Darren Ludbrook swooshes down Clearwater ski hill during a slalom race during the 2018 season. (File photo)

Darren Ludbrook swooshes down Clearwater ski hill during a slalom race during the 2018 season. (File photo)

Clearwater ski hill feeling optimistic about season

The winter months are upon on us, meaning snowy days, hot cocoa and chilly temperatures. It also means ski season is nigh.

“We will be opening,” Daniela Wiunig, president of the Clearwater Ski Hill, told the Times. “When we have enough snow.”

This is good news for those outdoorsy-types, avid skiers (and snowboarders) and snow-lovers. But it’s also good news for those just wanting an outdoor escape as COVID-19 numbers continue to climb and cold weather begins keeping us indoors.

The Clearwater Ski Hill board members will need to do some creative thinking over the next few weeks, as the lodge can be a bustling building when the season gets going. Wiunig said there will be lots of meetings, and then more meetings, to see what the best action plan will be. They’ll also keep an eye out for what other ski hills are doing and what they can adopt.

“It’s weird with COVID,” she added. “We kind of have to see what happens.”

Skiing and snowboarding is a fairly ideal sport when it comes to COVID-19 restrictions; most people do the hill runs on their own or with close friends or family, and the T-bar lift takes just two people at a time.

At the time of publication, an order from the provincial health officer on Oct. 30 states gathering numbers for events (not at a household) is still capped at 50 persons, with all other protocols still in place, including two-metre distancing of tables and patrons as well as supplying sanitizing stations.

The Clearwater Ski Hill lodge should able to accommodate those numbers, said Wiunig, as tables could be spaced inside, upstairs and outside.

As well, COVID-19 restrictions might lead some people to ski or snowboard for a couple of hours and then just go home instead of warming up in the lodge and having some food before going on another couple of runs.

Where some outside-of-the-box thinking will be needed is downstairs where visitors pick up their rental equipment.

Currently, to purchase rental equipment, visitors must enter the lodge and head downstairs. The hallway is a bit narrow and in previous seasons, the area would be filled with people, picking up gear, trying it on, bringing it back, etc.

A few ways to mitigate these concerns include booking time slots to pick up and return gear and allowing seasonal rentals for those who use the equipment often enough, as the lodge currently holds quite a bit of equipment.

And while the equipment is already put through rigorous cleaning before going back on the shelves, a new system may be created for returns to ensure minimal contact between people.

The lodge is currently undergoing some renovations, including new paint and lighting, but there will also be additions, much like many other businesses, such as plexiglass in service areas, hand sanitizer stations and masks.

Wiunig said it will be interesting to see how everything will play out, especially considering the types of events held in years past.

“We would have three floors filled with people,” she said.

There are some functions the lodge may not offer this year, but the Clearwater ski hill is still hoping to have night skiing, a Christmas market and possibly open for a few hours during the week after school hours. But, as Wiunig said, there are more meetings to be had and they just have to play it day by day.

“We’ll see how the numbers are in December,” she said. “Then we need more snow…Right now, we are officially hoping to be open. We’ll see how it goes.”

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Bright lights shine out from the Clearwater ski hill chalet, welcoming people to a free community dinner held Christmas Eve in 2017. (File photo)

Bright lights shine out from the Clearwater ski hill chalet, welcoming people to a free community dinner held Christmas Eve in 2017. (File photo)

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