Mount Pakenham ski hill gets special permission from province to open: health unit

Dr. Paula Stewart, medical officer of health for Leeds, Grenville and Lanark, said the ski hill has been allowed to reopen, even though it falls in a region of the province still covered by the stay-at-home order.

Resort is in a health unit still covered by the stay-at-home order

Mount Pakenham ski resort gets green light to reopen despite ongoing stay-at-home order

2 years ago
Duration 0:52
Snowboarder Matthew Morrison says he’s pleased the hill has reopened. Mount Pakenham was given permission from the Ministry of Heritage, Tourism and Sport to open Feb. 11 despite the area still being covered by a stay-at-home order.

A ski hill about 60 kilometres west of Ottawa has received special permission from the province to reopen, despite being found within a public health unit that's still covered by Ontario's stay-at-home order.

Dr. Paula Stewart, medical officer of health for Leeds, Grenville and Lanark, said Mount Pakenham was given the go-ahead by the Ministry of Heritage, Tourism and Sport to reopen Feb. 11.

She said she didn't know why the government gave the resort permission, but said Mount Pakenham has been working with public health officials since the fall to limit the risk of COVID-19.

"We know that the precautions that they have in place are good ones," said Stewart. "They have a small operation, it's really geared towards families.... I think that they can do it well."

The region covered by the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit is still under the provincial stay-at-home order, which mandates that ski hills must stay closed.

Skiers at Mount Pakenham ski resort on February 11, 2021 after the province gave the ski hill permission to open early despite the provincial shutdown. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

A spokesperson for Mount Pakenham declined an interview with CBC News, saying they were already sold out of tickets for this weekend and didn't want to be overwhelmed by visitors. 

The resort opened with multiple COVID-19 restrictions in place including allowing only pre-booked tickets, closing the lodge and other indoor seating areas, and limiting chair lifts to groups that arrived together.

It is also currently not offering lessons. 

A sign at the Mount Pakenham ski resort explains the rules around restrictions and guidelines for COVID-19. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Matthew Morrison was at the hill Thursday with his son, and said he'd been waiting for local hills to open and jumped at the chance to go snowboarding.

"We're just super excited that the hills are back open and we can get out and enjoy ourselves again," he said. 

Calabogie Peaks, a nearby ski hill, also opened Thursday as part of Ontario's plans to gradually ease pandemic restrictions amid declining COVID-19 case numbers.

It is in the Renfrew County and District Health Unit, which was placed under the green alert level Wednesday. 

Leeds, Grenville and Lanark indicators are green

Stewart said the COVID-19 situation in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark is looking good. Were the health unit not covered by the stay-at-home order it too would be considered one of the province's green zones, where COVID-19 restrictions are lightest, she said.

Barring any spike in cases, that will likely be where it will be placed on Tuesday, Stewart said, adding she hopes to find out for sure today.

The province is expected to reveal more information Friday about the reopening plan.

"We have 11 or 12 active cases now ... so we're in a really good position to open," she said.

CBC News reached out to the office of Lisa MacLeod, Ontario's minister of sport and tourism, to ask why an exception was made for Mount Pakenham, but has not yet heard back. 

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