Tips and insights for Blue Mountain Resort passholders/powhounds during a season like no other. Words :: David Loopstra.
OK, so you’re the average local Mountain Life reader and esteemed Blue Mountain passholder. You ski hard, you mountain bike, you surf, paddle, drink craft beer and spend lots of time outdoors, in wild spaces. Has life really been that different for you this year? I’m willing to say… not really all that much? There’s no COVID in the forest.
Sure, with everything being shut down in the city, your favourite local trail became a tad overrun this year and, no, you might not recognize anyone in Thornbury on Saturday anymore. But overall? Well, you spent this past year outside as usual, mask-free, doing the same stuff you’ve always done. You just couldn’t après with as many people as you normally would.
And so, should we expect skiing and snowboarding at Blue Mountain to be much different this winter? It’s an individual, outdoor sport, non-contact, and you don’t really want anyone within two metres of you at any given time anyway (preferably 200 metres for me, please).
But there are changes, to be certain. Let’s start with day passes. “Skiers and riders can’t come to Blue and expect to walk up to a ticket agent and purchase a ticket to ski that day,” explains Tara Lovell, PR manager at Blue. “If you are looking to purchase a day lift ticket, you need to book online ahead of time. And there are only a collection of days where day passes will be available for sale.”
If you have a 5X7 or an Ikon pass, no reservation to ski is required—you’re good to go, subject to some modifications. “Arrive ready to ski,” says Lovell. “Plan your trip in advance. Go from your car to the lift.”
If you are thinking you’d like to head into the lodge for a beer or for lunch, you need to reserve your table ahead of time. Blue is also adding tents and outdoor areas for food and beverage.
It seems there’s never been a better time to be a local Blue Mountain passholder. Fewer day tickets available may mean a more spacious ski experience, and less-quickly schralped snow on pow days.
Kiersten Higginson at Blue, February 2021. VIDEO COURTESY BLUE MOUNTAIN RESORT
Although all of that seems simple enough on the surface, a large amount of brainpower was invested into figuring out safe skiing procedures this year. In addition to working closely with local health units and the Ontario Snow Resorts Association, Blue examined historical data on skier visits and behaviour to determine how many day passes they can release and still ensure physical distancing throughout the resort. This has been made easier by the recent installation of RFIDs—the gates that scan your pass on your way to the lift.
This breadth of information is voluminous: the number of days you visit the hill, the lifts you use, the length of your ski runs, the amount of time spent on the hill—the list goes on.
Blue also looked at all facets of their operation—the skiable acres, the chairlifts, lodges, parking lots and, perhaps most importantly, what they refer to as “pinch points”: bottleneck areas like washrooms and lift lines.
The result is that priority access to the hill goes to passholders, lodging guests and renters of ski equipment.
This means that, “Day lift tickets will be available on days where we have historically seen fewer skiers,” says Lovell. “And we are asking lodging guests to use their rooms as their base lodge.”
As far as the on-hill skiing experience goes, perhaps the biggest adjustment this year will happen in the lift lines. No mask, no entry, no exceptions. Households can load together and there will be a line for singles and each of the varying sizes of household groups. Chairlifts will be loaded with one seat separating household groups.
All of this means another opportunity to celebrate the unsung heroes of Blue Mountain—those staffers who arguably have the most profound day-to-day impact on the skier’s experience: the lifties. And not just
any lifties. I’m talking about the sorters. The ones who, in a typical year, ensure there are six people on each chair—the ones who keep the lines moving fast.
Yes, we know them, love them, and really appreciate the assertive ones who take no nonsense from smart-alecs who try get a chair all to themselves on a busy day. To all lifties charged with keeping skiers physically distant in the line ups, and keeping the line ups moving fast, and figuring out loading parties, I will say on behalf of all Blue passholders: Thank you!
“This is new for you [skiers/riders], and this is new for staff,” Lovell adds. “If we all work together, we can all enjoy a much-needed, great ski season.”