Get ready to slip and slide the rest of the winter away

·3 min read

It’s all downhill from here for Dwayne Cardoso.

The Bradford man who collected 90,000 names for a petition encouraging the provincial government to follow other North American jurisdictions by keeping ski hills open had to wait two months before finally getting his way.

Now that area ski hills are permitted to finally load snow enthusiasts onto their lifts once again on Tuesday, Cardoso will be there.

“There’s a huge struggle for a lot of people right now. It would be nice to get on the hill and get some minutes of peace,” said the father of three and avid snowboarder. “There’s nothing like it, it’s like floating. My gear’s ready. Everything’s prepared.”

The lifts at local ski hills are rolling and the groomers are out getting the terrain ready for the second opening day of the season. They had opened in December, but the provincial lockdown forced their closure after Christmas.

And no matter what the colour code is at the hill, the message is the same: Plan ahead of time by purchasing tickets online and read the pandemic operating procedures at the specific hills, use your car as the base lodge, go inside only when necessary, wear masks and distance indoors and out.

At Ski Snow Valley, marketing director Jonathan Palmer is pumped to see the skiers, boarders, snowshoers as well as snow tubers return.

“We’re just excited to be able to turn lifts on,” he said.

Close to 700 staff members were laid off at the Barrie-area hill when the hills were forced to shut down as a result of the pandemic. Many of them have been called back to the job.

Meanwhile, Snow Valley, like the other ski hills, has carefully developed a plan to get people enjoying winter activity safely.

Members of the same household are being permitted to ride the lift together and there will be one empty chair between each loaded one.

New line-up configurations have been developed to ensure two-metre distancing. There will also be washroom facilities available indoors and out.

“Things are coming together quite well,” said Robert Huter, general manager at the family-run Mount St. Louis Moonstone. “We have our core staff back and we’re getting all the lifts running.”

Conditions, he said, are looking good and there’s a solid base.

At Blue Mountain Resort in the Collingwood area, public relations manager Tara Lovell advises checking out the website before heading for the hills.

Tickets need to be purchased online and in advance, reservations are required for those who want to be indoors and Blue also has a tech service for parking availability status.

“There’s quite a bit of the season left at Blue,” said Lovell, who, like other hill operators, is hoping that the weather will oblige for the next few months.

Blue, she added, typically remains open right into the Easter weekend, so there’s hope that will extend to March break, which has pushed back this year to follow the Easter weekend.

“We’ve paid our dues and are ready for some good spring skiing,” she said.

Cardoso plans to take advantage of the remainder of the ski season, aiming to head out just about every night.

Grateful for the opportunity to once again hit the hills, but cognizant of the dangers that still lurk with the ongoing pandemic, he encourages everyone to be safe and to support each other on the hills.

“Regardless of how much time we have, let’s all work together, make sure we’re all masked… to make sure it doesn’t happen again, that we don’t lose this again because there’s people who are struggling with this,” he said.

Marg. Bruineman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,