Marmot Basin staff have worked since last spring to make the ski hill as safe as possible with new COVID-19 protocols. (Photo: Twitter / Marmot Basin)

With extensive COVID protocols in place, Marmot Basin has had a steady flow of skiers and snowboarders since opening Nov. 12.

“We had a good opening day and a good opening weekend,” said Brian Rode, vice president. “People have been cooped up, skiers were looking forward to getting outside, doing what they love. Skiers and snowboarders are very passionate about their sport. We saw a lot of returning seasons pass (holders).”

Although the number of skiers and snowboarders is down this season, Rode said he's happy with the amount of people. This season's busiest day so far saw 3,200 visitors on Dec. 28, compared to the 3,400-3,500 per day in 2019 from Dec. 28-30.

“By and large, people are loving it,” Rode added.

Folks, thank you. Thank you for an unforgettable and cheerful holiday season. Here's to plenty of snow still left to explore! ❄ #newyear #newyearsamefun #snow #skiing #explorealberta pic.twitter.com/JHsxw8xQOt

— Marmot Basin (@MarmotBasin) January 4, 2021

The weather has also proven co-operative. On Jan. 3, Marmot Basin reported in a social media post that 29 cm of fresh snow fell in 24 hours.

Marmot staff have worked since last spring to make this winter's time at the ski hill as safe as possible.

“Our goal is to, first and foremost, make sure we have measures in place to protect people's health, wellbeing and safety, so you can have the very best experience possible,” Rode said.

“It has taken a lot of work for staff to prepare to get open for the winter so we could welcome guests in the most safe way possible. We've got signage everywhere, to physically distance, to wear masks and to wash hands and sanitize hands. They're in all chalets in multiple places: the rental shop, food and beverage areas, the ski lift, every entry door.”

He said masks are mandatory everywhere “except when you're sliding downhill.” This includes all lift lines, indoor spaces and chairlifts.

Rode noted, with the layout at Marmot Basin, people can go to and from their vehicles as often as they want.

“Ski on the slopes, ski back to your vehicle, have lunch, go out again.” he said.

Skiers and snowboarders are reminded to be mindful of social distancing.

“You're not permitted to socialize in the parking lot with people who aren't in your household, as per Alberta Health Services guidelines,” Rode said.

On several days, the parking lots had reached capacity with Marmot Basin alerting the public in a social media post on Dec. 29 that it had begun to turn vehicles around back to Jasper. People are advised to come early to secure a spot.

With new health measures in place since Dec. 8, seating in restaurants and the cafeteria was reduced to 15-per-cent capacity. Now there's only one entrance to the Caribou Chalet cafeteria.

“Come into the entrance, you're greeted by a host who is behind plexiglass,” Rode said. “They assign a table, give you a menu, you go pick up your food. When you're done, you go out an exit. We sanitize tables and chairs after each customer. It works very well.”

About 20 tents, each 10 x 10 feet and with a fire bowl inside, are in place at the base and mid-mountain, so folks can dine and socialize outdoors in their respective household groups.

Even with all the reminders in place for people to physically distance, Rode acknowledged how some individuals do get too close together.

“We're always asking people to spread out,” he said. “We don't have to ask people to wear masks. They've been very compliant.”

In addition to masks, ski and snowboarding gear - jackets, helmets, gloves - are added protection too. Rode said in the lift lines, where it may look as if folks are bunching up, “rather than cramming, they're spreading themselves up the hill.”

He asked everyone to “wear a mask, distance yourself from others and wash or sanitize your hands frequently.”