Whistler Blackcomb opens for the winter season

The Whistler Blackcomb resort opens on Thursday for its 2021-2022 season, hoping for the rebound it desperately needs from the pandemic. Jordan Armstrong reports.

Whistler Blackcomb opened for the winter season on Thursday amid questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic and recent flooding in British Columbia may affect attendance.

The resort said conditions were excellent for opening day as it’s been snowing heavily in the region.

“Certainly any time you have snow on an opening day it’s beautiful,” Jennifer Smith of Vail Resorts said.

“We do know that there is a lot going on in our province, and we’re in this very nice little oasis, and we’re very thankful, but we are certainly thinking of everyone around B.C.”

The Sea to Sky corridor north of Squamish is expected to see five to 15 centimetres of heavy, wet snow before shifting to rain Thursday night, according to an Environment Canada alert issued Thursday

While the resort hopes for a return to normalcy, there are concerns that pandemic restrictions will keep U.S. travellers from visiting and recent flooding in B.C. may deter locals.

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Tourism Whistler says during a typical season, 30 per cent of its visitors are from the U.S. It is forecasting that room nights from U.S. visitors will be down more than 50 per cent this year.

At a Wednesday press conference, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth responded to concerns about fuel shortages in the region.

“People should avoid all unnecessary travel,” he said. “People have been abiding by the 30-litre rule and we do have good fuel supplies. We need to ensure that that our supply chains are kept open. People need to pay attention to the weather… and if you don’t have to travel, don’t travel.”

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Some COVID-19 safety protocols are in place, including mandatory masks in indoor settings and on gondolas.

Whistler Blackcomb, is not, however, checking for vaccine passports on gondolas.

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The policy sparked a petition calling for change, arguing that allowing unvaccinated visitors will mean long lineups to access indoor settings, as staff check vaccine cards, and will require extra infrastructure to make washrooms safe.

Last month, Whistler’s Chamber of Commerce said the resort community was facing a labour shortage exacerbated by the fact that many out-of-country workers are facing barriers getting into Canada.

— with files from Simon Little

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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