04 January 2021 Posted By : Betsy Powell

Should downhill skiing be permitted to open during the lockdown?

TOWN OF THE BLUE MOUNTAINS—Oliver Slow and his friends are cramming in as many runs as they can before Blue Mountain suspends all ski operations Boxing Day to comply with the province-wide shutdown due to COVID-19.

But they’re not happy about the closure, just days after Blue and many other Ontario ski resorts opened, and agree with the Canadian Ski Council and Ontario Ski Resorts Association that alpine skiing should be included on the list of outdoor recreational amenities permitted to open during the lockdown period.

“It’s outside. No one is close together for a prolonged period of time. They’re doing a great job socially distancing everyone,” said Slow, speaking through his mask before boarding the nearby chairlift.

His friend, Josh Douang, also a snowboarder, says he’s puzzled by the province’s decision. Both men are in their 40s.

“A lot of people were expecting to enjoy the outdoors over the winter. This is the perfect type of sport for socially distanced type of activity,” Douang said. “We’re wearing gloves, wearing face masks, wearing goggles Every orifice in our body is completely covered, so it doesn’t make any sense.”

Earlier this week, the Ontario government released a list of outdoor recreational amenities permitted to open during the lockdown period. The list includes ice rinks, snowmobile, cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails. The shutdown will remain in place in southern Ontario until Jan. 23, and will lift for Northern Ontario on Jan. 9.

Paul Pinchbeck, president of the Canadian Ski Council, said the industry was “shocked and confused” downhill skiing wasn’t exempted.

“The industry has worked with North American colleagues to establish a proven set of rules to keep people safe when they’re in our facilities this year. That appears to have been disregarded,” he told the Star on Thursday. The COVID protection measures include capacity limits and requiring skiers and boarders to change in their cars.

No other ski area in Canada will be forced to shut Dec. 26, save for Ontario, Pinchbeck said.

“Ontario really has that dubious honour right now of being the only jurisdiction in North America that is closed to alpine skiing.”

Quebec recently changed its ski-lift loading capacity from one person per chair to fifty per cent of chair capacity, he noted.

The ski industry hasn’t been immune to COVID-19.

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