The winter season of 2020/2021 will go down in history as the pandemic snowboarding season. It’s been tough on resorts, shops and snowboarding enthusiast alike. In this post we’ll explore how the lockdown is affecting snowboarding in Ontario, Canada, for better and for worse, during the pandemic snowboarding season.
Pandemic Snowboarding 2020/2021: What You Need to Know
Forced Closure of Ontario Ski Resorts
Positive Side Effects of the Pandemic
Negative Side Effects of the Pandemic
How to Purchase Lift Tickets During the Pandemic
How to Ride the Chairlift During the Pandemic
Rules for Base Lodges & Dining
Parking Lot Management
Ski Resorts forced to close for about a month during the season
In Ontario specifically, I’m sure everyone was aware of how absurd the restrictions against ski resorts were during the second wave of the pandemic and its resulting government mandated lockdown. While other outdoor activities such as ice skating, tobogganing and snow shoeing were allowed to resume, ski resorts had to shut down from Dec. 21st, 2020 until Jan. 23rd, 2021.
Ski resorts hit hard by lockdown | CTV News
The reason this was strange is because ski resorts all across the province made significant investments to add various safety features in order to comply with pandemic health regulations. The main concern was with indoor chalets, their cafeterias and indoor seating areas.
Investments were made in installing plexiglass barriers indoors with improved ventilation, along with expanding outdoor seating areas and purchasing additional outdoor heating. When it came to concerns about crowding in lift lines, it was well documented several months before the winter season began that because of the length of skis and snowboards, riders naturally stood 2 meters apart. When sitting on a chairlift, only groups from the same household could go together. Single riders would have to take their own chairlift, or sit with a seat space between them and someone else.
Essentially, the entire ski resort industry had all the checks and precautions in place so that people could enjoy snowboarding safely during the pandemic.
That’s why the government mandated lockdown was so frustrating. It really did nothing but hurt the businesses and jobs in the snowboarding industry. The economic effects on the snowboarding industry because of the lockdown will be felt for years.
Lockdown could cost ski resorts more than the season | CTV News
Some positive side effects of the Pandemic Snowboarding Season
Ski resorts have had to lower their capacity because of the pandemic. Both in reducing the number of lift tickets available for purchase each day and the number of people allowed on a chairlift or gondola. Because of this, there has been less rider turnout.
So for the folks who are getting out on the mountain this season, less riders means more terrain for the rest of us.
Runs are often open and the snow less tracked. Despite all the disruption to ski resorts, this winter may be one of the best opportunities to get out and enjoy snowboarding.
From a health and safety stand point, going snowboarding is relatively low risk.
Riders are not particularly susceptible to the covid-19 virus when snowboarding out in the fresh air while wearing goggles, gloves, face masks. Not to mention, their equipment forces physical distancing.
I highly encourage anyone who can afford it, to get out and go snowboarding this winter!
Some negative side effects of the Pandemic Snowboarding Season
With noticeably less riders turning out this winter and the shutdown from December to January, ski resorts have had to try and recoup those loses.
This means that all the costs of snowboarding have increased. Lift tickets will be more expensive, along with food, equipment rentals and lodging.
To put into perspective how much prices have inflated this year, I looked at the lift ticket pricing for Blue Mountain, which is Ontario’s most popular ski resort.
Last year, an Adults Day Lift Pass cost $65-75 depending on which day of the week you went snowboarding. This year, the same Adults Day Lift Pass can cost between $83-103.
That’s a significant increase and it’s to be expected.
Snowboarding has been criticized for being an overly expensive sport. This affects participation and engagement from year to year. With increased pricing, snowboarding becomes less accessible for lower income people.
How to purchase lift tickets during the Pandemic Snowboarding Season
Ski resorts are required to limit capacity in order to control the amount of people in lift lines, the chairlifts and inside chalets. To do this, walk-up lift tickets will not be available for purchase. Instead, people will have to purchase their lift tickets online ahead of time.
However, quantities are limited.
If you want to snowboard with your friends or family this winter, you’ll have to plan in advance.
All the major ski resorts in Ontario have created e-commerce section on their websites to allow for the online purchasing of lift tickets.
In order to purchase a ticket you’ll have to select your age group (kids, adults, seniors). Then select your time of riding, such as Day or Night Skiing. Then select the number of lift tickets you plan to purchase. You will then be given a calendar which will display the available dates that still have tickets for purchase. Once you’ve made all your selections you can then check out.
How to ride chairlifts during Pandemic Snowboarding
Chairlift operators will be monitoring riders more closely this winter season. To follow Ontario regulations, chairlifts may be loaded with one seat separating household groups. I encourage riders to follow these rules to keep lift lines moving as quickly as possible.
In the diagram each coloured person represents a separate household group. This is easy to follow if you go with your family. What isn’t clear with these rules is if you go snowboarding with a group of friends. Are your group of friends considered one “household”, or is each friend considered a different household group?
When approaching the chairlift it would be best to ask for clarification from the Chairlift Attendant. The specifics around chairlift loading may be slightly different depending on the ski resort.
Rules for Base Lodges & Dining
There are capacity limits for Base Lodges, cafeterias and restaurants. Reducing the capacity will allow for physical distancing. Some ski resort in Ontario, like Blue Mountain, have said that reservations will be required to access cafeterias and restaurants.
If you do plan to use the Base Lodge at a ski resort you may want to check their websites for reservation information just to be safe.
Additionally, all guests will be required to wear masks at all times when not seated at tables.
This winter the storage of personal bags and pre-packed lunches in cubbies will not be allowed in Base Lodges. Some ski resorts have paid lockers available. This means you may have to leave your lunch in the car while snowboarding.
Parking Lot Management
Further efforts have been made to manage capacity by monitoring parking lots. You’ll notice many parking lots across the ski resorts in Ontario have been reduced in size.
Because of this I encourage everyone who plans to go snowboarding to pack up the car and hit the road a bit earlier. You’ll want to get to the resort as soon as possible since there will be fewer parking space.
I’ve heard that when these smaller sized parking lots reach capacity people might get turned away. This could result in you having to park further away from the ski resort grounds.
You’ll want to plan your trips to the ski resorts around busy and quite hours. This chart displays an average of the guest volume across Ontario ski resorts.
I won’t lie, there are many more hoops people will have to jump through this winter if they want to get out snowboarding. But at the same time, with decreased ridership this winter, it could turn out to be the best. The snow conditions have been better than last season.
With the Ontario government telling people to say home even as restrictions are slowly being lifted, now is the best time to get out and enjoy some winter activities when the terrain is wide open. I encourage anyone who can afford it to make a trip with friends or family to their local ski resort this winter.
Maybe I’ll even see you out there!