Massive Whistler lineups worry some skiers during COVID-19 case spike

Feb 1 2021, 5:56 pm

Whistler saw some huge gondola lineups this weekend when a dump of snow made for powdery conditions on the mountain, but some guests say the resort should do more to manage their reservation system as COVID-19 cases spike in the area.

Season pass holder Anthony Hosford drove up on Sunday, and arrived to find all the free day-use parking lots full. When he finally found a spot, the lineup for the gondola looked at least three hours long.

“I thought the whole reservation system was to limit these huge lineups,” he told Daily Hive in a phone interview. “The optics are not good when you have lineups as far as the eye can see and we’re trying to battle a pandemic.”

The gondola lineups were bad over Christmas this year, Hosford added. But he thought that would be the worst crowding of the season — he was shocked to see worse lineups on a “random Sunday” when Whistler has become the province’s latest COVID-19 hotspot

“They’re giving mixed messaging. On one hand there are all these cases, but on their social media they’re talking about all the powder days.”

Hosford gave up and went home, not wanting to stand in line.

Several other skiers and boarders vented their frustrations by commenting on Whistler Blackcomb’s recent Instagram post, with one woman saying she waited three hours after joining the queue early in the morning.

“Today was absurd. Got in the Blackomb line around 7:45 [am] and it was at least three hours long, wrapping around Fairmont and back towards parking Lot 1. Insane,” user @anamaria_m_d wrote. “Booked this day weeks ago and somehow there were still spots to book Sunday like 48 hours ago. Where is the cut off for reservations?”

Whister Blackcomb spokesperson Jennifer Smith said long lines and disgruntled visitors are an unfortunate reality of powder days that fall on weekends.

“We had a big snow weekend … Powder weekends always yield similar comments, but this year, working within the COVID Safety Protocols we developed with Vancouver Coastal Health, it does slow the proceedings,” she said in an emailed statement.

Physical distancing requirements mean gondolas that can usually hold 10 people in a cabin now only transport members of the same household or bubble — reducing loading capacity to as little as 20% of usual if it’s mainly couples going together.

Staff at Whistler enforce distancing in the lineups and tell people off for “creeping forward,” Smith added.

“Once on hill, you can clearly see there are far fewer people up there, but the lines do take longer and require more space to accommodate the spread,” she said.

She did not answer Daily Hive’s question on how many people are allowed on the mountain on a given day with the new reservation system.

BC Health officials have been discouraging non-essential travel for several weeks now, and residents are only supposed to ski at their local hill. That means Vancouverites should stick to Cypress, Seymour, and Grouse while those who live in the Sea to Sky region can go to Whistler.

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