BOW VALLEY – Local ski resorts are a few weeks away from opening and another winter season of COVID-19 protocols will be in place on the snowy slopes.
Three of the four local ski resorts are set to follow Alberta's Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) in some capacity, but with some variations at each ski area, while the fourth is still working out final details before riding season.
Sunshine Village in Banff will require guests older than 12 to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken 72 hours prior to visiting to access the busy mountain. After Oct. 25, REP requires two shots of a two-dose vaccination series.
"The decision to apply the [REP] has come with our gondola in mind," said Sunshine Village spokesperson Kendra Scurfield. "Requiring vaccination status will allow us to fill [the gondola] closer to capacity so it will help greatly reduce the bottleneck at the base area that we did have last year from only having households ride together, and with that we'll be able to operate our restaurants and our lifts at much closer capacity than we would without it."
Scurfield added the organization wants to provide a healthy and safe place for not only guests to recreate, but also for its employees.
"At Sunshine, we want to be an organization that is operating with the best intents of public health and we do believe that vaccines help reduce the spread of COVID-19," she said.
The resort is aiming for an early to mid-November opening day.
At Lake Louise Ski Resort, REP will be applied for most indoor facilities and the resort is working with Alberta Health Services on gondola protocols, which are targeted to be finalized by opening day tentatively slated for Nov. 5.
However, vaccinations are not required to access the slopes.
"We will be implementing the restriction exemption program for most indoor facilities, however, given we have two open-air lifts out of the base area, there will be no vaccine requirements for mountain access," said Dan Markham, spokesperson for Lake Louise Ski Resort in an email.
At Nakiska Ski Area in Kananaskis Country, the organization is still ironing out details on how best to proceed for this upcoming season.
"At this time, we have not determined if vaccine verification will be required to visit our resorts or if they will only impact certain inside operations. Once we have more information, we will communicate our decision and all the options for our guests well before the start of the ski season."