Nfld. & Labrador

White Hills finally kicks off 2021 ski season with unofficial opening

Manager Pierre Mirault says conditions are "surprisingly good" despite the inconsistent weather, with an estimated 80-100 centimetres of snow on the ground across the mountain.

Season could run until Easter break, says manager

White Hills ski resort had hoped to officially open on Monday, but ran into trouble with the ski lift. The slopes are now open, with an official opening planned for Thursday. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Skiers and snowboarders on Newfoundland's east coast can finally hit the slopes at White Hills in Clarenville.

Manager Pierre Mirault said staff were excited to open to the public Monday after the region moved to Alert Level 3 of the province's COVID-19 restrictions, but an issue with the lift delayed the official opening. He hopes the issue can be solved by Thursday, so the resort can open officially — marking its latest-ever start to a season.

"This is the time of year we start shutting down, so to actually start up operation is so very out of the ordinary," Mirault said Monday.

"It takes a little bit more thinking 'cause you're in the mindset of preparing to shut down and now we're looking at starting to open again. So very much the latest start we've ever had."

Mirault said conditions are "surprisingly good" despite the inconsistent weather, and estimated there's about 80 to 100 centimetres of snow on the ground across the mountain.

"If we're able to open officially on Thursday, we should be able to go right up until Easter break," he said.

White Hills manager Pierre Mirault says support from the public in reopening has been reassuring. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Aside from the weather, it's also be an up and down weather for people wanting to ride the province's slopes, who have faced unpredictable conditions and a move back into Alert Level 5.

"We have our season members that are just chomping at the bit," Mirault said. Before this week, the latest a season had started was the second week of February, he said.

"They've been waiting for this … so we in turn have to provide a product. It's just been one frustration after the other, but for the most part I would say the general public has been very much understanding and behind us," he added. "It's reassuring to have that kind of support."

Like other ski hills across the province, all users must wear a mask at all times and practise physical distancing. Sections of the resort have also been closed off. Contact information will be taken before customers get to the slopes, with the resort asking people to use their vehicles as a changing area and eating space.

Snow-making machines operating on White Hills in 2018. White Hills expects the 2020 season can continue until Easter break. (White Hills Resort/Facebook)

"It doesn't take long for someone to contract it, and when they do contract COVID we know the effects of what just happened a month ago in Newfoundland," he said. "We're very diligent, we have all the measures in place, and the general public is on board."

With the resort expecting to be open for only a month, Mirault said breaking even for the season would be a success, and serve as a springboard to help startup costs for next year.

"As long as we break even, we're happy," he said.

"If we're in the red or if we fall behind a bit, we need to depend on our loyal season pass members, our sponsors, the businesses locally and eastern Newfoundland. If they keep providing the support for us to start up every year, that's all we're looking at."

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Alex Kennedy works for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador in St. John's.


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