Ottawa

No vaccine passports or capacity limits for Ontario skiers this winter

Ontario ski hills will be able to welcome guests on their hills without asking for a vaccine passport or limiting the capacity on chairlifts a year after COVID-19 restrictions shut them down.

Ski resorts in Ontario weren't able to open for weeks during the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19

Jim Hemlin, chief operating officer of Calabogie Peaks, says changes to COVID-19 restrictions for ski hills in Ontario will mean shorter lines as chairlifts operate at capacity. (Kate Tenenhouse/CBC)

Ontario ski hills will be able to welcome guests on their hills without asking for a vaccine passport or limiting the capacity on chairlifts a year after COVID-19 restrictions shut them down.

COVID-19 vaccine passports and other rules that apply to restaurants and bars will also apply to dining establishments at ski hills across Ontario.

    Jim Hemlin, chief operations officer at the Calabogie Peaks Resort west of Ottawa, said guests there will also be asked to wear masks where two-metre distancing isn't possible outside. 

    "We hope that nobody comes two metres between each other, because typically it involves a collision," he said. 

    "There's always lots of space. The only time that there's gathering would be lift lines or sitting on the chairs."

    Ontario ski hills look forward to opening at full capacity

    1 year ago
    Duration 1:02
    Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s minister of heritage, tourism and sport, and Jim Hemlin, with Calabogie Peaks Resort, say lifting the capacity limit is welcome news for ski hills, which faced a shorter season with fewer guests under last year’s restrictions.

    Hemlin said the lifting of restrictions is an encouraging sign of recovery after ski hill closures in Ontario last year devastated many operators.

    Hemlin said Calabogie Peaks was hit hard with the fixed costs of snow maintenance, insurance and electricity.

    "We're talking millions. These businesses are extremely expensive to start up," Hemlin said.

    "If you're restricted to 40 days and losing your full season, probably 70 to 80 percent of your revenue is lost to cover off the capital costs."

    Recovery fund

    Lisa MacLeod, Ontario's minister of heritage, tourism and sport, said she recognizes last year's closures were a challenge, but they reflected public health advice aimed at driving down mobility at a time when COVID-19 cases were spiking in the province. 

    "No question it was difficult," she said. "We recognize that some of them were under great constraints as a result of the closures last year, which is why they have eligibility into the tourism recovery fund."

    The province opened applications last month for the $100 million fund, which will support tourism businesses that lost at least 50 per cent of eligible revenue in 2020-21 compared to 2019.

    Ontario's Ministry of Health announced last week capacity limits are being lifted from outdoor venues including ski hills and zoos.

    Lisa MacLeod, minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture, said ski hills are among the tourism businesses that qualify for the $100 million Ontario COVID-19 Tourism Recovery Fund. (Lisa MacLeod)

    MacLeod said the context of Ontario's high vaccination rate and the relative safety of outdoor activities led to the decision to not require proof of vaccination outdoors. 

    "We have seen that the gradual reopening of Ontario has been rather safe and so we are in a very different spot than we were last year," said MacLeod. 

    "Outdoors, we want as many people as possible to enjoy sports and recreation in the province of Ontario this winter."

    Quebec announced Tuesday that vaccination passports will be required to access facilities with a chairlift and masking is required on enclosed gondolas, but not open-air chairlifts. 

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