Returning to the slopes

Downhill skiers ride a chairlift to the top of a run at Loch Lomond Ski Area on Feb. 17.

The chairlifts were humming at Loch Lomond Ski Area on Wednesday with dozens of downhill skiers out on the hill.

Since the provincial stay-at-home order was lifted on Feb. 16, area downhill ski operators have been allowed to reopen for skiing.

“Relief” is what Alisia Cameron, manager at Loch Lomond Ski Area, said about being allowed to reopen.

She was nervous leading up to Feb. 16, the day the stay-at-home order was lifted, due to lack of information coming from the provincial government.

“The last-minute decisions that the province has been putting out has put us in a precarious position since the first closure on Dec. 26,” said Cameron.

Loch Lomond has been working with the Ontario Snow Resort Association, which has been working with the Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture, to build a reopening plan.

But there was little information from the ministry about a reopening for ski operators, who are reeling from the loss of Christmas holiday skiing.

“It was a brutal hit losing Christmas and the first few weeks of January, that is the lion share of business that we usually see every year and we do have a short season,” said Cameron.

With the spring skiing season coming up, Cameron is hoping they make up for some of their losses.

“We do tend to get by annually by the skin of our teeth . . . it’s a hard hit to recover from,” Cameron added.

Downhill ski operators will also be losing March break as it has been moved to April 12 to 16 in an effort to reduce community transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

Loch Lomond Ski Area has a deep snow base, which they are hoping will be enough to keep a few runs open for the April break.

If the area has to move to the grey-zone, downhill ski areas will still be allowed to operate.

Currently as an added safety measure, the COVID-19 screening protocols aren’t allowing people from outside the Thunder Bay region to ski.

Mount Baldy has also opened for daily downhill skiing, offering afternoon through to evening hours during the weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday.