Ontario only jurisdiction in North America to close ski areas during COVID-19
Ski hills across Ontario, including those in northwestern Ontario, will have to shut down their operations as of December 26, as part of provincial COVID-19 orders.
The announcement came as a surprise, said Kevin Nichol, the President of the Ontario Snow Resorts Association.
"We do deserve some rationale or explanation as to why we've been singled out," he said. "We are the only jurisdiction in North America right now with ski resorts shut down. It just doesn't make any sense to us that this point."
Downhill ski centres in Thunder Bay, Kenora, Dryden and Manitouwadge in the northwest are impacted by the provincial decision.
"We were getting good messaging back from the government on our operations. Other ski resorts were getting ready to start to open, and it was very much a shock because we thought we were on the right track," Nichol said, noting skiing has not been linked to any COVID-19 outbreak in the province.
"This news deeply saddens us, as we have worked hard this pre-season to get ready to open," said Blair McCallum, the President of Mt. Evergreen in Kenora. The volunteer-run facility was forced to shutter its doors early in the 2019-2020 ski season, with the current restrictions having an "eerie similarity" he wrote.
"After absolutely busting our tails day and night to make this season the best, safest and earliest yet we get yet another Covid blow," wrote Mount Baldy on its Facebook page. The ski area on Thunder Bay's north side was the first to open in the province, which had COVID-19 protocols in place for over eight weeks of operation.
Loch Lomond in Thunder Bay echoed the sentiment that it was only following provincial orders to cease its operations.
"It could be significantly detrimental to everybody's operations," Nichol said, noting that some ski areas receive nearly a third of their revenue over the Christmas break.