On Monday 29th March 2021, Whistler Blackcomb ski resort in British Columbia (BC), Canada, was ordered to temporarily close until April 19th due to a spike in COVID-19 in the local community. Whistler was already scheduled to close for the season on April 19th, with Blackcomb closing on May 24th. However, in a press release yesterday, Vail Resorts announced that the winter season at Whistler Blackcomb is now finished, with neither mountain reopening. Summer skiing, scheduled to open on May 21st, is still expected to go ahead.
After careful consideration of the new Provincial Health Order by the government of British Columbia, Blackcomb Mountain will not reopen winter operations when the order is scheduled to lift on April 19th. Whistler Mountain was already scheduled to close on April 19th.
“While the Provincial Health Order caught us all by surprise, we fully support the government’s direction and we’re doing our part to comply. At this time, we believe the best thing we can do to support the order is to begin winding down winter operations,” said Geoff Buchheister, VP and Chief Operating Officer of Whistler Blackcomb. “We did not make this decision lightly as we know our employees and our community put so much effort into following our COVID operating guidelines so we could safely operate this season. Our full attention will now turn to getting our resort ready to safely open for summer.”
All lift reservations, ski school and dining bookings made during this period will be cancelled and the resort will be communicating any refunds to guests. Whistler Blackcomb is scheduled to open for summer operations on May, 21, 2021.
– Vail Resorts statement
Health officials are referring to a “worrisome cluster” of the Brazilian (P.1) coronavirus variant, which is more easily transmissible and may be more resistant to COVID-19 antibodies.
The Brazilian (P.1) coronavirus variant is currently causing havoc in Brazil, with their healthcare system on the verge of collapse and their country seeing 3,650 COVID-19 deaths in just one day – last Friday.
Geoff Buchheister, chief operating officer of Whistler Blackcomb, said the announcement came as a surprise.
“Throughout the season, Whistler Blackcomb has prioritized the health and safety of our guests and employees. Today’s order from the Province of British Columbia to close Whistler Blackcomb came as a surprise and we respect the decision and are taking immediate steps to comply.”
– Geoff Buchheister
Other restrictions in effect until April 19 include:
- indoor dining at all food and liquor-serving premises (takeout and delivery still allowed)
- indoor adult group fitness activities of any kind at gyms, fitness centers, or studios
- indoor worship services
- travel will also be limited between communities to essential travel for work or medical reasons only.
BC health officials are saying that there has been a surge in Coronavirus transmission tied to people traveling in BC.
- BC reported 2,518 COVID-19 infections of the weekend, as well as a new single-day record of 936 COVID-19 cases recorded on Friday
- BCs rolling weekly average for new cases increased to 803 cases per day which is the 2nd highest of the pandemic
- BCs active caseload reached 6,902 this weekend
“We’ve also seen transmission directly connected in travel between communities, and remind everybody, now more than ever, that travel is now limited to essential travel for work and medical reasons only. We need to pay attention to this now.”
“We have seen increasing cases related to travel over the past few weeks. We know that people have taken advantage of the weather and the March break to go places with their family, and what has meant is we’ve seen a rapid rise in cases of people returning to their home communities.”
“We know people have taken advantage of the weather and the March break to go places with their families, and what that has meant is we’ve seen a rapid rise in cases as people have returned to their home communities.”
“A circuit breaker is now required to break the chains of transmissions in our province, and allow us to safely move forward through this next phase,” she said.
“Gathering indoors is what is the greatest risk to all of us right now.”
– BC health official Dr. Bonnie Henry
How many new cases have emerged in the Whistler area was not revealed by health officials.
Whistler’s mayor Jack Crompton referred to the restrictions in Whistler as “devastating.”
“For businesses, for the community at large, it’s going to take some thought about how we move forward and what that closure of three weeks means to our ski season. This is an enormous challenge.”
– Whistler mayor Jack Crompton
Vail Resorts, who owns Whistler Blackcomb, recently reported a 28.4% decline in net income due to the pandemic. Whistler Blackcomb was hit hard by the pandemic due to the border being closed.
Destination visitation declined by 15%.
Skier visits across all Vail Resorts dropped by 8.2% this season as of March 7, 2021.
“Covid-19 continues to create challenges for people and businesses throughout B.C., and we are grateful for the sacrifices people continue to make to keep one another safe. We know that the idea of more restrictions is not welcome news, but we are asking people to rise to the challenge with the confidence that vaccines mean better days are ahead. We are not out of the woods yet, but the provincial health officer’s orders, combined with our vaccines, give us the tools we need to move out of this pandemic together.”
– British Columbia Premier John Horgan