The New Blue: Ontario’s Largest Resort Retools to Boost Public Safety

words :: Laura Raimondi // photos :: Allison Kennedy Davies.

Cottages, beaches, camping and outdoor adventures are a few things that come to mind when we think of summertime in Ontario. However, this year is different. We find ourselves on an unexpected adventure navigating the uncharted and murky waters of a world in the midst of a pandemic. Our lives are overlain with physical distancing and incessant hand-washing; face masks have become commonplace. How we act now, as a society, will slow the spread of the virus and protect those who are most vulnerable. Our actions must also show respect and gratitude to essential workers and the medical community. As a new normal emerges, businesses are cautiously and carefully undertaking a phased reopening. In our peaceful corner of the world this means that a summer favourite, Blue Mountain Resort, is in the midst of its “green season”.

Many adjustments in operations have already happened at Blue. The added challenge is that making informed decisions on what to do and exactly how to do it is in a state of flux as new information and messaging about the virus emerges. What this means for summer 2020 at Blue is enhanced monitoring or closing of certain activities and attractions, and operating at a reduced capacity. “We want people to get outside and have the resort experience but we need to assess the risk and do it safely,” says Tara Lovell, Public Relations Manager at Blue. “We have been reimagining what the Blue Mountain experience will be, with safety top-of-mind,” she adds. Blue staff are working hard to make sure guests and staff have a positive and safe experience. They are facing the same challenges as the rest of us—working remotely, homeschooling, braving the grocery store and struggling to find a slice of sanity. They are also tasked with the job of finding a common ground between outdoor access, business operations and public safety.

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Resort staff are facing the same challenges as the rest of us—working remotely, homeschooling, braving the grocery store and struggling to find a slice of sanity.

Blue will provide a much-needed outlet for those of us craving outdoor time and community this summer. What you can expect is a shift in operations to support government-mandated physical distancing guidelines and to keep health and safety concerns of guests and employees top priority. To reduce large group gatherings and prevent a situation where people are gathering en masse, Village events and concerts have been postponed. That said, there is the possibility of roaming entertainment to keep a positive and fun atmosphere in the Village. The cleaning regimes and sanitization on frequent touch-points and washrooms will be upped and hand sanitizing stations set up throughout the Resort. In situations where physical distancing cannot be maintained you can expect requirements to wear facemasks. Other enhancements in site operations include Resort ambassadors and ticket checkers who will be supporting the monitoring of health and safety efforts.

There are a few other changes you should know about if you’re an outdoorsy type who heads to Blue for some time well spent biking and hiking the trails. The logistics and safety measures around downhill biking proved too much of a challenge to work around this year. The good news is that hiking is still on, with a few modifications to help with monitoring trail-user numbers.

An admission system will be put in place with options including a Play-All-Day Pass, Explore Pass or a Play-As-You-Go Basecamp Attraction ticket—or a 5×7 or IKON 2021 season’s pass. All tickets and passes include access to the open-air gondola so you can hike up and ride down if you choose. Charging for trail use is not new and has been done for years at resorts and parks across Canada. It covers the costs of keeping trails in good shape and this year will also keep people safe. Guests are encouraged to purchase tickets or passes online prior to their visit which will guarantee their access and help to reduce ticket queues.

Saying the task of reopening and operating with these new measures in place will be tricky is an understatement. Blue is walking a fine line between being part of the economic restart and keeping a high level of health and safety. To support all of this Blue has put into place an assigned task force for each area of the Resort including attractions, activities, lodging and Blue–owned restaurants and retail, with the responsibility of tackling considerations such as physical distancing and sanitization. Overall, operations at Blue are running a bit differently this year with a few more prerequisites—but isn’t that true of everything now?

I wanted to leave the reader with a warm and fuzzy feeling. The thing is, there’s not much warm and fuzzy about life during a global pandemic. Fortunately we haven’t lost our opportunities to explore outdoor spaces where we can feel safe to connect. It just might take a few more added must-dos. —ML