Friday, October 29, 2021

What to Expect at Ski Resorts across the Canadian Rockies 2021-22

By now we had all hoped pandemic living would be a thing of the past, but sadly, that's not quite the reality, and the upcoming ski season will still look different than it did pre-Covid. 

Fortunately downhill skiing or snowboarding is a low-risk recreation opportunity where you'll spend the majority of your day outside wearing protective gear including face masks and gloves, naturally distanced from other visitors as you spread out around the ski hill. 

Know before you go: What to expect at ski resorts this winter

Standard Resort Procedures for 2021-2022

There will be MANY differences between resorts, but there will be standard procedures that you should notice everywhere you visit this winter.

  • Face coverings will be required at all resorts, inside buildings and day lodges, required or highly recommended while standing in lift lines and generally required while riding on chairlifts or in gondolas when sharing with others outside your family or group. Once in a day lodge you will be allowed to remove your mask once you are sitting down at a table with your snack or lunch.

  • Most resorts will have policies in place to accommodate physical distancing around the property, in lift lines, and in buildings. Some resorts will also continue to have smaller tables in the day lodges as well (rather than the big cafeteria style tables we were used to pre-Covid.)

  • All resorts will have cleaning and disinfection policies in place to keep high touch areas sanitized regularly.

  • Most resorts will continue to encourage guests to purchase their lift tickets online in advance. Most season passes will require online activation, signing of waivers, and photo uploading. Passes will be mailed out and will not be available to pick up in person at many hills.

  • Communication will be key at resorts this winter and there will be signage at all resorts highlighting all continued Covid policies and rules. - And I can not stress enough the importance of researching your resort's policies ahead of time before visiting.

  • Employees will be trained in COVID-19 safety and cleaning protocols. They will also be screened daily for symptoms.

  • Guests will be expected to stay home if they are showing any Covid symptoms and asked to wait until they are feeling well before visiting the resort.

And NEW for the 2021-22 season, all resorts will require guests 12 and up to be fully vaccinated against Covid in order to access indoor facilities (including dining facilities, day lodges, customer service, and bathrooms.)

Sunshine Village, Mount Norquay, and all RCR resorts are even requiring proof of vaccination to use the gondola and chairlifts, so no vaccine, no visiting, period.

May  I suggest that if skiing is especially important to you that you consider getting vaccinated if you have not yet done so. 

Make sure you're feeling healthy before visiting a ski resort this winter

Vaccination Requirements at Ski Resorts across the Canadian Rockies

Some resorts are requiring vaccination in order to access indoor facilities while others are requiring it for skiing and riding as well. Make sure you know what to expect at the resort you plan to visit.

Vaccination Requirements for Lake Louise:

Lake Louise has posted their policy for the upcoming ski season and it reflects what I'm seeing at many resorts.

"The following locations and services will be accessible to all guests under age 12 and those age 12 and over who provide vaccination verification, a negative Covid test within 72 hours, or a valid medical exemption letter:
- All indoor spaces in lodges including: indoor dining in restaurants, quick service dining areas, indoor warming areas, washrooms, season pass pick-up counter at the resort, rentals, guest services, snow school (for those 12 and over,) and shuttle busses to the hill." - Lake Louise Ski Resort 

There will be bathrooms located outside for those not vaccinated, and you will find outdoor dining choices at many resorts including patio dining, outdoor BBQs, and outdoor pick-up and takeout options. 

Read more about Lake Louise here: Lake Louise Winter Safety Insurance

Vaccination Requirements for Sunshine Village:

Sunshine Village in Banff will be taking their vaccination requirements to the next level, requiring guests 12 and up to be fully vaccinated in order to get on the gondola or access any of the services at the resort.

"We are requiring proof of vaccination or proof of a privately paid negative rapid test taken within 72 hours of entry, to ride our lifts including our Sunshine Gondola. By requiring proof, in compliance with Alberta’s REP program, to ride our lifts we will be able to operate at a higher capacity which will help speed up our gondola line." - Sunshine Village

Read more about Sunshine Village's policies here.

You'll need to be fully vaccinated to visit Sunshine Village this winter 

Vaccination Requirements for Mount Norquay:

Mount Norquay in Banff will also be requiring vaccinations in order to ski or ride this season.

"We have decided to implement the Province of Alberta’s Restriction Exemption Program (REP) across all facilities at Mt Norquay. Currently, implementing the REP program best ensures the safety of our guests and staff and allows us to efficiently operate our lifts and indoor spaces at full capacity." - Mount NorquayAnd when it says "across ALL facilities," it means chairlifts. So no vaccination, no skiing or riding for those 12 and over.

Read more about Mount Norquay's policies here.

Vaccination Requirements for RCR Resorts:

RCR has decided to follow Sunshine and Mount Norquay, requiring full vaccinations for those 12 and older at all of their resorts, both inside and outside, enabling them to run their chairlifts to full capacity.

This applies to the Nakiska, Kimberley, Fernie, and Kicking Horse ski resorts.

Read more below in the next section (Winter operations at Calgary's closest mountain ski area.)

And for ALL Alberta resorts know that as of November 15th,  the Alberta vaccine record with QR code will be the only valid Alberta proof of vaccination accepted. Guests from outside AB will need to show their own provincial record. 

Planning to ski in BC this winter? Protocol may look a bit different since their provincial restrictions are slightly different than ours in Alberta. Vaccination requirements will generally be the same though.

Check out the operations update for Panorama Mountain Resort for a good idea of what to expect at BC resorts this winter.

All RCR resorts will require full vaccination for skiing and riding this winter

Winter Operations at Calgary's Closest Mountain Ski Area

Nakiska Ski Area has released their safety measures and protocols that they plan to follow for the upcoming ski season.

You can read about them here: 2021-22 Winter Operations for Nakiska Ski Area

They have decided to follow Sunshine Village and Mount Norquay to require vaccination for both indoor use and for skiing/riding.

"Following the advice provided by the Provincial Government Health Authorities, RCR has decided to require proof of COVID-19 Immunization Record to access all chair lifts and indoor facilities at our resorts this winter. This decision has been made with the goal of providing you, our guests, our staff, and our resort communities with the safest environment possible." - Nakiska 

Read about the operations at other RCR resorts here (where they will be following the same vaccination requirements as Nakiska:

Ski close at Nakiska, Calgary's closest mountain ski area

What to Expect in Lift lines, on Chairlifts, and on Gondolas

Things will operate in similar fashion to last season with regular cleaning and disinfecting on all lifts and gondolas. Natural ventilation occurs on chairlifts and windows will be kept open on gondolas to increase air flow.

Physical distancing will continue to be enforced in lift lines and mask use will be required when sharing a lift or gondola at most resorts.

Most resorts will try to get things moving with less wait times than last year and you will likely be asked to share a lift or gondola with others outside your family or group.

When in doubt, if you are not comfortable sharing a chairlift or gondola, don't hesitate to ask the lift attendant for your own chair or gondola cabin.

"We do expect lift capacity to increase and wait times to move faster than last year. That being said, we want to ensure everyone feels comfortable, and upon request households or cohorts can request their own chair." - Lake Louise Ski Resort

Know as well that lift lines will be considerably shorter at resorts requiring that all guests be fully vaccinated. They will be aiming to load lifts to full capacity.

Resorts will try to accommodate those not wanting to share chairlifts or gondolas

Other news to watch for:

Last year Lake Louise opened their lifts earlier at 8:30am on weekends and holidays to get guests up the mountain faster and to reduce the number of people hanging out in the base area in the morning. While it made for an early start from Calgary, it was great to be on the back side by 9am, skiing with no crowds.

I haven't heard yet if the resort plans to repeat this for the upcoming season.

Some resorts are considering opening lifts earlier to reduce crowds at the base

Practical suggestions and what to expect on chairlifts and gondolas this season:

  • Be prepared to handle your own gear when loading and unloading from gondolas if possible. Staff are placed at an increased risk if they're touching everybody's gear. 

  • Ride with a buddy whenever possible so that you don't have to take up an entire quad chair if you prefer not to share with those outside your group (or if others don't want to share with you.)

  • Wear the mask! If you're sharing a lift with others, it's only polite to keep your mask up the entire time. I can not tell you how many times I had people jump on chairlifts with me last year, only to pull down their mask the second we pulled away from the station. - If I let you ride with me, keep your mask on or ride by yourself!

  • Be polite at all times with resort staff! I know you might not want to share a chairlift in busy times or you might not appreciate the single skier squeezing their way into your gondola. Regardless of how you feel about the policies, employees are trying their best in challenging times and will appreciate a friendly wave. (Remember they're wearing masks too and can't see your smile, or smile back at you.)

Physical distancing will be expected in all lift lines this season 

Day Lodge Access at Resorts this Season

The biggest thing to note here is that ALL resorts in Alberta  and BC will be requiring guests 12 and up to be fully vaccinated in order to enter day lodges to warm up, use bathrooms, or purchase food. 

There may be outside food outlets available, outdoor bathrooms, and tents for warming up if you have not been vaccinated against Covid. 

Physical distancing and mask requirements will also be practiced at all resorts.

Use your vehicle as your ski locker:

Last winter most resorts were encouraging guests to leave their bags, shoes, and all personal items in their vehicles rather than in the day lodge,

While this has not been clarified yet for the upcoming season, I would expect most resorts will appreciate guests continuing this practice for the coming season.

If you usually bring a backpack with snacks and lunch items in it, plan to ski with your pack rather than leaving it in the day lodge.

We loaded up our pockets with snacks and important items last winter when we went skiing and splurged on buying lunch to get around not storing bags in the day lodge.

Plan to leave personal gear in your vehicle this season

Plan to buy lunch or eat outside:

There will be reduced seating in most day lodges and restaurants this winter with tables spread out to allow for physical distancing. 

Expect to see more grab and go food options at resorts, new temporary tent facilities with additional bathrooms, increased picnic areas, and fewer shared amenities (microwaves for example.)

Last winter many resorts also had priority access in day lodges for those purchasing food. Bag lunches had to be eaten outside or in warming tents.

Returning to one's vehicle was also encouraged last winter for lunch and snack breaks. It remains to be seen how things will be handled for the upcoming season.

Expect to spend more time outside this winter 

Reminder: no camping out in day lodges this winter!

Given capacity restrictions and requirements for physical distancing, it will continue to be important that those visiting ski resorts, be there to ski or ride, and not to hang out in the day lodge with a book all day.

Last winter most day lodges had time limits for eating your lunch or having a snack and I would expect this to continue for the upcoming season.

Spend more time skiing this winter and less time hanging out in the day lodge!

Recommendations and suggestions for day lodge use this ski season:

  • Don't expect microwaves or anything fancy inside day lodges, tents, or at picnic areas. Bring a backpack with your lunch and plan to spread out around the hill for your snack and lunch breaks. By packing your own lunch with you, you can pop into warming huts or tents whenever you ski by one and need to have a break.

  • Time your breaks for non-peak times (especially if you plan to buy lunch.) Don't try to get into the main day lodge at noon for example. Time your meals for before or after the lunch rush.

  • Make sure you bring a second mask with you for indoor use so you don't have to wear your wet ski mask when you go into a day lodge. We always have our regular "indoor masks" in our pockets to put on when we go inside a building.

For more tips, check out my previous story: Ten Tips to Escape the Crowds at Ski Resorts this Winter 

Carry a backpack with you loaded with snacks and lunch items for rest stops

Rental Procedures for the Upcoming Ski Season

Resorts will continue to rent out skis, boards, boots, poles, and helmets. All rental equipment will be disinfected between each guest. And as with all buildings at the resorts, masks will be required while renting equipment.

Check with the resort you plan to visit to find out what their rental policy will be. Last year, several resorts required reservations made ahead of time.

Also, know that some resorts will require Covid vaccinations for those 12+ in order to access the rental shop.

You can still rent gear at ski resorts this winter! Check resort procedures before you visit

What to Expect with Ski and Snowboard School this Season

Lessons will continue as normal but teachers will most likely be required to wear a face covering while teaching and to practice physical distancing with their students. Last year, instructors were not allowed to join students for lunch and there were no supervised lunches.

Check with the resort you plan to visit for their specific policies.

Also know that some resorts will require everybody 12+ to be vaccinated in order to participate in snow school.

"Snow School Programming will be available to all guests under age 12, and for guests age 12 and over, programming and lessons will likely be available to those guests that show vaccination verification, a negative Covid test within 72 hours, or a valid medical exemption letter." - Lake Louise Ski Resort 


Snow school will proceed as usual with a few small changes this season

Daycare at Ski Resorts this Winter 

Last year there was no daycare offered at any of the ski resorts around the Canadian Rockies. This winter's policies remain TBD so check with the resort you plan to visit directly.

Suggestion if you regularly rely on daycare at resorts:

  • Plan a ski getaway and stay slopeside if possible. Take turns as parents skiing with older children and staying in the condo with the baby or toddler.

  • Recruit a friend or grandparent to watch your youngest child/children back in the city for the day. If you have friends that are part of your close bubble, consider taking turns with childcare (one weekend one of you stays with the younger kids in the city and then switch places the next weekend.)

  • Take turns skiing/staying in the city with your spouse or partner (which I know sucks, but it allows one of you to ski with the older kids while the other stays home with the baby.)

  • Choose a ski resort close to home where there are other activities nearby or perhaps where there is a hotel nearby that would let you spend time there with a younger child. For Nakiska, we've spent many hours at the nearby Pomeroy Resort where there's always plenty of space for physical distancing in their large lobby area. You'll also find walking trails around Kananaskis Village where you could pull a young child around in a sled while the rest of the family skis.

  • Look for ski school programs that blend childcare and ski lessons for preschoolers that can't ski for a full day (some resorts will offer this service.)

Check with your chosen resort to find out about daycare options this winter

Slopeside Resorts will be Open

Plan for your own private day lodge experience!

Plan a ski getaway, book a slopeside condo, and experience the safest ski experience possible with your own private day lodge. Retreat to your own space for snack or lunch breaks, cook your own meals, and hang out in your condo when not skiing (great for families with babies or young children.)

As normal, masks will be required inside common areas, hallways, the lobby, etc. 

Practical suggestions if booking a ski vacation: 

  • Expect reduced capacity in hot tubs so you might want to leave the slopes a bit earlier rather than trying to squeeze in a soak right before dinner. Some pools and hot tubs might also have time restrictions. (Last winter at Panorama Mountain Resort for example, there was a one hour time limit for the hot pools.) 

  • If visiting the hot pools or hot tubs at your resort is important to you, make sure you check for individual restrictions. The Panorama Springs Pools (Panorama Mountain Resort) will only be accessible this winter to those who can provide proof of vaccination (or to those under age 12.)

  • Most resorts will have relaxed cancelation policies in place but check with your resort directly for their specific policies.

Book your ski vacation today and experience your own private day lodge this winter! 

What to Expect with Lift Tickets, Season Passes, and Discount Cards

Reservations will not be required to access the slopes at resorts throughout the Canadian Rockies. Last year Lake Louise had a reservation system in place but they are not expecting to repeat this for the upcoming ski season.

Most resorts will continue to encourage guests to purchase their lift tickets online in advance. Most season passes will require online activation, signing of waivers, and photo uploading. Passes will be mailed out and will not be available to pick up in person at many hills.

Castle Mountain Resort has specifically encouraged guests to pre-purchase lift tickets and has said that they will be limiting daily ticket sales:

"We strongly encourage our guests to pre-purchase their tickets online prior to arriving at the resort. Walk-up tickets are not guaranteed and based on availability. During high volume periods (weekends + holidays), we may sell out of all available tickets online, in advance. This would leave no walk-up ticket availability at our ticket windows." - Castle Mountain Resort

 Read more about Castle Mountains' Safety Protocols this winter.

Visit your resort's website for unique policies that they may be adopting this winter regarding lift ticket purchase. A few resorts last year were not selling lift tickets at the resort at all, and online purchase was the only way to get a ticket.

Direct to lift cards and passes will be your best friend this winter on the slopes!

Services, Events, and Programs you will not Find at Ski Resorts this Season

The services, events, and programs below were not offered during the 2020-2021 season. Information has not been released yet for the upcoming season so make sure to check in with the resort you plan to visit for more details as the ski season launches.

  • Large group events and apr├Ęs ski programming (DJs, live music, dance events, fireworks for holidays, music festivals)

  • Programmed kids' activities at resorts with on hill accommodations (example: evening activities for the children after they finish skiing.)

  • Buffet-style banquet dinners for holidays

  • Night Skiing at some resorts

  • Weekend youth ski races at some resorts. 

  • Lost and Found - Don't expect to find this service offered at Nakiska this winter. Make sure you bring everything home with you! (They will still attempt to find the owner of valuable items such as phones and wallets.)

This winter will get us back to the pure love of skiing and riding!

Refund Policies for the 2021-22 Ski Season

Every resort will have its own refund policy this winter so check with your resort specifically. 

Check directly with your resort for refund policies

No comments:

Post a Comment