Ski resorts in British Columbia are under more scrutiny after Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s top doctor, recently revealed that nearly 550 cases of COVID-19 were contracted in Whistler between Jan. 1 and Feb. 2.
The spread of the virus occurred in Whistler’s village among young people — individuals in their ’20s and ’30s who live, work, and socialize together — and not specifically at the Whistler-Blackcomb resort.
Elsewhere, a cluster of more than 200 cases has been linked to Big White Mountain in the Okanagan.
On Vancouver Island, Mount Washington Alpine Resort hasn’t had any cases tied to its operations this winter — at least according to official communication from Island Health — and it’s working to keep it that way.
“We are in touch with our local health representative and very often he comes up for health inspections which we’ve been passing,” said resort spokesperson Kayla Stockton. “He’s been very happy with how things have been going up here at Mount Washington and we’re just keeping that progression going and we’re just waiting for further updates to come out from Dr. Bonnie Henry.”
One major factor that has likely played in Mount Washington’s favour is that its village isn’t populated with numerous bars, restaurants, shops, nightclubs, and other entertainment venues — which has been the main source of transmission in Whistler.
Stockton also said the resort, due to COVID-19 protocols in place, limits the number of day-passes being sold and encourages people to book ahead for coming holidays like Family Day and March break.
Those visiting Mount Washington feel the resort has been doing a good job to keep people safe.
“There are no real concerns. People are all wearing masks and in their same party going up the chairlift so yeah we’ve felt quite safe,” said Kara Halpert who made a day trip from Victoria.
Although more than 500 cases were connected to Whistler, Dr. Henry stressed that skiing and snowboarding are still acceptable activities as they are outdoors, explaining that the transmissions occurred in the hours before and after people were at the resort.
“What I’m telling people is that it’s OK to go outside to go skiing and we know that that in itself is not a risk. It’s the before and the after and the parties and the getting together and the social gatherings, those have never been acceptable,” said Henry on Friday, adding that day trips to ski resorts are OK but staying overnight to party is not.
Meanwhile, Mount Washington accommodations have been booked solid for much of the season and it is expected to be busy on Family Day and the upcoming March break.
“Our message right now is we are Vancouver Island’s local ski hill and Dr. Bonnie Henry says it’s ok to go skiing,” said Stockton. “You don’t need to vacation, you don’t need to stay overnight but come up and go skiing, stay in your bubble, and head home.”