The view of Fernie from Fernie Alpine Resort in the 2020-2021 winter season. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

The view of Fernie from Fernie Alpine Resort in the 2020-2021 winter season. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

RCR staff must be fully vaccinated, decision on guests not yet made

The company has reserved the right to make changes to COVID-protocols ahead of the winter season

Guests can expect ‘at least’ the same level of COVID-safety protocols on ski hills operated by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) for the 2021-22 ski season according to company executive, Matt Mosteller.

Those measures include masking up indoors, social distancing in areas of congestion outside and lots of sanitization, and were a part of how RCR resorts managed to have a full winter season last year according to Mosteller.

With the big difference between the 2020-21 season and the one that’s coming being access to vaccines, RCR has been adapting that winter plan to go with the times.

“We haven’t determined if proof of vaccination will be required to access lifts or other outdoor operations, but we do reserve the right to implement that,” said Mosteller.

Whether a decision was pending, Mosteller didn’t say, but explained that government protocols could force their hand anyway.

“We’re fortunate and grateful and appreciative of everyone’s flexibility in understanding that a lot of this is out of our hands too – we’re just trying to do our best with compliance in following up with what the government asks us to do.”

Currently, the B.C. vaccine card is required for things like indoor dining and indoor ticketed events, but not for access to resorts.

Mosteller said that if RCR itself chooses to change its protocols on that front, it would be done before the ski season begins.

For employees at RCR, there is no waiting for a decision: all staff at RCR resorts will be expected to be fully vaccinated in order to work, with a corporate memo going to staff on October 15 outlining requirements for employees.

Company policy requires staff across all resorts to provide proof they have been fully vaccinated, with failure to comply resulting in offers of employment being rescinded. A grace period into December exists to allow employees to receive second shots if they have not already done so.

Mosteller said that he did not expect there to be many issues, as “many of our team members are already vaccinated.”

While the employee requirement for vaccination is still being rolled out, Mosteller said that they were working closely in consultation with their workers.

“We’re in the care and consultation time frame with our team – listening and communicating as we roll this out, but the real important thing here is we’re all going to be better off if we’re all fully vaccinated.”

The ongoing staff shortage affecting businesses around Canada is having an impact on RCR as well – as of October 25, the Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR) had dozens of job positions open on its website, ranging from instructors, vehicle maintenance, repair technicians, janitors, clerks, guest services, housekeeping, bartenders are more.

Mosteller said that there was definitely a need for more workers. “There’s definitely interesting, unique and cool winter employment available at all three of our resorts (in BC)”, he said.

“We’re giving our all – reaching out, connecting, trying to do our best to get those positions that are open filled.”

He said that despite the worker squeeze, RCR planned for all resorts to be fully open.

The company was advocating for a multi-faceted solution to workforce pressures, including working with industry partners to lobby the government of Canada to make it easier for workers from other countries already in Canada to stay.

“Many of them want to continue working here.”

RCR’s wish-list also included smoothing out pathways for workers from countries where resorts traditionally sourced workers (like the UK, Australia and New Zealand) to be able to get to Canada.

Efforts to hire more weren’t just focused on international workers though – there was plenty of interest from out east as well.

“Its early, and we’re hopeful we’ll get a good increase in applicants and more interest.”

The Fernie Alpine Resort will open for winter operations on December 4, and Kimberley on December 11, pending conditions.

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CoronavirusSkiing and Snowboarding