Resort in Barrie, Ont. on Wednesday, skiers and snow boarders were thrilled to take to the slopes on the opening day of the 2021-2022 winter season..

Jonathan Reid, Horseshoe's general manager, said it was a big day, given that the resort had to close for weeks last winter due to public health restrictions. Horseshoe was forced to lay off nearly 700 people on Christmas Eve.

"It was a time that you never want to relive," Reid told CBC Toronto.

Reid said the resort has implemented several public health measures to enable it to stay safe and to stay open, including masking rules in indoor retail areas, proof of vaccination where food is served, physical distancing rules, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection.

But for guests like Laura Betts, a mother who lives in the Barrie area, Wednesday was just a good time to breathe fresh air, feel the cool wind and to pick up speed while going downhill. She said it was wonderful to be outside with her children.

"It's great ... It's nice to live close so we can get out on the hills," Betts said at the resort.

She said this year is already a big improvement over 2020.

"It was pretty disappointing. We weren't able to get out very much. We didn't even pick up our passes," she said.

"But it's great we were able to defer our passes to this year and we hope to get out lots of times. We make it a family event."

She said she is grateful that she and her family can ski in the region in which they live.

WATCH | CBC's Ali Chiasson goes to Horseshoe Resort to check out opening day:

Ontario closed ski resorts for 7 weeks last winter

Ontario ski resorts were closed for seven weeks from Christmas Day 2020 through to February of this year. Ontario was the only jurisdiction in North America to close its slopes, according to the Canadian Ski Council. The province had said the closures were needed out of an abundance of caution and at a time when cases were soaring and vaccines were new.

The council estimates the closure cost the Ontario ski industry as much as $100 million.

Reid said Horseshoe's food and beverage areas are treated a restaurants so proof of vaccination is needed. Indoor ticketing and rental areas, however, are treated as retail spaces and masks are required — as they are in all buildings on resort property.

Physical distancing measures are in effect in all areas of the resort, indoors and outdoors. There is frequent disinfecting of "high touch point areas."

Hand sanitizers are available at all entrances. And Plexiglas has been installed at ticket, retail, food and beverage counters. And as for the newly discovered variant, omicron, staff are keeping on top of developments, Reid said.

"It's a day-by-day thing. The team is ready to adapt. It can't be any worse than last year."

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