COVID-19 Hits the Outdoor Industry

words :: Ben Osborne.

As COVID-19 spreads across North America, experts have recommended cancellation of large-scale public gatherings, ski resorts have stopped spinning their lifts, retail stores have closed their doors, and many people have cancelled long-planned trips.

With a great deal of uncertainty in the coming months, it is up to every individual to take precautions and help contribute to “flattening the curve” of the spread of the virus.

Yesterday, both Vail Resorts and Alterra resorts announced they were ceasing operations as of today, Sunday, March 15th. Vail Resorts announced a weeklong closure from March 15-March 22nd which could certainly go on longer. Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) has announced they will no longer accept any new guests as of March 17.

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Distanced enough? Photo: Courtesy Revelstoke Mountain Resort

The state of Colorado has decided to shut down all ski resorts, a decision which will deeply affect the outdoor community in a state which relies heavily on a tourist economy.

“We are aware of the great cost that mountain communities face if our downhill ski resorts close, even temporarily,” says Governor Jared Polis. “These costs will be borne by local residents and businesses, and by the individuals and families who come to Colorado to enjoy our beautiful mountains and world-renowned skiing. But in the face of this pandemic emergency, we cannot hesitate to protect public health and safety.”

While it might be easy to lament why resorts can’t keep spinning their lifts, as most people would argue that skiing and riding represent little chance of cross-contamination, let this be a sign of the serious nature of the sickness. No ski resort wants to shut down—but it is important for everyone, businesses and individuals, to take this seriously in order to put an end to it as soon as possible.

No guiding on Everest will have a serious effect on Nepal’s tourist-reliant economy.

Ski resorts are not the only part of the outdoor industry that’s being hit hard—the Nepalese government has put a hold on all tourist visas, essentially cancelling the Everest climbing season and depriving the country of millions of dollars in climbing fees. Along with the government, there are thousands of sherpas, guides, and cooks who rely on the economy of Everest guiding to survive, who will now be left with no income. The government brings in around $4 million USD each year on climbing fees alone, so it’s safe to say there is a huge hole in the countries economy as a result of the pandemic.

While we will likely see many resorts close down in the coming days, Revelstoke Mountain Resort in Revelstoke, B.C., has decided to stay open. While implementing more cleaning and sanitization, no singles lines, and more policies, the resort believes it can stay ahead of the curve (and continue to deliver on its record-breaking season).

As of March 15, this is one of the few places in North America where lift-accessed powder exists. Photo: Eric Berger/courtesy Revelstoke.

On the retail side of things, both Arc’teryx and Patagonia have closed all of their U.S. locations. They will continue to pay their employees but have closed their doors to the public, an honourable move in the face of adversity.

If nothing else, let this situation be a lesson in just how delicately balanced our lives are. To be able to enjoy spinning chairlifts, fresh snow, and a hearty meal after a day on the slopes takes a finely tuned system that is more fragile than we often realize. Listen to the science, stay safe, and let’s band together as a world community to help flatten the curve—we’ve got this. —ML