LAKE LOUISE – A reservation system has been launched at Lake Louise Ski Resort in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With fresh snow at the ski hill, the resort had to turn away skiers on Sunday (Dec. 20), with traffic backed up along Whitehorn Road and onto the Trans-Canada Highway.
A day earlier, Lake Louise Ski Resort announced a reservation system was being introduced, effective Dec. 22, to be able to meet COVID-19 protocols under provincial government restrictions.
Dan Markham, brand and communications director for the resort, said they don’t expect to meet capacity on most days, but there will be days, especially after it’s snowed, when they will be close to the limit.
“We anticipated that this could be a potential before the season even started, but we didn’t think we needed it at the beginning of the season,” he said, noting some ski resorts indicated they were opening with a reservation system in place.
“We’re seeing an increased demand from people in November and early December, and we felt if it was going to to continue to rise, we wanted to provide a COVID-setting experience at the resort following all the protocols.”
Season pass holders have priority to make bookings on each day, being able to make reservations within a rolling two-week window. Lake Louise Plus Card holders also have to make reservations.
Markham said the resort will sell day tickets any day they are not at capacity.
However, he said, it’s still strongly recommended day tickets be bought online in advance, and a reservation made for the required day to avoid disappointment.
“We’ll anticipate how many people we think we’re going to have for the day,” he said. “On those few and rare days, especially during the holidays and if the snow keeps up, where we think we’ll be on a level where we don’t feel comfortable, we’ll cap it.”
The Lake Louise ski hill turned around skiers on Sunday because the numbers would not allow them to meet COVID-19 health protocols, but many were handed discount vouchers to return another day.
“If people were season pass holders or had tickets already with us, they were able to come up to the resort, but there was some confusion in some cases and some of those folks did get turned back,” Markham said.
“We did stop people coming in and just buying a ticket, but if you came out here then you got a voucher to come back another day … and it did soften the blow a little bit.”
A COVID-19 outbreak spread throughout Lake Louise Ski Resort’s staff accommodation in late November. There was also an outbreak at the Banff Springs Hotel.
Outbreaks are declared over by Alberta Health Services (AHS) when four weeks have passed with no new cases, so not all outbreaks listed on the government website have current transmission happening.
AHS has also declared an outbreak at Nakiska, where 15 COVID-19 cases have been linked to the ski resort in Kananaskis Country. The cases will be added to the province’s list of official outbreaks on Dec. 22.
As of Monday (Dec. 21) – the most up-to-date statistics available before the Outlook’s deadline – there were 43 active COVID-19 cases in Banff and Lake Louise, down from a high of 192 at the end of November.
There are 14 active cases in Canmore, 52 in the Municipal District of Bighorn, which also includes Harvie Heights, Exshaw and Lac Des Arcs, and 15 in Kananaskis Country.
Province-wide, there were 19,165 active cases of COVID-19, with 1,240 new cases identified in the previous 24 hours.
There were 795 people in hospital, including 151 who have been admitted to the intensive care units. Nine more people died on Sunday-Monday, bringing the provincial COVID-19 death toll to 860 since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Our new case numbers are still extremely high, and our health care system remains under severe strain,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, during her Monday briefing.
“We must redouble our efforts and celebrate this early trend downwards, by continuing the actions that will eventually bring our hospitalization and ICU numbers low enough to support access to the system for all health care needs.”
While ski hills are allowed to remain open during this latest phase of government restrictions, which are in place until at least Jan. 11, the provincial government is addressing the dos and don'ts of other outdoor recreation.
Hinshaw said she has received many questions about outdoor skating and activities, including whether shinny or hockey is allowed outside, even if it’s 4-on-4.
“The answer is no. Any outdoor activity where individuals come within two metres of each other is not allowed,” she said.
“Skating or other outdoor activities can continue with up to 10 people, but all members of different households must stay at least two metres apart the whole time.”
Hinshaw said the government will update its website to address these questions.
“We will be having discussions with law enforcement to ensure that the rules are clear,” she said.
Meanwhile, full details on how the Lake Louise Ski Resort’s reservation system works are available at reservations.skilouise.com.