file photo of fernie alpine resort sign (Scott Tibballs/The Free Press)

Ski hills will look different this season, and Fernie Alpine Resort is no exception

General manager of FAR Andy Cohen said all resorts that were already open were seeing ‘amazing visitation’

Longer lines, mask requirements and how warm-up shelters operate will all look a bit different this year at the Fernie Alpine Resort.

General manager Andy Cohen fielded questions from the Fernie business community on Thursday (Nov. 19) as part of a Q-and-A hosted by the Fernie Chamber of Commerce in the lead up to the resort’s Dec. 5 opening day.

During the update on resort operations, Cohen said that the resort would be enforcing stronger mask mandates than the province of British Columbia (as of Nov. 19).

“When you’re skiing down (the hill) you don’t have to wear a mask, but when you’re in the lift line, or anywhere else…you gotta wear a mask.”

He said that Fernie Alpine Resort along with its parent company, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) were following the recommendation of Canada’s chief public health officer in requiring three-layered masks.

“You will have to wear a face covering. We’d like it to be three layers or more.”

Cohen said that for the resort, masks and pandemic guidelines were not a political decision. “I’m not mandating masks because its a personal thing, I’m mandating masks because its what we have to do to stay in business.”

“Our plan for the winter is 94 pages, it covers just about everything. We’re not going to be encouraging (people to follow guidelines), you have to follow guidelines.”

Lines would be longer, said Cohen, who explained that this was a result not just of spreading out people, but because of a reduced capacity of lifts themselves. Groups will be able to fill a chairlift, but individuals will only be able to ride alone, or with one other person on triple or quad chairs.

A big change would be indoor sheltering, which Cohen said was not something that could be done. Eating indoors will be by reservation.

ALSO READ: Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

“We don’t have anywhere to store people,” he said. “Sheltering people – your normal warm up pods…we can’t do that.”

He said that for this season, on skiing breaks people would either have to go back to their car to warm up, go back home, or warm up in a restaurant they had reserved a table at.

On expected visitation and the impact on lines, he said that resorts that were already open were seeing large numbers of visitors.

“People want to go skiing. Lake Louise is packed. Nakiska is packed. Everywhere that’s open is having amazing visitation.”

Many questions from the business community were around limits on numbers on the mountain, something Cohen said he wasn’t able to disclose, but added that it would be a “moving target”.

What he could say was that pass utilization (people buying season passes) was “the highest we’ve ever seen. It makes sense. People are staying local (and) they want to get out.”

Another question was on the workforce, with many positions yet to be filled at the resort. Cohen said that the resort was tracking just fine for November 19 however. The big change would be the makeup of the workforce due to the closure of international borders.

“We’re losing almost all of our Australians, Kiwis and Brits … (but) there’s tons of Canadians applying at every resort,” he said, explaining that given the pandemic, many Canadians were choosing not to go to school this year.

The full Fernie Alpine Resort winter operations plan is available on their website, and was developed alongside all other ski resorts in North America.

READ MORE: FAR prepares for opening day on December 5



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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