Lower Mainland ski hills see less traffic over winter holidays

While interest in outdoor winter pursuits continues to ride high, local ski resorts say they experienced lower-than-normal ticket sales this winter break.

But that was by design, given the steps most mountains have been taking to keep some distance between guests during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mt. Seymour Ski Resort dialled down to 75-per-cent capacity through the holidays by limiting guests through its reservation system, said spokesman Simon Whitehead. The mountain had season-pass holders and single-day riders reserve four-hour staggered time slots to keep parking spaces available and cut down on road congestion, while also respecting social distancing guidelines, he said.

Whitehead said the reservation system seemed to work well and it will be in place for weekends and holidays through the remainder of the season. A scan of the resort’s reservation system on Monday showed time slots were still available for day passes through January.

Grouse Mountain experienced less than half the volume it usually sees during winter break, said spokeswoman Julia Grant. Grouse was also limiting the number of riders on the mountain each day by cutting volume on its Skyride reservation system.

“With the reduced numbers, the on-mountain experience for guests has been positive,” Grant said.

As of Monday, Grouse’s reservation system showed space was limited for riders with day passes this coming weekend, with most morning time slots already snapped up. Later in the month, spaces open up again with all time slots still available.

Sasquatch Mountain in the Hemlock Valley north of Chilliwack also instituted an online booking system this year and cut its capacity to less than 50 per cent of last year, said spokesman Milo Buckingham.

On Dec. 22, the mountain had to close one chairlift due to high winds, and that concentrated guests at the remaining lifts, Buckingham said. Sasquatch then cut its capacity further and is now only seeing lineups at lifts when there are chair closures, he said.

Sasquatch’s online booking system showed plenty of space available through the rest of the month.

Pass sales at Vail Resorts, which owns Whistler Blackcomb, were up 19 per cent this year, but that was company-wide, not just locally, said spokeswoman Jennifer Smith.

Whistler Blackcomb has seen reduced visitor numbers all season, and the mountain dropped its capacity targets when travel restrictions came into place in B.C., Smith said. The mountain is fully reserved this coming weekend, but space is available through the remainder of the month.

Cypress, which does not have a reservation system for pass holders and saw criticism over heavy traffic and long lines last month, did not respond to a request for comment.

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