Quebec ski hills expect a smoother ride this season
For Quebec’s 1.4 million skiers and snowboarders, the winter of 2020-21 was something of a miracle.
The province’s 75 mountain operators scrambled to adopt pandemic protocols , and intrepid snow-sports fans responded with gusto, coping with masking, distancing and booting up at their cars. Turbulent times, but a triumph, all things considered.
As the work world imploded, Monday-to-Friday visits inched up by three per cent. And when snow sports proved to be an irresistible escape from COVID captivity, the sale of season passes increased by 30 per cent, to 61 per cent of the market. Fresh air had become a hot commodity.
The winter of 2021-22 will be even more buoyant, and it’s time to get stoked. If Mother Nature co-operates, some ski areas will open at the end of November. Everything is selling like hotcakes — lift tickets, equipment and snow school slots.
“It will be smoother for everyone this season,” said Jean-Michel Ryan, CEO of Mont Sutton and chair of the Association des stations de ski du Québec (ASSQ). “Our restaurants, bars and snow schools will be active, the vaccine is having a positive impact and we now have experience with COVID measures .
“Last year was so challenging, we did not even know if we could open. This year, our season pass sale started earlier than usual and it’s brisk.”
Pandemic protocol: Still, there will be rules. Skiers and riders 13 and older will need vaccine passports to access lifts and lodges, and season passes can be validated in advance at individual areas. Face coverings will be required indoors and in gondolas, and are recommended on chairlifts and during lessons.