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UPDATED: Bow Valley downhill, cross-country ski areas react to COVID-19

As of Monday (March 16), Nakiska Ski Area and Norquay announced closures, while Sunshine and Lake Louise remain open, but are taking precautions to keep patrons safe, including closing lodges, increased cleaning and limiting numbers on gondola lifts. The Canmore Nordic Centre facilities remain closed, however outdoor recreation activities are permitted to continue.
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Canada’s Reece Howden flies over a gap in the semifinals during the 2020 Audi Ski Cross World Cup at Nakiska Ski Resort on Jan. 18. EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO⁠

BOW VALLEY – While Whistler Blackcomb ski resort in British Columbia is shutting down operations from March 15-22, ski hills in the Bow Valley are taking a variety precautions in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

As of Sunday (March 15), Nakiska Ski Resort and Norquay Ski Resort have both announced a closure. Lake Louise and Sunshine ski resorts remain open, but are taking precautions to keep patrons safe, including closing lodges, increased cleaning and limiting numbers for gondola rides.

Nakiska Ski Area
As part of Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which includes Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and Fernie Alpine Resort, Nakiska Ski Area will be closed for a week starting midnight Sunday (March 15).

The closure was announced Monday (March 16) morning by president and chief resorts officer John Shea in a press release.

“After careful consideration of the quickly changing circumstances around coronavirus (COVID-19), Resorts of the Canadian Rockies has chosen to suspend ski resort operations effective at midnight, Sunday (March 15), for a one-week period,” Shea wrote in the release.

“This suspension will be in effect at all of our Western Canadian Resorts, including Nakiska Ski Area, Fernie Alpine Resort, Kimberley Alpine Resort and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.”

Matt Mosteller, Nakiska Ski Area spokesperson, said this is a time to rally together, but spaced apart, to try to stop the spread.

“We have to rally together to do all we can to stop the spread and to support each other in hygiene, social spacing and to limit people traveling at this time,” he said.

“We know this is a time of unease for everyone as they worry about potential impact of this virus on their extended family, kids and as well their financial situation. We all need to dial up our empathy, listening, compassion and support. We can do this without contact, too, by sending a text or email with a caring note. This is time that an extra serving of care is needed and for each of us to share more joy with others.”

Shea said safety, health and wellbeing of both its guests and team members if of paramount importance.

“As tough a decision as this has been, we feel it is the right thing to do under the current circumstances,” he said.

“We sincerely apologize to you, our guests for this inconvenience.”

Lake Louise Ski Resort
Lake Louise Ski Resort remains open for business.

According to a release on its website concerning COVID-19, the ski hill has taken precautions such as closing down self-service food buffet options and moving tables from the lodge outside.

“We have moved tables from lodge cafeterias outside to decks in order to increase spacing between tables and facilitate social spacing,” the release stated.

“We have removed high-touch items from tables, such as salt and pepper shakers, soy sauce and caddies and they are being produced on request only, and being sanitized.”

The resort also ceased accepting reusable coffee mugs, replaced unpackaged cutlery with biodegradable plastic wrapped cutlery, and has installed additional cleaning stations in each lodge.

In addition, Lake Louise Ski Resort staff have increased the frequency of cleaning and sanitation.

“We have implemented full-time cleaning personnel to circulate though lodges all day, using hospital grade cleaning products with anti-microbial properties which are effective against viruses including corona viruses. Particular focus is being paid to high-contact surfaces such as door handles, tables, and countertops, etc,” according to the public statement.

“Each night, we are bringing in a professional, third-party cleaning and sanitizing team to thoroughly disinfect all lodges.”

Canmore Nordic Centre
All indoor facilities at Canmore’s Nordic Centre (CNC) have been closed, such as the day lodge, café, washrooms and the warming hut, to the public at this time.

Announced early Monday (March 16) morning on its Facebook page, the CNC said the announcement is in accordance with Alberta Health Services direction.

“Trails remain open to the public for recreational use (Nordic skiing, fat biking, snowshoeing, tobogganing, ice skating),” it said.

“There will be no day passes required to access the trails as there are no ticket windows open.”

Sunshine Village Ski Resort
An update posted to Sunshine Village Ski Resorts Facebook page on Monday (March 16) morning said the resort is “proactively working to stop germs in their tracks.”

“Dr. Bonnie Henry – B.C.’s top doctor told Canadians to go ski last night on her interview, as it’s a healthy way to exercise and relax in this time of uncertainty,” the post said.

“The health and wellness of our team members and guests is our top priority. We are taking extreme measures to ensure the cleanliness of our resort. Presently we are sanitizing every gondola cabin daily, and are recommending maximum load capacity of four. We have eliminated singles lines for the time being, so guests can ride with only those they know.”

In addition, the post said the resort removed seating in lodges to create more space for guests and restaurants will have capacity maximums in effect.

“We believe that during this tumultuous time, Albertans need and want a safe and healthy place to recreate. Our guests are appreciative that we are open,” the post said.

“We do encourage any one feeling under the weather to stay home, and to take care of themselves.”

On its website in an update posted on March 12, the resort said it’s taking extra cleaning precautions to stop the spread of germs.

“For the health and wellbeing of our mountain resort, we have increased the frequency of our deep cleaning efforts, and have enhanced resort-wide sanitization,” the update said.

“To stop germs in their tracks we are cleaning all surfaces washrooms, common areas, and lodging areas with disinfectant and bleach-based products. Hand sanitizer and single-use tissue stations are available throughout our resort, and we encourage all our visitors to practise good hygiene while out on the mountain.”

The resort has also designated a “dedicated wellness team who is focusing their efforts on pathogen prevention, wellness education, and working with mountain departments to implement the necessary precautions.”

On Monday (March 16) afternoon, Norquay posted to its website that the ski area is closed effectively immediately. 

"With the health and safety of our staff, guests and community as our paramount concern, in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have now made the decision to close all operations from Monday (March 16)," stated its website. 

"We continue to monitor the advice from our national and local health services, we will keep our skiing community updated should this closure change.

"The closure includes our guest services office, if you have questions regarding products or services purchased please email us at [email protected], we will be in touch with you over the coming days."

Meanwhile, Canadian West Ski Area Association (CWSAA), a not-for-profit trade association that represents the ski areas of western Canada, said in a Facebook post its actively monitoring the situation.

“We wish to convey to our members and their staff a reminder that these measures are temporary and as an industry, community and society we will get through this,” it said.

“For industry resources, links and information for ski area operators, CWSAA has created a COVID-19 webpage.”

This article will be updated as new information surrounding local ski hills becomes available. 

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