Among the pending shutdown measures announced yesterday by Premier Doug Ford was a surprise for Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area (HVHSA) GM, Andrew Rusynyk: the ski hill would be forced to close for 28 days starting Dec. 26.
“The entire industry had been led to believe that alpine skiing was considered safe by the Provincial Government and that we would be an approved activity for people to get outside and stay healthy,” he wrote in an email sent on Dec. 21.
Rusynyk said that HVHSA, along with other members of the OSRA (Ontario Ski Resorts Association), would be calling on supporters to contact politicians “to let the Ontario Government know that they have made a huge mistake.”
He told Huntsville Doppler this morning that the decision was a “complete shock to myself and every other person who runs a ski hill in the industry in Ontario. We have done every single thing and then some that the government and our health unit has requested us to do in regards to making skiing a safe winter activity.”
Adding insult to injury is the fact that other outdoor winter activities, including ice rinks, cross-country, skating and snowshoe trails, and playgrounds, are permitted to remain open provided they follow public health guidelines.
“The industry has gone beyond what has been required of us and we were led to believe by the government that we would be able to operate if we went into a lockdown [the grey/lockdown zone of the province’s COVID-19 response framework],” said Rusynyk. “Then they invented this shutdown and why skiing is the only [outdoor]activity that is labelled as closed is beyond us.”
He noted that chalets are open only for emergency warmup and bathroom access. Food is available for takeout only. Lift lines are signed for social distancing and people are told to stick to their household bubble while riding the chair, or ride by themselves. A limited number of lift tickets are available online and in advance.
There is a ton of social distancing space on the slopes so there is absolutely no problem with being out on the hill.
“We have done everything that they’ve asked and more,” said Rusynyk.
He said that if the province doesn’t agree to reverse the decision, they are “all hopeful that we can reopen on the twenty-third of January. We hope that this shutdown is not extended. And it’s going to massively impact our ability to operate. You could see some ski hills not opening next year because of this..
“We’ve just gone through our most expensive part of our operating year by making snow. To be misled by the government while we’re making snow, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars making snow, is completely unacceptable.”
They plan to send a sample letter of support to those on their email list, along with contact information for the politicians it should be sent to, for anyone who also wants to urge the government to reverse the decision.
“We’re shocked, we’re distressed and we’re really upset that we’re not going to be able to provide a safe winter activity for thousands of people throughout the winter,” said Rusynyk.
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