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Maxed out: The Vail fail continues…

Max Oct 21
It seems Vail Resorts will do the absolute minimum required by law or public health order as it relates to COVID-19 this ski season, writes G.D. Maxwell this week.

We believe implementing this policy (mandatory vaccine passport program for everyone accessing Grouse Mountain) over the winter season will provide the strongest protection against COVID-19 to those who visit and work at the mountain.” 

 —Michael Cameron, president of Grouse Mountain Resort

“We remain committed to doing everything we can to help keep you safe this season.”

 —Whistler Blackcomb’s COVID-19 Commitment to Safety.

Only one of those statements is true. The other is PR spin, also known as, well you know.

Little Grouse Mountain has stolen the thunder from big, bad Vail Resorts with Monday’s (Oct. 18) announcement requiring all people accessing the mountain this season to be fully vaccinated. The details of the program are so simple even a company as centralized and hidebound as Vail Resorts could understand them... if only they had both the will and the humanity.

Grouse has dubbed its program VaxTrax. For the upcoming month, before the mountain opens for skiing and riding, season passholders and multi-day snow school participants can submit a digital copy of their B.C. Vaccine Passport and government ID. By doing so, their passes will work. It’s a one-shot deal, good for the season. What could be easier?

Can’t get your act together to do it up front? In that case you can do it in person before Nov. 15 and if that’s too onerous, you can do it the first time you go skiing this season. People who go up on day tickets will have to show their passport each time they buy tickets.

What that means is the 15-minute Skyride tram up the mountain will run at, “... regular operating capacity.”

Of course, Vail Resorts’ operating protocols this season embrace full lifts too. In the handy-dandy FAQs in their COVID-19 protocols, they answer the question whether they will practise physical distancing on gondolas. The answer? “No. We will load lifts and gondolas at normal capacity, optimizing guest movement around our resorts.”

Can’t say I’m sorry to see the last of last season’s one-person gondys but what about the long lines at the bases of the mountains? Surely we’ll keep our distances and have to wear masks there. Right? “No. Face coverings will not be required for lift lines.” And, “Currently there are no public health orders in place mandating physical distancing indoors or on lifts or gondolas. We will continue to monitor those orders as the pandemic evolves and will follow all federal and local public health orders.”

Let me translate that. We, and by we I mean Vail Resorts, will do the absolute minimum required by law or public health order. We, and by we I mean Vail Resorts, will do absolutely nothing we don’t have to do to keep you safe while you come spend money at our resorts.

Of course, if you want to enjoy an overpriced burger while on the mountain, you’ll have to line up to show your vaccine passport. Ditto kids 12 to 18 who are in ski and ride programs that include lunch. “These are currently the only parts of our experience that will require proof of vaccination, unless required by local public health.” So says Vail Resorts.

This is reminiscent of the heartfelt, if meaningless, phrase, “Your concerns are our concerns” ... but only if we’re required to be concerned about them by law. Otherwise, screw off and stop bothering us with your meaningless petitions, letters and emails. In the immortal words of W.C. Fields, “Go away, kid, yer bothering me.”

So the question arises: exactly who is being catered to here? Currently, according to the federal government, travellers into Canada have to have been fully vaccinated, with approved vaccines, at least 14 full days prior to the day they enter Canada. So all those Epic™ passholders who live outside Canada have to be vaccinated before they can test their skills against the terrain of Whistler and Blackcomb. Any Epic™ passholder who’s planning on coming must already pass the test; they’re not going to be disturbed by Vail Resorts requiring them to prove their status.

Somewhere around 80 per cent of B.C. residents are fully vaccinated. A requirement wouldn’t piss them off.

Anyone flying to Vancouver from inside Canada will have to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22, well ahead of opening day as it’s currently scheduled. No problem there. 

While no empirical data exists to back up the claim, I don’t believe it’s out of the question to suggest most everyone who is vaccinated will feel a whole lot better if they know everyone else in the gondola with them for the next 25 minutes, more or less, shares their status, whether they’re panting into a mask, neck gaiter or not.

So here’s the challenge. I challenge anyone from Vail Resorts, from Rob Katz on down, to publicly justify their position on this. Since I know they won’t take this challenge, at least not publicly, I’ll up the ante. I’ll happily contribute $1,000—sorry, Rob, but it’s not an insignificant sum to me—to the charity of their choice, even if that charity is the Brotherhood of Anti-Vaxxers. Of course, if it is, it’ll be a contribution under their name.

I’m pretty sure I won’t be out of pocket on this one. Vail Resorts operates under a veil of no comment. They’ve proven over and over again they really don’t care what any of us think of them as long as we keep lining up at their resorts. And since their current policy even fails from a straight business analysis—deploying staff they don’t have to check vaccine status at all their on-mountain eateries—whatever lame excuse they could think up would sound even more pathetic than just staying mum on the subject.

Since the only hope of strongarming Vail Resorts into doing the right thing rests with Dr. Bonnie Henry requiring them to do it, keep those emails you’ve been sending her coming. While it may seem redundant, if you’ve already sent one, send a few more. I don’t know if they ever get to her but here’s the best email address: While you’re at it, can’t hurt to cc her bosses: or and, of course, Big John himself,

I know Bonnie doesn’t ski but maybe one of her staff will be able to explain the reality of riding gondolas to her. Hope springs eternal.