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Marmot Basin makes changes amid pandemic

Sam Fitzgerald skis at Marmot Basin. | B.Payette/Marmot Basin photo

Peter Shokeir | editor@fitzhugh.ca

Marmot Basin has seen good traffic while making changes to operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, although the recent extreme cold dampened attendance.

Brian Rode, vice president of Marmot Basin, said the ski resort had been running “very smoothly” overall during this second ski season amid the pandemic.

“We have all of the protocols in place with a view to keep everybody as safe as possible. That would be both our staff and our guests. That’s what guides us.”

Last year, Marmot Basin had to cap the number of people who could enter its chalets at 15 per cent of fire code capacity due to a lack of vaccinations.

This season, Marmot Basin is participating in the Restriction Exemption Program (REP).

To enter the chalet, guests are required to show either proof of vaccination, a valid medical exemption letter or a privately-paid negative COVID test taken within 72 hours.

Proof of vaccination is not required to go on the mountain or use the lifts.

“The public appreciates that we have elected to participate in the REP, because it gives them a level of confidence that when they’re coming into the chalet, everyone in the chalet is negative or is fully vaccinated,” Rode said.

In addition, guests are required to wear masks indoors and are asked to physically distance themselves from others.

The ski resort opened a week later than expected in November due to poor snow conditions, but once it did, additional snow came, which allowed more terrain to open than expected.

Rode said the attendance was strong right up until Christmas, noting how skiers and snowboarders faced a lower risk transmission due to being outdoors.

“People want to get outside, they want to get active, they want to do things. So, the demand for skiing is high and people came out.”

The recent slump in attendance was largely attributed to the extreme cold, rather than Omicron.

“There were three days that we had to close over the holiday period, and the other days were far from pleasant temperature-wise, which is a shame—this is important—because the snow conditions are absolutely superb,” Rode said.

“Now that it’s warmed up, you can see the demand is back. People have been anxiously awaiting warming temperatures.”

Like many businesses, particularly those in the tourism and hospitality sectors, Marmot Basin has experienced some staffing challenges as a result of the pandemic.

Rode explained how many of their employees are young people from overseas who are looking for a winter experience.

“All of the travel restrictions that revolve around COVID-19 have really diminished that pool of eligible people who can come over,” he said.

“While it was and has been challenging to get staff, I would characterize it as we’re doing okay. We’ve filled enough of those gaps with some Canadian young people who decided they wanted to come up and live in Jasper and to work and experience the ski culture.”

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