'First Day is always special': Ski season arrives in Alberta

There may be little snow in the mountains but Norquay and Lake Louise have still managed to open early November for the 2021-22 ski season.

Norquay's Cascade Chair opened Friday morning, as did the Glacier Chair at Lake Louise, providing skiers and snowboards their first runs of the fall.

“First day is always special right, regardless of the snow conditions,” said Steven Blecic who was among the first in line at Norquay for the first chair of the day. “I’m feeling awesome, it’s been a long summer waiting for this, right?

In addition to ski and snowboard gear, guests are reminded to also bring along their face mask to comply with the mandatory pandemic-related policies of both hills.

Both resorts are participating in Alberta's restrictions exemption program and will be checking for proof of vaccination or documentation of a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19.

Vaccine passports are required throughout the mountain in Norquay, at Lake Louise, documents will not be checked at chairlifts, outdoor dining spaces, ticket kiosks or outdoor bathroom trailers.

Andre Quenneville, general manager at Mt. Norquay said requiring vaccination or a negative test from both visitors and staff allows them to operate lifts and indoor facilities at full capacity.

“Last year lift lines were long with lots of measures in place like lodge capacities and things like that, which made it quite difficult to enjoy a ski day," said Quenneville. "So, really at the end of the day the experience overall will be better for anyone coming out skiing.”

The ski and boarders at Norquay on Friday didn’t mind the vaccine requirements, saying they’ll do what they have to get back out on the slopes.

“I know some people would be anxious to have these protocols in place but if you want to play you have to abide by the protocols they have,” said Allan Lyndon.

Both hills will expand operations in the weeks to come as more wintry weather arrives.

BANFF AND SUNSHINE VILLAGE VACCINE REQUIREMENTS

Sunshine aims to open in early November and says it will be requiring visitors and staff to be vaccinated or provide a negative COVID-19 test to access all indoor and outdoors facilities.

Kendra Scurfield with Sunshine Village said they also have plans in place to speed up the process to check those documents in anticipation of the return of international travellers this season.

“We are creating a vaccine check area in our base area which will essentially be a corral,” she said. “We’re very excited we’ll be able to load our gondola at capacity which will hopefully reduce the line up we did see last year.”

Sunshine has also expanded its parking lot with an additional 250 spaces and will be maintaining the two sprung tent structures will be making a return this season after first erected last season.

RCR REQUIRES PROOF OF VACCINE

If you’re planning on heading to Nakiska or any other resort owned by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) you’ll need to prove you’ve been immunized and will not be accepting a negative test.

Fernie Alpine Resort, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Kimberley Alpine Resort, and Nakiska will all need to verify everyone 12 years and older has been vaccinated to access all chair lifts and indoor facilities.

RCR says to streamline capacity and wait times it will not be accepting a negative COVID-19 test at its resorts.

Medical or religious exemptions will be considered but you need to submit a request at least four weeks before visiting.

��OPENING WEEKEND UPDATE��

WE’RE EASING INTO THE SEASON: Limited early season opening

Check out the latest update for this coming opening weekend, Fri Nov 5. #lakelouise #skilouise #justlakeit https://t.co/mK5zgnwQvq

— Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola (@SkiLouise) November 4, 2021