COVID-19 protocols

Big White Ski Resort has introduced numerous COVID-19 protocols to keep staff and guests safe. The rental shop, above, was completely renovated for social distancing and rentals must be pre-booked online. Guests must have a valid ticket (day ticket or season pass) before pickup.

This is day No. 13 for bathroom renos but the end is in sight (with a much-needed shower). A resumption of fantastic outdoor recreation opportunities in the Okanagan can’t come soon enough.

The timing couldn’t be better with Sovereign Lake and Kelowna Nordic cross-country ski areas and Big White Ski Resort now open.

Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre was the first off the mark on Friday the 13th followed by “a very successful opening weekend” with more than 1,200 skiers on 28 kilometres of trails, thanks to more than 30 centimetres of fresh snow that week.

“We have placed additional restrictions on travel following the latest B.C. Health Guidelines and asking for no visitations from outside of the Vernon area as per government guidelines,” said general manager Troy Hudson on Thursday.

Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club surprised everyone with an early-morning email last Saturday and a 9 a.m. opening after receiving “around 50 centimetres of snow over the past couple days,” said club prez and groomer Ryland Garton. Since then, “we have groomed almost every day.”

Silver Star Mountain Resort has its tentative Nordic opening on Nov. 28 and alpine on Dec. 4.

Apex Mountain Resort will open for the public on Dec. 5.

“We are open now for athletes in mogul and alpine training. For freestyle athletes, we have the Canadian national mogul team, B.C. team, Ontario and Quebec teams, and a lot more teams arriving next week,” said general manager James Shalman.

At Telemark Nordic Club, “with the recent snow, we now have a good base but the warm weather is reducing that base a little. We will not be grooming until the weather cools down and we get a little more snow. Skiing is still possible for the keeners, but we are not open and are not able to groom regularly. Tentative opening is still Nov. 28 if the weather holds,” said general manager Mike Edwards.

Nickel Plate Nordic Centre plans to open on Nov. 28. “We have snow but we did not get that big snowfall that Kelowna and area got to enjoy. We have packed our trails and the inner ones are pretty good. So if people come up, please use the donation box or donate on our website, but keep in mind the buildings are closed. Our new website is now up along with our online sales for when we are open,” said general manager Tricia Wilson.

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The series on the Okanagan’s downhill resorts and cross-country ski areas continues with Big White Ski Resort.

“Mother Nature blessed us with heaps and heaps of Okanagan champagne powder in recent days and conditions are amazing,” says senior VP Michael J. Ballingall, who had one run with the ski patrol director on Wednesday.

“Oh my was it good! And I even dipped into Okanagan champagne powder! After some 35 years at Big White, I can honestly say this year has been the most challenging to get the resort open.”

On Thursday, Big White opened for season passholders (through Sunday) with 11 centimetres of new snow, 82 cm in the past seven days and a base of 121 cm (more than a metre). Four lifts — Ridge Rocket, Bullet Express, Plaza Chair and Lara’s Gondola — provided access to 32 runs. Black Forest and Snow Ghost chairs open Saturday.

The resort will open for day ticket visitors on Monday, three days earlier than the scheduled opening date of Nov. 26.

Here are some of the many changes:

— Limited food and beverage service will be available. The outdoor washroom in the Village Centre will be available as will limited indoor facilities.

— Masks or face coverings are mandatory in all buildings, lift lines, loading and unloading lifts. Pack multiples as they can get wet and freeze while outdoors and become uncomfortable.

Mask dispensers are situated throughout the resort and reusable masks are available for purchase at retailers.

— Pre-season season passes will remain on sale until Thursday.

— Introduction of a new online, no-touch day ticket system, the only way to purchase a day ticket and automatically save 25 per cent off the retail price of the day.

Day ticket pricing is adjusted for mid-week, weekends and peak periods. These tickets must be collected at one of 15 pick-up ticket boxes around the resort.

Due to possible limited capacity, there may be a limited number of tickets available every day so purchase well in advance to avoid disappointment. Ticket windows will not be open.

— Plexiglass partitions were installed anywhere that staff and customers interact; regular sanitization of touch points has been increased; more than 60 sanitization stations are set up around the resort; automatic doors and touchless faucets were installed; new outdoor washroom facilities are located in the Village, Happy Valley and Gem Lake; mask dispensers are located throughout the resort; and signage, flags and stickers will remind everyone to physically distance.

— Rigorous cleaning protocol for all Central Reservations rooms; each room will be fogged and sealed upon completing the rental.

— Happy Valley Car Park will be the only available day parking lot.

J.P. Squire, aka the Ski Sheriff, is a retired reporter. Email: jp.squire@telus.net.