How are they coping in the mountains over the pond? It's 25 days at Style Altitude HQ in France and three weeks of lockdown in the USA and Canada where there's now talk of banning outdoor exercise. But there's optimism in them hills keeping the stoke - and the free food - going in the ski resorts as reported by Louise Hudson, Style Altitude North American Editor currently in lockdown in Canmore, Canada #wewillskiagain...
After nearly three weeks of isolation, it’s all about ‘Armchair Travel’ over here in Canada. They’ve just closed the Provincial Parks to stop people from flocking there during the Easter Weekend – National Parks were shut down a while back. Life is getting more restricted and there’s even talk of banning outdoor exercise. I hope not! Our daily walks in the beautiful mountain scenery of the Three Sisters Range of the Rockies are immensely therapeutic.
My days are fully booked with my new mask making project: Mask AID Canmore. I started on Monday and since then I’ve made and delivered 40 face masks – all colourful cottons that definitely inspire conversation – somewhat muffled – in the supermarket. I can see designers coming out with branded face masks soon – or is that happening already?
I have 80 mask orders to tackle over the next week or so and the orders aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. I’ve even been mailing them to family overseas. Someone somewhere should be setting up a big factory to make these. Our health minister announced that we should all be wearing them in indoor public places but of course it is very difficult for people to buy them anywhere. I’m looking for seamstresses around town to help and already I’ve been inundated with fabric donations.
Get an authentic après ski vibe
Virtual happy hours are getting fancier with Liftopia coming up with mouth-watering ski artwork for Zoom backgrounds. Offering eight different choices initially, options are Sun Peaks, Arapahoe Basin, Boreal, Squaw Valley, Grand Targhee, Sunday River, Mammoth Mountain (main image), or Solitude. Of course, you can add your own ski photos to get an authentic après ski vibe, too. One of my non-skiing friends used a photo of a lovely yacht in a cerulean blue Aegean setting and it looks like she’s relaxing on it while chatting to everyone. Also, Zoom business confabs are now being dubbed ‘Quaran-Team’ meetings.
With government handouts to ‘furloughed’ workers starting to kick in, the focus is now on helping the self-employed. Small businesses have lost approximately CAN$45m so far in Sun Peaks, according to a survey undertaken by the Sun Peaks Independent News (SPIN) . Out of 74 businesses canvassed in the community, 34 shared their lost revenue stats (CAN$4,514,900) and 38 shared job loss figures (224). These were all small businesses - not including the resort itself or Sun Peaks Grand Hotel and Bear Country, the largest employers in Canada’s second biggest resort.
SPIN, itself, is suffering from declining advertising revenue but has received around $25,000 in local donations and a grant to help it stay in business. “We are one of 400 North American news outlets - and one of only 14 from BC - to receive a $5,000 Facebook Journalism Project grant to assist with local COVID-19 reporting,” said publisher Brandi Schier. “Combined with support from 118 of you who have supported SPIN so far, this puts us over halfway to our $50,000 campaign goal!”.
The ski area focus is free food for the needy
Elsewhere, the ski area focus is free food for the needy. Here in Canmore – a dormitory town for ski workers at Sunshine Village, Mt Norquay, Lake Louise and Banff – the Malcolm Hotel is offering free soup to anyone in need and any money raised from those who can pay goes 100 percent to the Bow Valley Food Bank. Great way to keep the hotel’s name in the limelight during the pandemic, as well as make sure locals are hooked on their famous soupes du jour. Flavours are announced the night before on social media and they’re also taking requests.
In Colorado, Steamboat Resort is also offering free meals to public in need: 2700 meals so far. Inspired by Snow Bowl’s Family Bowl programme, meals are distributed in re-heatable dishes through a contactless process at the resort’s Transportation Centre.
Trending on everyone’s social is Philipp Klein’s “Freeride Skiing At Home” indoor ski movie on YouTube. And I have to mention the ingenious Brit who constructed a clever ski lift in his garden and a short slope so his daughters didn’t miss their annual Easter skiing.
Taking one for the team
Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz is taking one for the team. Going salary-less himself for the next six months, he’s keeping the mega-ski company afloat by eliminating all cash compensation for the Board of Directors for the same period. Other measures include furloughing almost all of their US year-round hourly employees for at least the next month or two (without pay but with full healthcare – a major deal in the US during this crisis) and implementing a six-month wage reduction for all US salaried employees. Along with these measures, he plans to cut capital costs by $80-$85 million, deferring all new chair lifts, terrain expansions and other mountain improvements, while protecting the vast majority of maintenance capital spending.
Eliminating June and September dividends to shareholders will save Vail Resorts more than $140 million. A dramatic decline in revenue due to the global pandemic – between $180-200million in March and April - is expected to continue into the 2021 fiscal year. “The circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are unprecedented and the financial impact to our company and the broader travel industry has been significant,” said Katz. “We are taking proactive steps to align our capital spending and return of capital approach to ensure that we remain positioned for long-term success.”
A strict stay-at-home order
Second homeowners all over North America are being told to keep to their primary residence during the pandemic. Migration to mountain, coastal, lake and rural retreats is taking a toll on local resources, putting pressure on limited medical facilities. Visitors to North Lake Tahoe – home of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and Northstar among other ski resorts – are being asked to keep away after a hike in COVID-19 cases and community spread there. Governor Gavin Newsom, a Squaw Valley skier himself, issued a strict stay-at-home order.
“Although it is difficult to ask those who support our tourism-driven economy not to visit now, their selfless decision to stay home and revisit their travel plans when travel is deemed safe is critical to the health and future of our mountain community,” said Jeffrey Hentz, CEO of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association. “The reality is that continuing to receive an influx of people to the region - whether they’re coming for a day-trip or an extended stay - puts tremendous strain on our limited community resources and healthcare system during these challenging times.”
Migrant workers will not be available this spring/summer
Seasonaires stuck without work in North America are being encourage to spread the net further afield for jobs this summer and consider agriculture as well as healthcare and grocery work. Migrant workers will not be available this spring/summer, so go2HR is allowing employers to post job openings in British Columbia and the Yukon on its job board for free. The goal: To provide a tool for displaced tourism and hospitality workers to find temporary employment quickly.
Snowsports Industries America (SIA) is promoting the provision of PPE to healthcare workers, including face masks, gloves and medical gowns. Working with Outdoor Industry Association, they have created a hub for companies interested in ‘Pivoting to Produce or Provide’ during the pandemic.
Sundance Mountain Resort announced the decision to delay their spring opening to an anticipated 15th May - in a socially responsible manner and in accordance with state and federal guidelines. With Bill Gates predicting an 18-month delay for life to return to normal, that’s a note of optimism for you!
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