Day 17 Lockdown North American Ski Resort Update
UPHILL STRUGGLEIt's an uphill struggle in North America and we don't mean for those hoping to continue ski touring. No we're talking about the fight against coronavirus as ski goggles and ski gloves are being given to healthcare front liners...
Whether used or new, scratched, out-of-date, sun or snow lenses, US hospitals need your ski eyewear! Goggles for Docs is the latest ski-inspired initiative to help healthcare front liners deal with the COVID crisis. This was inspired by an ER physician, department head of a large NYC hospital, whose aunt is a race coach at Catamount Ski Area. Appealing to anyone – individuals or companies - with spare goggles to donate, the programme is already supplying hospital staff in a variety of states including Colorado, Florida, Connecticut, New Jersey and, of course, New York which is currently bearing the brunt of the pandemic.
Everywhere, people are adding their efforts in the war against coronavirus. Swedish ski glove company, Hestra recently donated 38,000 pairs of gloves to Colorado first responders from its US headquarters. 'We are so thankful to be able to support our local first responders in this small way during the COVID-19 pandemic,' says Dino Dardano, president of Hestra USA. 'These individuals are doing selfless work on the front lines and we wanted to support them in a meaningful way. Many of our staff live in this community and value the opportunity to give back to those who are helping us through this tough time.' Although now a top alpine and freeskiing glove and mitt manufacturer, Hestra’s first sturdy products were actually made for lumberjacks.
Surrounded by a riot of Rocky Mountains
After almost four months in Sun Peaks, BC, we made the move to Canmore, Alberta this week. Uneventfully – clear skies mostly and hardly any flakes even over the often treacherous Rogers Pass. Usually our springboard into the dry powder of Banff Sunshine Village and Lake Louise, Canmore is now the scene of our continued self-isolation surrounded by a riot of Rocky Mountains.
From our windows onto the world, looking out onto Ha Ling Peak, we can watch – or even join at a safe, ski-masked, gloved distance – a trickle of walkers and joggers along the forested hiking path that outlines our creek (our condos are called Policeman’s Creek). Our tiny south-facing patio garden is neatly separated from all the neighbours with wooden fencing and path dividers – inadvertently providing the prescribed social distance. So when it gets warmer than the minus 18 C it is today, we should be able to bundle up and sit out for fresh-air distanced socialising.
Uphill opportunities are diminishing now
In the meantime, it’s virtual happy hours via Facetime, Facebook Messenger, Zoom or House Party with friends from around the beleaguered world. These sanity-saving sites are fraught with technical glitches, though, and I’ve already been one of those uninvited guests inadvertently ambushing my friends’ video chats. It appears that ‘Join’ on House Party means join the current conversation rather than just joining their contact lists!
Uphill opportunities are diminishing now in North America. Sugarbush and Mad River Glen just closed their uphill operations in Vermont, due to too many people flocking there from all over the state. Similarly, Sun Peaks closed its uphill access, citing unavailability of on-site safety teams as well as a desire not to burden the medical system with any accidents. Nordic, snowshoe and fatbike trails are still open there but only for locals – no visitors.
A lack of advertising revenue is threatening some ski area publications. The Revelstoke Current, an online news service, folded recently, citing too many overheads to make it viable. Sun Peaks Independent News has reached out to subscribers to help fund its continued operations. News chains across Canada – such as Groupe Capitale Médias in Quebec – are cutting back staff and reducing their print runs.
Hope for Hospitality
Travel companies are getting in some subtle advertising impact by providing platforms for COVID-19 info. Expedia, for example, offers rapidly changing travel advisories and regulations.
Here in the Rockies, Tourism Canmore Kananaskis estimates that over 80 percent of the tourism and hospitality industry workforce has been laid off across the area. In response, it has launched the ‘Hope for Hospitality’ initiative that is raising money to get $100 food gift cards to needy hospitality and tourism workers.
The Town of Canmore had to declare a State of Local Emergency to deal with the persistent high volume of local and regional visitation. Poised just outside Banff National Park, the Canmore area has always been a year-round mecca for mountain lovers and is considered a ‘backyard playground’ for people living in the vicinity which includes the cities of Calgary and Edmonton. Signage has now been posted at entrances to the town to discourage visitors, and trailheads and parking areas are being monitored. Albertans have been asked to restrict their backcountry bacchanalia to low-risk activities in areas which are easy to access and present minimal challenges or hazards. The Alpine Club of Canada has closed all backcountry huts.
Food donations are still active in many ski areas. Vail Resorts, for example, has now donated over 50,000 pounds of excess food to 30 food banks, schools, and community organisations local to its ski areas.
At Vail Resorts’ top Canadian destination, the message is ‘Stay Home’. Go Whistler says: 'Two words we didn’t think we’d ever say, but now is not the time to travel. Please stay home and follow the advice of health authorities to keep yourself and others safe'. It is encouraging fans to Tweet this message out and also to keep up virtually with experiences, initiatives, and resources via The Whistler Insider blog and @GoWhistler social channels to stay inspired for future travel.
Left with unused ski tickets? Many resorts including Revelstoke have offered to provide full refunds or roll them over to next winter – assuming, of course, a pause in the pandemic permits a 2020/21 ski season!