Quebec ski hills gear up for a season with spacing -- which could make for great skiing
MONTREAL -- Pandemic or not, there's excitement in the air at the Saint-Bruno ski hill as employees prepare to open for business -- and in fact, the pandemic could make skiing even better.
"The overall experience in skiing will be amazing," said Michel Couture from Ski Saint-Bruno.
On Friday, Quebec's 75 ski hills got official permission from the province to open, as well as the official rule list they must follow.
Some services will be limited, Couture said -- there will be no access to indoor spaces, restaurants will only offer takeout, and walk-ins are no longer welcome. Riders will either have to buy a season's pass or book a day pass online.
On the other hand, he said, the actual skiing will be strictly spaced out, meaning people may enjoy it more.
"The good news is the service will be better because the traffic will be smoother, so it will be good for everyone because we won't have peak times," said Couture.
Yesterday, the province announced $70 million in funding to keep sports associations alive and to promote outdoor, low-infection-risk sports. Minister Isabelle Charest, a former Olympic speed-skater, encouraged people to get outside and try a new sport.
However, first-time skiiers will face one particular hurdle. Another change to come is for people without equipment -- if the region is in a red zone, day rentals will no longer be allowed. Instead, people will be able to rent gear for the entire season.
"When they come, they go ski-in/ski-out very quickly," Couture said. "So they have to get their equipment or buy some equipment."
Although riders will be wearing masks and googles, there will also be changes to riding ski lifts. In some cases, people will be asked to stay two metres apart, while in others, only one person will be able to ride on a chair unless they are riding with someone in their household.
"On the orange and yellow zone there is no limit on the capacity of the lifts," Couture said. "But here where we are right now is in the red zone, so this is an issue and we will limit capacity up to 75 per cent."
Up to 300,000 people use the Saint-Bruno ski hill every season. Even with the new COVID-19 restrictions, Couture said he's hoping to see just as many people out this winter.
The slopes are set to open the second week of November.
Saint-Sauveur, on the other hand, said in a news release that it will be reducing the number of passes it sells this season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Priority access to the slopes will be given to season's pass holders.