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Nova Scotia ski resorts optimistic about adapting to COVID-19 as sales spike

Season pass sales are up at one resort as people look to social distance on the slopes

3 min read
caption Skiers and snowboarders will have to wear masks inside, in line and on chair lifts. (Photo illustration)
Josh Hoffman

Ski resorts in Nova Scotia are gearing up for their first winter with COVID-19 after receiving approval from provincial health officials.

The Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health has worked with resorts across the province to create protocols that try to ensure patrons and staff will stay safe and follow social-distancing rules. The province signed off on the new guidelines last week.

This year, skiers must wear masks inside, in line and on chair lifts. People in the same bubble can ride chairlifts together. Singles and doubles will not have to ride chairlifts with others outside their bubble.

Indoor facilities will have limited capacity and change rooms will not be available.

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Leslie Wilson, president and general manager of Ski Wentworth, anticipates her resort will need to limit lift pass sales on weekends to meet public health orders.

For the first time ever, the resort is moving all pass sales and equipment rentals online to avoid crowds.

“You could buy your ticket online, go to an outdoor kiosk, get your equipment, go to your car, and not even necessarily step foot in the lodge,” Wilson said. Skiers will be able to have lift passes on their phone.

Ski Cape Smokey, outside of Ingonish Beach in Cape Breton, is also moving pass sales and equipment rentals online.

“It can be very chaotic when you’re doing gear rental at a ski hill,” said Anna Solomon, a spokesperson for Cape Smokey. By moving purchases online, she said they hope to make visiting the resort safer and more seamless.

Ski hills in the province are members of the Atlantic Snow Resorts Association which consulted national organizations on reopening guidelines. Solomon says Nova Scotia resorts worked together on a comprehensive operating plan.

“We want to make sure the experience isn’t so overwhelming at every place,” she said.

Increased interest

Both ski hills expect more Nova Scotians to be looking for outdoor activities this winter to help cope with COVID-19.

Wilson estimates Wentworth has seen a 15 to 20 per cent increase in season pass sales already this season. “That’s promising and gives you an indicator that there is interest.”

Solomon agrees. She said a ski hill naturally allows people to social distance and expects to see more people trying activities like snowshoeing.

The pandemic has “forced us to think outside the box” for outdoor spaces, Wilson said. “It’s made us stand back and look at some of these options because normally you just got into the lodge.”

Wentworth installed a propane gas line for a new outdoor fire pit and barbecue.

Wilson said they’ll have more picnic tables than usual, and they’ve built a new grab-and-go food stand. They also bought a greenhouse they plan to turn into an outdoor warming station, she said.

“We’re just taking different steps to encourage folks to stay outside,” Wilson said. “I’m sure a lot of these things we’ll keep in place.”

Cape Smokey also expects their adaptations to become permanent. “I think it’s something we will continue in the future,” Solomon said. “It’s a challenge we’re excited to work on.”

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