An uphill battle of sorts for the head of the Ontario Snow Resorts Association (OSRA) to convince the province to reopen ski hills and snowboard operations that were closed as part of the 28-day lockdown which began Dec. 26.
Kevin Nichol says they are forming a working group with the health and tourism ministries to look at options.
The lockdown is to end Jan. 9 in northern Ontario and Jan. 23 in southern districts.
The OSRA represents 50 alpine resorts. The lockdown began as most resorts were preparing to cash in on the lucrative Christmas holiday season which makes up about 30 per cent of their revenue.
Nichol is concerned how smaller resorts will fare.
“For over 40 years we’ve never gone to the government for financial assistance. We’ve always managed to hold our own, despite the weather, because some years weather can be a challenge. But we’ve never asked for support.”
Nichol says they are reassessing that.
“We want to ensure these operators can still continue to operate.”
He estimates the lockdown will cost the ski industry $90 million and more than 9,000 jobs.
Nichol reminds the public that resorts closed during the March Break when the OSRA realized they had to do their part to flatten the curve.
Ontario is the only location in North America to stop downhill skiing and snowboarding as part of a pandemic lockdown, and it’s left Nichol baffled.
“We have developed best practices that were given to the government back in August and September. It’s going to be curious to see what the government feels we need to change,” says Nichol. “We felt our protocols were in line with every other jurisdiction in North America was doing and they’re all operating.”
Nichol says resorts had put in place mandatory face coverings on lifts and in lineups. No indoor services were going to be offered except washrooms and a place for people to warm up.
“It’s really just about getting people out on the snow and get them skiing and snowboarding again because we need an outlet,” says Nichol. “It’s good for our mental health and wellbeing.”