Ski hills vary in methods, but aim is common - to avoid crowding at lift lines

Skiing 'in your bubble'

Okanagan ski hills are using different methods to control numbers on the mountain this winter in the interest of COVID-19 safety.

While Silver Star's use of reserved parking and limited-use season passes has ruffled some feathers, resort spokesperson Chantelle Deacon says any rumour the mountain will bring in pay parking is untrue.

"That's a categorical no," she told Castanet.

Deacon says one of the ways the resort will control crowding at the lift lines is "by limiting numbers on the mountain ... we're going to do that with pass sales, parking.

"We want everyone to feel safe," she added.

The resort's final parking plan will be released soon.

"We want to take measures before hand instead of reacting to situations," Deacon said. "This, obviously, has been a very unique year."

As compared to Big White, east of Kelowna, Silver Star is literally squeezed when it comes to crowd control.

The two main parking areas are side by side, and all skiers must pass through the narrow village to reach the two lifts accessible from the bottom of the mountain.

Big White, meanwhile, has three separate parking areas with access to six lifts, which will help disperse crowds across the mountain.

Big White vice-president Michael J. Ballingall said the resort is taking a different tack, and will control the number of day passes to keep a handle on numbers on the mountain.

All resorts are urging skiers to "stay in their bubble," he said.

That means that lifts like Silver Star's gondola and six-pack likely won't be running anywhere near capacity. That, in turn, will mean longer lift lines – hence the need for the control as guests enter the resort.

Some season pass holders have been angered by limitations on their use and by having to reserve parking in advance. A small handful have cancelled, Deacon admitted – "but those are mostly overseas guests or from the U.S., and they can't come here anymore because of travel restrictions."

She noted pass holders have up to Dec. 1 for a full refund, "no questions asked," but doesn't expect there will be many.

People understand things are different this year, she added.

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