Quebec ski resorts look for silver linings after difficult season

·2 min read
Skiers enjoy spring conditions on the slopes of Stoneham Mountain Resort. With public health measures limiting attendance at resorts, season passes were attractive to some this season because they offered guaranteed access to the mountain. (Jean-Philippe Martin/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Skiers enjoy spring conditions on the slopes of Stoneham Mountain Resort. With public health measures limiting attendance at resorts, season passes were attractive to some this season because they offered guaranteed access to the mountain. (Jean-Philippe Martin/Radio-Canada - image credit)

As spring takes hold, most of Quebec's ski resorts are winding down operations this weekend and beginning to take stock of a season that took place entirely under pandemic conditions.

By most accounts, snow conditions were excellent last winter, and resorts were relieved to maintain some form of operation for the majority of the season, even if it was compromised by public health restrictions.

"We had cold sweats. We were worried at certain points," said Yves Juneau, president of Quebec's ski resorts association.

"With the measures in place, we managed to stay in operation all winter. There were no outbreaks, either for our staff or for our visitors. I can tell you that people are happy to have been able to enjoy the season."

Money-wise, the association expects figures similar to last year, although the tone is very different.

"The results are a lot more positive and joyful than those of 2020," Juneau said. "We managed to stay open all season."

There was a 3.5 per cent increase in season ticket sales across Quebec compared to last year, the association reports.

With numbers limited at resorts, those passes were attractive because they gave holders guaranteed access to the mountain.

Some smaller, local resorts, especially those located near urban centres, also had excellent results, Juneau said.

On the other hand, some destination resorts, with more comprehensive tourist infrastructure, noted drops in numbers.

Without clients from Ontario, the United States and elsewhere, significant income was lost in accommodation and restaurants, especially during the December holidays and Ontario's March break.

That was the case at Mont-Sainte-Anne, near Quebec City, where the sale of daily tickets decreased 65 per cent from last year.

Lisa-Marie Lacasse, a spokesperson for the Mont-Sainte-Anne and Stoneham resorts, said that difference was largely due to the lack of tourists on ski trips.

Lacasse said the government's efforts to discourage travel between regions was also a factor.

For Quebec skiers, the spring season was at least a possibility this year. In spring 2020, with the pandemic just taking hold in Quebec, the province was literally shut down, depriving resorts of nearly $60 million in revenue.

This year, although resorts stayed open, ski schools took a hit. They were shut down for a large portion of the season due to public health measures banning group activities, even outdoors.

Juneau said registration declined around 44 per cent.