The Kimberley Chamber of Commerce hosted a Zoom meeting on Thursday, Nov. 26 in which Ted Funston, Ski Area Manager with Kimberley Alpine Resort, discussed their strategies and what people can expect ahead of opening day, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 12.
“The reason we were keen to have this call was that we wanted to share with you, the business people and other leaders in town, what we were doing up at the resort to keep people safe for this winter while skiing and riding,” Funston said. “Our hope and our goal is to have a successful ski season this winter, while keeping people as safe as we can.”
He noted that Kimberley entered the spring season with a lot of uncertainty, but that society has changed since KAR had to shut down their season early in March.
“We pulled together, stayed safe, and ended up having a very successful and safe summer season in Kimberley for golf and people out on the trails on the lakes and rivers,” he added. “So our goal is we’d like to do that again and accomplish the same kind of thing this winter.”
He said KAR believes that skiing and riding can be “part of the solution in the pandemic,” and that it’s a great way to get out with friends and family and get fresh air and exercise, while being able to limit exposure to others.
He referenced Bonnie Henry, who recently encouraged people to get out skiing and riding.
At the start of his presentation Funston showed an image taken within the last few days up at the top of the hill on the run Twist, showing a picturesque skiers dream, with heaps of snow.
He also shared another picture from halfway up the mountain where a snowcat is grooming. The snow looks more compacted after the snowcat had packed it down.
He said that why they use words like “tentative” or “planned” regarding their opening date is simply because they can’t control the weather, but that said, he is optimistic.
“We’re trying to judge where we’re at, and we’re just under two weeks to opening. Last year was a pretty challenging season to start, and I think we’re in similar or better shape than we were in mid-December last year right now.”
He said that while natural snow is always desired, and that they’re watching the forecast for any snow on the horizon, cold temperatures are also great for KAR. Snowmaking began a few weeks ago now, with guns operating on the main run.
“The colder it gets, say down to about -15, the better the snowmaking gets, and it’s been hovering, at nights getting down to about -7 or -8.”
He said that a positive thing is they’ve recently acquired two new snowmaking guns, which helps them make snow at higher temperatures, closer to freezing.
The Kimberley Alpine Resort COVID-19 Operational Safety Plan, is a report that KAR has been working on since the summer; a roughly 100-page document that goes through every department of the resort and determines which protocols need to be in place, and how they will run the resort safely.
The plan was a collaborative effort created by the management team of KAR, the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, Canada West Ski Area, the BC Ministry of Health and Worksafe BC.
One of their strengths is that they are able to use Nakiska, the first RCR resort to open this year, as an example to learn from.
“They’ve been learning a lot, they’re fairly close to Calgary, they’ve got a lot of seasons pass holders and they’ve been dealing with some fairly significant crowds,” Funston said.
KAR outlined some of their policies earlier this year in a “Know Before You Go” format. Funston hopes everyone will go online to read and familiarize themselves with the new protocols and plans prior to coming to the resort to ski or ride.
The resort will not be selling any lift tickets on site, they will all be online in an effort to both limit face-to-face interaction and reduce lines. People will be able to go online, buy a ticket and then get sent a QR code, which you will scan at a kiosk at the base of the resort.
Seasons passes will also not be processed at the resort. Paperwork and waivers have been done online and passes mailed out to people.
Face coverings will be required basically all the time except when you’re actually skiing a run. KAR has a link on their COVID policies page to a Canadian Government webpage, which indicates what kinds of face coverings are appropriate.
The resort has installed plexiglass all over the place, including in the Stemwinder and they also invested in a lot of new signage to remind people of the rules and regulations.
There will also be online health screening questions, similar to many other places.
Through Daniel Holden at the Chamber, Funston said he’s received numerous questions about seasons pass refunds.
“Until you use your pass, there’s a no-questions-asked refund policy,” Funston explained.
Similar to other resorts, there will be a limit on lift tickets, but in KAR’s case, due to the good capacity on their lifts compared to skier numbers Funston expects they will only hit their limit a few times a year, for example on the busiest days of the season around Christmas and New Years, or Alberta’s Family week.
They’ve calculated this by looking at historical numbers and knowing their busy days and slow days, and averaging how many seasons pass holders will show up on those busy days and then adding on a certain number of lift tickets they feel they can sell.
Again, they encourage people who will be skiing those days to pre-purchase their lift tickets online in advance.
There will be long lines, mostly because people will be social distancing. They also will be changing how people ride the lifts, with two lines dedicated to cohort groups and family for a maximum of four, or people who are willing to ride with others, a maximum of two.
They’ve also considered opening the resort a half hour earlier, giving locals a good opportunity to get up the hill ahead of lines. Funston said they will never force anyone to go on the chair with someone they don’t know. There will not be a singles line.
There will be changes to their food and beverage services. Something new is they will be utilizing their conference centre for serving meals on weekends and holidays. There will unfortunately not be the live music people know and love, it’s simply not possible. Their events planning similarly is not going to be the same this year, but Funston said they do want to do as much as they can, for example contests and prize giveaways.
The Kootenay House will be used on some weekends as well and the plaza BBQ area will also be used more. Buckhorn and Main will also be operating and Funston said they’re considering doing the express lunch seven days a week and it will be open for dinner. Reservations will be needed for the Stemwinder and Buckorn and Main.
“Some changes in there, again the goals being socially distance people, get them spread out, control our access points, but still offer the best service that we can,” Funston said.
Winter sports school and the rental shop are also impacted by these changes, and KAR decided not to run their daycare this year. Group lessons will not be possible and people are encouraged to call ahead to book an instructor for their family or cohort group.