Quebec ski hills gear up for challenging season under pandemic restrictions

Quebec ski hills are gearing up for what could be a challenging season, especially for those located in COVID-19 red zones where restrictions are tighter.

A handful of hills opened this weekend with new measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Skiers will have to wear face coverings inside at all times, as well as on the chair lifts and while waiting in line.

There are more than 40 hills located in red zones. At those locations, there will be no eating or drinking inside the lodges.

People can go inside to warm up or use the washroom, then it’s right back outside.

Despite the new rules, the association representing the ski hills says people are happy to be out on the mountains.

“The mood is relief and joy because we’re back on the boards and we’re able to go down the hill,” said Yves Juneau, president of Quebec’s association of ski areas.

“So, you know, putting the ski boots outside your car, not being able to go inside for the après, these are little sacrifices that people are willing to make, because at the end of the day, what really matters is to be able to go out on the slopes. And that’s how people felt. They were happy.”

Yves Juneau, CEO of Quebec’s association of ski areas, said hills are making changes to welcome skiers in safety. (CBC)

He said hills are adapting as best they can to the new circumstances.

“You will have food counters that are outdoors, for instance, so people can actually have something to eat outside. You will have fireplaces so that, you know, if you can’t go inside, at least you’ll be able to stay warm around the fireplace. Some ski areas have added temporary buildings or camps, things like that,” he said.

He added that skiers will need to reserve their lift ticket in advance at most ski areas, in order to manage the amount of people congregating at any given time.

Juneau said businesses lost millions when they were forced to close abruptly at the start of the pandemic last spring.

This season, many are hoping to make up for that lost revenue and provide a place for people to exercise safely outside.

“We live in a time when people need hope, and going outside and doing your favourite outdoor sport, that provided hope this weekend,” he said.

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