By Herald on December 28, 2020.
Castle Mountain Resort has had skiers and boarders out on the slopes since one of their earliest openings in years.
Like anything in COVID-19 pandemic times, there are protocols, caps and regulations to follow, but the ski resort west of Lethbridge has made the adjustments and skiers and boarders alike have been taking advantage with the New Year around the corner.
“The ski business is not without its challenges these days, but if you ask anyone within our organization, aside from maybe lack of sleep, we are all extraordinarily grateful to still be in business, to still be operating, to still be serving Albertans and to still be employed,” said Cole Fawcett, sales and marketing at Castle Mountain Resort. “We acknowledge we are in a place of extreme privilege this holiday season and for that alone we are very grateful.”
One challenge for Castle Mountain has been the limitation of indoor space, part of the protocol that came with the provincial government’s intensified regulations handed down Dec. 13.
“We are very fortunate because we did so immediately, starting on the 13th,” said Fawcett. “We closed down the indoor space just as required under law by the chief medical officer. That meant the day lodge was only open for washroom and takeout food access.”
Soon, though, Castle Mountain was able to relax those regulations a little.
“After five days we received some clarity that came down for all ski resorts operating in the province that we were still permitted to have that space open for warm-up space, breaks and what not to a capacity of 15 per cent, just like retail establishments,” said Fawcett. “For us, practically speaking, what that means is approximately 70 people, which is tiny, compared to what the day lodge can normally hold.”
But thanks to the recent mild weather, Fawcett said many guests have used their vehicles as their day lodge in preparation for a day on the slopes, taking pressure off the resort’s indoor spaces.
“That’s not to say that space isn’t reaching capacity, it is several times daily now that we are in the holiday period, but we’re still maintaining access to takeout food and maintaining washroom access.”
Outdoors, Castle Mountain, has extended the requirement to wear face covering.
“We actually had an indoor face covering policy before our MD had a policy and before there was a province-wide policy,” said Fawcett. “We enforced that right out of the gate at the start of our season, which really set the tone. But we have also asked our guests to please wear a face covering in outdoor spaces, which would be in places where you might not be able to maintain distance, specifically, in lineups for tickets or in our immediate area of our base area buildings. There is an abundance of signage, volunteers and staff assisting with that message and in all chairlift lineups as well and chairlift unloads where snowboarders in particular might be strapping back in for their slide back down the slopes.”
Fawcett said the vast majority of Castle Mountain’s guests have embraced the protocol and are grateful to have a place to ski.
“There are others who think that there are too many people on the slopes, but we are not a private ski resort, we do have to maintain a viable business,” he added. “There are others who refused to visit and are very vocal about their intention to not visit with the restrictions in place. To which we say ’fine, no problem.’”
Fawcett said there isn’t a specific number for how many people Castle Mountain can have at the resort at any one time.
“But we have been proactive in that we are instituting a cap on daily ticket sales,” he said. “Practically speaking, that means that if you’re not a season pass holder or if you aren’t one of our loyalty card holders, you should be thinking about pre-purchasing your ticket online. We’ve already faced days where we’ve turned people away because we hit our daily ticket sales and we feel strongly that we need to have that cap so the resort remains balanced in its use.”
Fawcett said he expects Castle Mountain to be in a sellout or near-sellout position on daily tickets through, Jan. 3 and thereafter on weekends.
However, they will be providing incentives for guests to come mid-week after the holidays.
“The additional incentive for them is if they do not want to encounter lines and they don’t want to encounter a number of other skiers and snowboarders is take that personal mental health day midweek outside of the holiday,” said Fawcett.
“So many of us are telecommuting, we have the ability to work at home. Take that day and get out here when it’s not crowded. We apologize for any disappointment that you may have in the day that you really want to come, that Saturday you’re really jonesing to go skiing, is not available. But it’s the responsible thing for us to do and we are committed to upholding it.
“As we go, we’ll continue to learn. The one thing we’ve learned about this time in our lives in the past 10 months is it’s filled with one constant and that is change and continual responding and adjustment to that change.”
If you are not a Castle season pass holder, WOW Card holder, or a holder of some other open-dated Castle ticket, people are strongly encouraged to purchase their ticket online, in advance at http://www.skicastle.ca.
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