Another Season Begins
It’s snowing! Ski areas have started to open, and we’ve been out sampling the early season conditions.
A Covid Ski Season, Take Two.
We all learned a couple of things last winter: going to a ski resort during a pandemic is a bit different, and skiing is still the best winter activity, hands down, no matter what else is going on in the world. Luckily, the ski areas learned a thing or two themselves and seem well prepared for the current health restrictions this season. They are taking subtly different approaches, though.
Here’s a rundown of who’s open, how the slopes are looking, and what rules you should be aware of before heading out. Find up-to-date restrictions on each resort’s website before heading out; we wouldn’t be surprised if things change.
The welcoming crew at Sunshine Village
Norquay was poised to be the first hill to open until Lake Louise swooped in and joined them. Both opened on November 5. It was just an artificial strip of white down Cascade surrounded by grass, but the ratio of smiling faces to snow quantity has never been higher. They now have the magic carpet open and are open every day of the week (night skiing has not started yet). They have a small rail park open that’s getting some solid traffic as well.
Norquay is running with the vaccine program that most resorts are adopting. Skiers 12 years old or older need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to get near the lifts or lodge (note it has to be a government-approved test that you pay for). To pick up a season pass or multi-day pass, you must show the same proof, but then your ticket or pass acts as proof of vaccination. So pass holders never have to show their government-issued vaccination record again.
Norquay is not mandating masks in outdoor spaces. So when you are in lift lines, riding lifts, or skiing, it’s up to you if you want to mask up. If you never figured out how to keep your goggles from fogging while wearing a mask, this will be welcome news. Indoor spaces require masks until you are seated and eating, but the lodge and restaurant are open.
Sunshine opened on Thursday, November 11, and 1,700 skiers showed up to ski the Strawberry chairlift. This weekend (November 13), they should open Jack Rabbit and Wolverine chairlifts as well. The death before download crowd will be disappointed because the ski-out is not open yet, so you need to take the gondola down.
With a big storm coming this weekend, expect Sunshine to have more terrain open soon. Wawa and Standish aren’t that far off.
Sunshine is also running with the Alberta Restrictions Exemption policy. Before you even get in line for a ticket at the gondola base, you need to show your proof of vaccination or a negative test. You need to mask up for the gondola ride and indoors, but all dining and lodge spaces are open again this year, and it looks like they’ll be at full capacity.
Norquay opening day.
There's more snow now, but it was pretty dry opening day.
The Wiwaxy 500 was in full effect this past week! The one open run, Wiwaxy, has been fun and fast but crowded. So watch out for other skiers, keep it under control and have fun. The beginner area at the base is also open if new skiers want a quieter place to get started.
Louise is blowing lots of snow whenever the temperatures allow, so they’ll be ready for the World Cup races that begin during the last week of Nov. and run into Dec. Between the incoming storm and snowmaking, they’ll have more terrain open soon.
All indoor spaces require proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test, including the gondola and buses. Skiers who just want to go directly to the chairlift and stay outside will not need proof of vaccination this year at Lake Louise, though. It will be interesting to see if that leads to a repeat of last season’s tailgate scene in the parking lot.
Opening Friday, November 26, 2021.
WinSport is going with the Restriction Exemption program as well this year, so be ready to show proof of vaccination or a negative test for anyone 12 years old or older. Masks indoors as well, of course. COP is also saying that spectators will have the same restrictions so take that into account if you are going to watch kids up there.
Nakiska is open for the weekend (Nov. 11-14). They have two groomed runs going but have no beginner terrain open yet. It’s early season still, but we bet it’s fun out there!
RCR - Resorts of the Canadian Rockies
No other resorts are open yet, but it looks like all RCR resorts will be requiring proof of vaccination this winter, including Fernie, Kicking Horse, and Kimberley. Negative tests are not sufficient.You’ll need evidence of full immunization. Lift tickets and passes can act as your proof once you have them, so pass holders only need to show their records once. Masks are required on lifts, in lineups, indoors, and anywhere people gather.
More snow is on the way and soon we'll be skiing the entire mountain again.
Banff and Lake Louise Tourism
*Every resort is saying the same thing: check their website for policy changes and pre-purchase your lift tickets online.
*Kids turning 12 could be tricky. All we can say is read the policies and plan ahead. If your child turns 12, most of the resorts will require them to be vaccinated before they come skiing. Although the Alberta resorts seem to suggest a difference if kids turn 12 before or after the new year, check their websites and plan accordingly.
*Ski touring has way fewer complications!So get the gear and take an avalanche course, then go social-distance while making fresh tracks in the powder.
If you are worried about forgetting your face covering, most resorts allow you to use a neck tube. Try a base layer with one built in: