As B.C. enters Phase 3 of its COVID-19 recovery plan, Whistler is slowly starting to reopen for business this summer.
Here’s a brief overview of what’s currently operating. This story will be updated regularly so you can stay on top of all the reopenings in real time.
North America’s largest ski resort is targeting a June 29 opening day for its 2020 summer operations.
But, of course, with COVID-19 health protocols still in effect, Whistler’s summer experience is going to look much different than in years past.
"It's a complete behavioural change, and I think the thing that people should take home is that we want to get open in a safe and responsible way—it's not going to be the same experience that they're used to, but we're very eager to get back at it," said Marc Riddell, Vail Resorts' West Coast director of communications.
The Whistler Village Gondola, Peak 2 Peak Gondola and Blackcomb Gondola will bring hikers and sightseeing guests up the mountains, while the Whistler Mountain Bike Park will open with the Fitz and Garbanzo zones. Grab-and-go food options will also be available at the Rendezvous, Garbanzo Bike and Bean, and the Roundhouse Lodge.
All on-mountain transactions will be cashless.
The Blackcomb Ascent Trails are also open.
Physical distancing rules will be in place and masks will have to be worn in several areas of the mountain including during line-ups and loading.
While most guests will likely be accustomed to being asked to physically distance, and maintain two metres from others, "the thing that is perhaps different for the guests is that we are asking them to wear face coverings, and that's including people that are going to be using the bike park," Riddell said.
"And you know, face coverings can be a buff, or it can be a gator, it can be a mask ... it's all down to individual preference. But you're going to have to wear a face mask when you're loading and unloading chairlifts, [and] when you're riding in gondolas, so that's going to be a new thing."
Those without a mask will be asked to leave, Riddell said.
Gondolas and other high-touch surfaces will be frequently cleaned and disinfected, while hand-sanitizing stations will be provided.
"If you come with a party you're going to be required to ride the gondola with that party," Riddell said.
"We're not going to mix and match folks, with the exception of the Peak 2 Peak gondola where you'll have Plexiglas barriers in place and a limited capacity per gondola on that."
While rentals will still be available (with proper cleaning and disinfecting protocols in place), bike school, lessons and camps will not be offered to start.
"We're going to evaluate that and we're hoping to introduce bike school as we go along, but certainly camps like the DFX camps won't be running this year," Riddell said.
Park riders are also asked not to camp out the night before opening day.
Capacity will be monitored consistently throughout the day, and managed as necessary, Riddell said.
"It's all in order to make sure that we can maintain physical distance for everybody in a safe manner, but it's not what we're going to lead with," he said.
"We're just inviting folks to come, and if we do have capacity issues then we'll address it on the day, but we're not going to say, 'This is the number per day, this is what you have to do.'"
Learn more at whistlerblackcomb.com/explore-the-resort/about-the-resort/commitment-to-safety.
RETAIL, RESTAURANTS, AND MUSEUMS
As physical-distancing protocols begin to loosen up during B.C.’s staged recovery, most Whistler retail outlets, restaurants, bars and cultural facilities have already reopened, while others are continuing to suspend or modify their operations.
According to Tourism Whistler, of 103 listed restaurants, cafes and bars, 75 were open at the time of publication. (This could mean they are only open for takeout and/or delivery, not necessarily dine-in.)
The RMOW also made it easier for restaurants to safely accommodate more diners during the pandemic when it streamlined the approval process for establishments wanting to temporarily expand their patio areas. The municipality will consider applications for temporary patios on both private and public lands.
Temporary patios will be allowed to operate until Oct. 31.
Of 93 listed retail shops, 66 are currently open.
Of 39 listed hotels and lodging providers, 36 are currently open.
The Audain Art Museum, which houses one of the province’s largest collections of B.C. and B.C. First Nations art, reopened to the public on June 26, with health protocols in place. Its new hours will be Friday to Sunday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. with additional openings on July 1 and 2.
The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC), which details the rich history and culture of the Sea to Sky’s local First Nations, also reopened on June 26. Visitors will be welcome from Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., into the museum, café and gift shop. However, the first hour will be set aside for seniors, vulnerable people, and first responders.
While guided tours indoors have been cancelled, the SLCC’s cultural ambassadors will be leading guided forest walks three times on opening days at 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m.
The Whistler Museum, which shares Whistler’s journey from wilderness to world-class resort, will reopen to the public on Canada Day, July 1. Open by donation, the museum’s hours this summer will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, closed on Wednesdays, with late hours on Thursdays, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
To view the full list of business openings, visit whistler.com/covid/business-impact.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is taking a staged approach to reopening its facilities.
Some, like municipal hall and the Whistler Public Library, are already open to some extent.
For others, like the popular Meadow Park Sports Centre (MPSC), the approach will be more complicated.
The multifaceted nature of the building makes its reopening complex, explained general manager of corporate and community services Ted Battiston at the meeting.
“There are pinch points in the building—corridors, hallways, change rooms,” Battiston said.
“We’re looking at using a number of different access doors, different doors into the pool area rather than coming through the front door. It is a complex building. There are a lot of variables.”
A draft reopening plan for the MPSC builds in flexibility and scaling of services to meet changing directions from health authorities should COVID-19 transmissions swing for better or for worse during the phased reopening.
For example, limited arena bookings (for designated user groups) and outdoor fitness classes could return in early July, while limited fitness centre use and one-on-one indoor personal training are slated for mid-August.
Things like public skating, indoor fitness classes and group bookings could return in mid-September, with drop-in hockey potentially coming back in early October.
“We have our staff working hard on this,” Battiston said. “This has been obviously their focus for the last number of weeks, [and] it will continue to be their focus as each one of these comes on board.”
All municipal facilities need appropriate health and safety protocols in place before reopening, which has been a work in progress at municipal hall.
Safe work procedures have already been developed for municipal hall, the library, the wastewater treatment plant and more, while plans for Myrtle Philip (children’s summer programs) and the MPSC are still being worked on.
The RMOW will also be looking at increasing services at the library as Phase 3 begins.
Read more at whistler.ca/saferestart.
-With files from Braden Dupuis and Alyssa Noel