Penticton winter businesses ready to welcome tourists with COVID-19 precautions in mind

Ready for winter tourism

“More to explore” is a 10-part collaboration between Castanet and Travel Penticton, a follow up to the popular "Tourists in your own town" series. Watch for it every Monday morning.

With winter fast approaching, tourism operators in the Penticton area are feeling chill as they prepare to open for the season.

“We’re going to be almost business as usual,” said James Shalman, the Apex Mountain Resort’s general manager.

“We’re really ready for an early season.”

Operating hours on the mountain will remain the same, said Shalman, but guests will see some small changes in the village and at the chairlift as the resort practices social-distancing guidelines.

“We are recommending face coverings in the village,” he explained. “Riding the lifts and disembarking from the lifts, face coverings will be mandatory because that’s a congested area.”

Social distancing measures will be in place, he added, with singles able to ride on each end of a four-seater chair, and lifts will ride at full capacity with groups only within their bubbles.

Guests will not need to reserve a ticket in advance, however the resort will be booking ahead for rentals and lessons.

The hockey rink and skating loops will be open and night skiing will be available.

This year, added Shalman, guests who purchase a season’s pass - available online at apexresort.com until Oct. 4 - will receive 12 free passes for six other B.C. resorts. Season pass holders from last year, added Shalman, will receive 10 per cent off this year’s pass to compensate for the mountain’s early closure due to COVID-19.

For Tricia Wilson, the Nickel Plate Nordic Centre’s general manager, preparing for this season did pose its challenges, but she and the team are ready to welcome guests.

“We’re going to have all of our trails open,” she said. “We even have a new trail coming up this winter. It’s fantastic.”

The day lodge has reduced its capacity to 50 guests at a time, which, said Wilson, “was our biggest hurdle to get over.”

“You can’t store your (belongings) in the lodge anymore, which changes how people use the facility quite a bit,” she said.

With the kitchen shut down and tables taken away, Wilson said the centre still plans on having a microwave and kettle for guests and spots to sit and rest.

But adapting to COVID-19 guidelines has allowed the not-for-profit centre to move forward in a way Wilson says is “huge:” the centre has moved to online sales, with thanks from company Scarlet Creations.

“It’ll be great for people to (purchase tickets) before they get there,” said Wilson, adding the centre offers free Wi-Fi for those who forget to do so.

Memberships are now on sale at a discounted rate until Oct. 31. Private lessons are still being booked through email, and thanks to a $1,500 grant from Kal-Tire, the centre has been able to add an additional coach.

And for those who prefer to cozy up next to a fire in a private cabin or yurt, Chute Lake Lodge is ready to welcome guests.

“We’re really excited,” said projects manager Stephanie Chambers.

The lodge has ramped up its amenities this year, offering guided bike tours in the Fall (at 20% off in October!) and hockey tournaments, sleigh rides and snowshoe rentals in the winter. With a hockey rink being built for this upcoming season, Chambers added guests are welcome to bring their own skates to enjoy it.

“We want to do family-friendly (activities),” said Wilson.

Social-distancing measures will be in place, with the lodge encouraging guests to spend their time outdoors enjoying one of the many activities offered.

“We really see ourselves as a nice compliment to the ski hills that are all around us, that can provide an interesting alternative,” she said.

For more information and to snag your private yurt for a mid-week night for only $100 a night, click here.

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