Nova Scotia

N.S. ski hills set to open this winter — with restrictions

Ski hills in Nova Scotia are planning to open this winter, but patrons will be faced with some restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Masks, distancing and gathering limits planned — and skiers will have to get gear on and off in parking lot

Ski hills across the province are making plans to open this winter, but skiers are being told to expect to spend less time inside the facilities due to COVID-19 restrictions. (CBC)

Nova Scotia skiers are being told to expect to spend more time outdoors when the hills open this winter.

Operators across the province have received approval for their opening plans from Public Health and the Department of Labour, according to Darcy MacDonald, director of operations at Ski Ben Eoin near Sydney.

He told CBC's Information Morning Cape Breton that some amenities will still be available, such as equipment rentals and cafeteria service, but skiers will have to change into and out of their gear in the parking lot.

"We have made some room in our rental building," MacDonald said.

"We've kind of reconfigured the whole area so that it's more of a warming area, if somebody wants to go in and go to the washroom, get warm, but what everyone's saying this year is plan to make your vehicle your own personal lodge."

Face coverings will be mandatory inside and out, he said, and skiers will be spaced out more in lineups for lift services.

Ski schools will also have fewer participants and staggered start times to increase distancing.

Martin Kejval, general manager of Ski Cape Smokey, says taking rental applications online will speed things up and reduce the number of people gathering in the shop at the hill. (Holly Conners/CBC)

Martin Kejval, general manager of Ski Cape Smokey, said a new website is being launched to take applications for lift tickets and rentals.

Online applications will also include information and questions on health screening, he said.

Taking rental applications online will speed things up and reduce gathering in the shop at the hill, said Kejval. Electronic counters will keep tabs on building capacity.

Some snow required

The Ingonish hill will likely open a bit later than usual because amenities such as a gondola are still under construction, he said.

He said there are still plans to host heli-skiing in conjunction with Breton Air.

The hills need colder temperatures and some snow before they can open.

MacDonald said Ski Ben Eoin is aiming to open in late December. Kejval said Ski Cape Smokey would like to open in mid-January.

Ski Martock near Windsor Forks and Ski Wentworth in Wentworth Valley both have details on their websites about opening this winter.

'Go to your parking lot'

If Public Health rules get tougher between now and the hill openings, MacDonald said he is confident the season can still go ahead outdoors.

"What would happen is you can go to your parking lot," he said.

"If you're a member and you have your own equipment, you can go from the parking lot to the chair lift, ski for a couple of hours, go home and not even come in contact with anyone."

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With files from Information Morning Cape Breton

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